Rustburg, Virginia, May 3rd, 2020
It has now been two months since I was at William & Mary. To say I miss it, my home in Williamsburg, and all the things that define it such as my friends, my professors, the daily conversations with Ray and Christian in Marketplace, the hourly ringing of Wren, even just the calm glow of Colonial Williamsburg nearby, I miss all of it.
Being home now is an odd dynamic for me. During my sophomore year at the university, I finally felt like I had my footing and was growing into an independent person away from my small hometown. The things that defined me here from the ages of 1-18 no longer defined who I was becoming at William & Mary. Now, however, I can only try my best from slipping back into the past. I feel like I’m reverting to my high school self, trapped inside a dated bedroom with pieces of memories scattered about, doing the dishes and housework for my family, and driving all the same roads I used to years ago. I’m being pulled back into Rustburg, VA, but I’m still reaching for Williamsburg.
The outreach of W&M is far and wide, however, and I’ve managed to still feel connected to the people I used to walk by on Jamestown Road every day, only now it is a virtual passing on Facebook or Instagram. Being able to share and feel validated in my frustrations with our current state of living with my peers has been one of the sole highlights of this trying time. I can only hope that this connection does not end with the conclusion of classes.
I think us students, especially us at W&M, are being quite hard on ourselves right now. It is difficult to fully register that we are in fact living through history right now. Just as we learned about the Influenza and Spanish Flu pandemics, one day school children will be taught about the COVID-19 pandemic. Personally, while I’m quarantining at home every minute that I’m not doing something directly productive I feel like a waste. Now that classes have finished especially, I’m trying to find things to fill the time that still feel “worthwhile” to me, which is frankly a ridiculous concept.
Things we deem a “waste of time” are more important now than ever. For me, it’s cuddling with my two dogs, playing Animal Crossing on my Nintendo Switch, cooking and baking, and watching movies. These things that normally we view as “unproductive” are productive in their own right and it’s important to acknowledge that. With the uncertainty, anxiety, and anger surrounding our current situation, it’s more than valid to spend time relaxing and finding comfort in what you enjoy. Maintaining safe physical health by staying at home is worth nothing if in the process you ruin your mental health.
This acknowledgment of the importance of relaxation is difficult for students that are normally running from class to club meetings to dinner constantly. Our brains are used to functioning a million miles a minute, but now we must encourage a slower pace to give ourselves time to process our emotions and comfort ourselves and others.
Throughout this new and challenging situation, it’s been wonderful to see my fellow peers sharing their responses and feelings on this stressful time. Many posts recently are focused on the conclusion of classes, frustrations with our inability to focus at home, and the general feeling of disappointment. We almost feel guilty for our sadness, which shouldn’t be the case. We’ve been robbed of time with our friends, our new homes in Williamsburg, summer jobs and internships, and events that we worked tirelessly on to plan are simply not happening now. We shouldn’t feel guilty for our anger — it is valid. That’s something that’s taken me a while to accept.
A week from today, I’ll be back at W&M but things will look different. I’ll only be returning for two hours, hastily packing up memories (and lots of clothes) from my room in an empty sorority house that only a few months prior was a center of laughter, activity, and friendship. The only people I’ll be interacting with will have smiles covered by masks and my urge to embrace them in a warm hug will have to be stifled. Campus will be emptier than I’ve ever seen it, but on the bright side, at least I might be able to find street parking!
With all the disappointment and sadness I will probably be feeling a week from today, I can only dream of the excitement and joy that will surround us when we return as one Tribe. When smiling faces reconvene at Wren for commencement, when we finally get to properly honor our Class of 2020 seniors, when we finally get to thank that professor in person for their kindness during quarantine, when Christian is back to telling jokes in Marketplace, and when we finally bite into a house dressing-smothered Cheese Shop sandwich, all of it. It is that forthcoming joy that I latch on to for strength right now and I hope my fellow peers and Tribe family are able to find that happiness for them to reach for too.
Surround yourself with things and people you love during this chaos, but remember the fiercest sunrises only come from the deepest nights, flowers wouldn’t exist without the rain, and one day soon we will all hear Wren ringing proud again.
– Jamie Holt, Class of 2022