This is a new normal, too

Emily SeppeltOpinion Columnist

This week, for the first time in almost 11 months, I attended in-person classes. This was something that I had been looking forward to even since we first left campus in March of 2020, and I was absolutely crushed last semester when all my classes were moved online. All of J-Term, I was overjoyed at the thought of getting to have in-person classes again.

The possibility of in-person classes has been my light at the end of the tunnel, the one thing I was most excited about. Why then, was I so dreading it this week?

There were a thousand things I was worried about. Would I remember how to act in a classroom? How would social distancing work, let alone feel? How would wearing a mask in class work when trying to talk to other students?
It felt like I had been away from the classroom for so long, that expectations for participation and performance would be so much higher. I felt guilty for wanting to stick with what had become familiar and worried that I wouldn’t get as much out of socially distanced in-person classes. Would this just be another semester that felt nothing like Gustavus?

My point is that even “good” transitions are still transitions, and the end of this semester’s lay-low period and the start of a new semester are big transitions.

This transition may be even more difficult for its unstable nature, as well as the fact that in the last year we have all been forced to endure so many transitions.
It’s worth talking about that living in such a state of anxiety, about the pandemic, about current events and the possibility that we at any point could be ripped out of class and maybe even sent home again.
Change fatigue is a real thing, and sometimes it may just seem easier in the moment to keep the same course rather than go back to something different.
While mental health is a topic that has been hammered home over and over again during the pandemic, it still feels like there is an expectation that we should just be able to adjust quickly and without complaint. I know I have even felt that by now, nothing should faze me.

There are moments where I beat myself up about the fact that I still struggle despite having been a college student in a pandemic for quite some time now.

But the very opposite is true. The longer that the pandemic rages on, it is perfectly understandable for us to still struggle and have a hard time going about our daily lives, whether we are on campus or not. While it is normal to adjust to a hardship, ignoring feelings of anxiety or fear in the name of being strong or saying it doesn’t bother us anymore is unhealthy.
Every day, there are still new things to adjust to. For example, I have never had a “hybrid semester,” or a semester where I have both online and in-person classes.
It was a little difficult to attend a class in-person where some people were in the room with me, and others were on Zoom. There is always a lingering worry that I will have to go online for an in-person class, which is another unwanted struggle.
It has been a struggle to balance when I need to be online in one class and then quickly run to an in-person class right after, and having to take Zoom classes in public when I have no time to get to class otherwise.

After having been in relative isolation for most of last semester (plus spring 2020), seeing people around campus and in buildings has made me a bit nervous.

I am sure readers also have their own unique struggles and anxieties that they are facing as Gustavus slowly attempts to have a normal semester again.
Recognizing that we are in a transitional period is one step towards making adjustments and opening conversations about how this semester may be differently hard for different people. Simply allowing ourselves grace and validating how we feel can help our lives and the campus as a whole function better, working together to make this semester the best it can be under the current circumstances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *