A lot has changed since the last time I sat in a lecture hall. As annoying and difficult as the transition to Zoom University has been, I’ve actually gotten quite comfortable with the rhythm of my new normal.
Fifteen minutes before my first class, I would roll out of bed, hop in the shower and make it onto Zoom with only a couple seconds to spare. I’d cram all my readings in between classes and finish just in time for the next one to start. I usually even had enough time to cook all three meals for myself — a feat that I’d never been able to manage before.
Sure, going 100 percent online was by no means perfect, but I was pretty good at it. So when some classes opted to return to in-person a couple weeks ago, I was skeptical about how well I’d be able to adapt.
The night before my first in-person class, I stayed up later than usual making sure I got a headstart on my work, knowing that I’d have to adjust my schedule to account for travel. I left an hour before my class even started, just to make sure I wouldn’t run into any issues. I made the arduous journey from way back behind the Corner to the Chemistry Building. Sweaty and masked up, I sat six feet apart from my nearest classmate and waited for the professor to start.
When it was finally time to hit the ground running, it quickly became clear that the transition back to in-person hybrid classes would be just as full of headaches and speed bumps as the transition to online learning. It took my professor nearly 15 minutes to set up his computer so that the Zoom kids could be on the same page as everyone else. I gave those struggles some grace though, as I figured we were just working out some inevitable first-day kinks.
But the thing is, those problems didn’t go away as easily as I thought. At the beginning of every class for the past two weeks, there’s been massive issues making sure everyone was seeing and hearing the same thing regardless of location. To make matters worse, I haven’t been able to stay ahead of my work. Instead of an hour before class time, I start tearing out the door with only 25 minutes to go, and I am consistently on my phone scrolling through readings all the way there while sweat builds up underneath my mask.
With all of the complications that returning to in-person class brought, and the fact that I was putting myself at a greater risk to catch and spread COVID-19, I couldn’t help but feel like it was all a big misuse of my time. All of the time I spend walking could be spent reading or working instead, and knowing that has made me a little bit bitter.
What’s the point? Why are we doing in person what could be done so much more efficiently online? Why are we exposing ourselves to a deadly disease when we really don’t have to?
As I walked to class today though, I stuffed my phone in my pocket and decided that those readings will just have to wait until later. The weather was that perfect September blend of summer and fall — the sun baked down on me while a soft breeze cooled me off. I allowed myself to just walk and enjoy myself, and I resolved to start looking on the bright side of things.
The truth is, I was getting claustrophobic trapped inside my four blue walls. The desk chair that I’ve been glued to in my bedroom has been killing my back. My only window faces north, so I hardly get any natural light in my life. The ceiling fan has only two modes — worthlessly slow or spinning so fast that it’s about to fall off the ceiling — so the air in my room always feels stale.
And honestly, that whole efficiently crammed schedule that I had built for myself probably wasn’t as healthy as I made it out to be. I am constantly in a rush and mentally out of breath. I could definitely find a way to organize my time better, but quarantining allows me to be last-minute and lethargic.
COVID-19 has put me in an odd sort of rut, and I don’t even recognize it as one because I’ve gotten so used to my new comfort zone. My in-person class is helping me fix that. It’s giving me fresh air, sunlight and exercise, and it’s making me organize my time more efficiently and healthily.
Social distancing can make us lonely and put us in bad places mentally that we don’t even know how to identify. My professor is trying to support us by giving us the most normal college experience as possible, and I must commend him and all other professors for trying their best to make it all work. While I don’t agree with the University resuming in-person classes in the middle of a pandemic, this one class or professor certainly is not to blame.
So I’m going to start enjoying the little time I have outside before it gets too cold and I’ll most likely turn to my pessimism again. I’ll be patient with my professors who are trying to make the most out of these times just like the rest of us. Life as of late has been completely crazy, but it’s the little moments that I must choose to make the most of, as I try with all of my might to always find the bright side of things.