It has come to my attention that even though we are in a pandemic, life doesn’t slow down. We’re still constantly bombarded by the news with 24/7 updates on the infection rate, the economic status of the country and weary reporters discussing the latest disastrous town hall. On top of that, we’re restricted to the confines of our rooms, which makes it even more difficult to find solace amid the chaos.
We’ve created a culture where it feels like you have to be constantly updated on everything that’s going on or else you’re not doing life right. The constant weight of all of this stresses me out, yet I can’t seem to unplug myself from it.
With the combination of the pandemic and the turbulence of news cycles, I’ve found myself tethered to my desk for the first half of the semester. I have socially-distanced myself so much that I think I have forgotten how to be social — apparently you can’t make friends if you spend every weekend alone, doing face masks and watching “Saturday Night Live” in bed. I spent long days and nights torn in between staying on top of my tasks and trying to figure out how I could connect with others without risking my health. In the midst of all this drudgery, I have found an opportunity to escape — a trip to Humpback Rock.
I found the hiking opportunity through the Peer Mentoring Program with the Latinx community. I joined the program before the semester began to bond with other Latinx students and get some help to navigate college life. I had previously participated in other activities over Zoom, but we hadn’t gotten a chance to meet in person until now. They sent an invitation to my “familia” to wake up at 5:00 a.m. and hike up a steep mountain for 40 minutes at 30 degrees on a Saturday. Needless to say, I did not initially jump at the opportunity.
But then I realized that I needed this — I needed to leave my comfort zone and do something new to finally refresh myself. I had spent too long finding companionship with my laptop — after all, the point of college is to meet new people and do new things, right? Even though the coronavirus had restricted the majority of activities and events available to me, I figured that I should still take advantage of every opportunity to interact with others in a safe manner. With that in mind, I closed my eyes and filled out the attached form to confirm my participation in the sunrise hike.
Before I knew it, I was up at five and walking out into a frozen, pitch-black morning. I hustled to the driver’s car with a measly backpack of granola and water, and we took off to Humpback Rock. I was terrified, to say the least — I was alone in a car with strangers en route to somewhere completely unfamiliar.
However, I kept in mind my promise to myself — I was going to leave my comfort zone and try new things. I struck up conversations with Arnold, my awesome familia head, and Mica, who ended up becoming my hiking buddy, about the upcoming hike until we arrived. That’s when I really noticed the sky — we could see all the stars in the heavens, and it was absolutely breathtaking. The sky was so beautiful I nearly forgot that my ears were beginning to freeze over.
Once the group had all arrived, we set off on our perilous journey, using our flashlights to guide us up the muddy trail. As someone who has not exercised as much as they probably should, I was wheezing and struggling to keep up with the pace of my peers, but without even realizing, I lost myself in the thrill of it all.
I forgot about all of my worries regarding academics, socializing and politics. The phrases “midterms” and “dueling town halls” slowly lost their meaning as the sheer beauty of my surroundings enveloped me. The sun hadn’t peaked yet, but some light had just begun to illuminate the forest and reveal itself. I even forgot about the cold and sweat coating my forehead and gained a new sense of purpose and energy to get to the top so I could watch the sun rise.
Once my group finally reached the top, I was blown away. I could see miles and miles around me and, sure enough, the sun was rising.
As I sat up there on the cold rock with numb fingers, I think I was the most relaxed I had been in a very long time. Up there, everything was truly put into perspective. I suddenly understood how important it is to simply take a moment and relish the good things around us instead of always worrying about the mess we’re in.
I realized that, although I was totally out of my usual element, I felt comfortable and carefree. The rays of the sun kissed my face, and I could finally breathe. For too long I thought that the only way to be productive was to stay locked up in my room with my laptop and never leave. But now, I know that it may be essential for us to go outside, and to try to reject the mindset that the only way to success is to work relentlessly.
So I end this column with a moment of reflection on our habits and hopefully, something that will serve as a reminder for us to slow down. What is the point of knowing everything about the virus, academics or politics if we don’t even stop to appreciate the miracles that fill our own lives every day?
Cecy Juárez is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.