It’s as if a wizard sprinkled time travel dust on me while I was sleeping in my college apartment. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m in high school again. All of the sensations are the same — the chill of the water from the upstairs sink which never quite heats up, the sweet smell of something constantly baking in the oven and even the sound of the wind lapping against my bedroom window. I feel the nostalgia coming on strong.
For a 20-year-old student graduating during a global pandemic, feeling transported to a simpler time is comforting — at first. The longer I’ve been living in my parents’ house, the more realistic my childhood memories become. I had a great childhood, but there were definitely some cringey moments. On realizing this, I suddenly felt uncomfortable — working at the desk I did PSAT practice at, putting “Daniel Deronda” on my shelf next to “The Hunger Games” and finding 2000s-era theater camp T-shirts mixed in with my current wardrobe.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my room or my memories per say. But nevertheless, I feel an urge to hide it all and replace it with something more grown-up. Instead of working out these feelings, I decided to get to work. I painted my light green walls eggshell with the help of my mom and decided to give my twin bed to my younger cousin. I rearranged furniture, took down pictures and emptied out desk drawers. Everything became new and fresh.
So now, here I am. I am laying in the middle of a full-sized bed, which I placed on the opposite side of the room from where I used to sleep. It feels different, obviously, but in some way it still feels like my same old bedroom. Maybe it’s because the paint has barely dried, but I can still see the light green so vividly — and even the pink before that. The old bed is sitting in the garage, waiting to be taken to my cousin, but the carpet is still pressed down in the spot where it once was. It looks entirely changed, yet it’s still the same room.
This revelation has helped me cope with being a graduating third year during the crisis. Just like my bedroom, I underwent intense and immense change during my 2 ¾ years at the University. I feel entirely new. I think that’s why I feel so uncomfortable being back in this setting — I feel as if this evolved version of myself no longer fits here.
I’m never going to outgrow my house, my family or the experiences I’ve had that led me to this. Maybe I don’t want to be constantly reminded of what I was like in theater camp at age 11, but that’s fine. It’s fine to put that in a box, label it and keep it in the closet. It’ll still be there if I want to reminisce some day. Its impact will still be there in all of the choices that I make from here on out. But I don’t need to look at it all the time — I think that would just keep me from moving forward.
Moving forward is something that’s difficult to think about when the whole world is at a standstill. It’s so tempting to shut out the world and sit in my bedroom flipping through old yearbooks — something that would keep my mind living in a simpler time. While it is nice to reminisce, I’m now urging myself to keep moving forward. It is hard to listen to the news, but I know it doesn’t get easier if I pretend it isn’t there. It’s time for me to face reality.
Maybe it’s a little dramatic that I had to box up my childhood and redecorate to clear my mind. Maybe this hasn’t even been enough. Although I’ve freshened my room, it’s still difficult to feel like my mind is fresh. Some days, I feel motivated and at peace with the pandemic — some days I feel terrified and uncertain.
Just as a coat of paint couldn’t totally erase my feelings about this room, one good day can’t totally erase my fears around living through a pandemic. I learned that I can’t expect my thoughts and emotions to change like a flip of a switch — it’s a process. Just like my bedroom becomes more and more comfortable, I’m starting to have less hazy, unmotivated days. One bad day, just like that one desk drawer cluttered with old notebooks, does not mean I’m not making progress. I’m giving myself time to be comfortable with quarantine, because healing is a process — not a project.
Riley Creamer is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.