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I never thought twinkly lights could make me think so much

What the enduring U.Va. traditions have taught me about how this school handles adversity

<p>Lucie Drahozal is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Lucie Drahozal is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Christmas lights have always brought me joy. They are one of those simple pleasures that I always underestimate. At the beginning of the semester, my roommates had hung Christmas lights up in our living room before I had moved in, which made our new apartment already feel like a home. All we needed was to add some candles before we had cultivated the perfect vibe. 

I think twinkly lights are always nice, but they are especially pretty when they light up people’s houses during the holiday season. And although I love seeing Christmas lights dominate neighborhoods and light up street corners, I also feel very nostalgic around this time of the year. At Christmastime, I always just think back on how fast the year has gone. 

I typically end up feeling like I didn’t appreciate the past year as much as I could have. Oddly enough, this year I feel like I have actually done the absolute best I could to appreciate every good moment that has occurred. Maybe that’s because those moments have felt somewhat sparse in comparison to other years, but maybe it is just a product of having so much alone time on my hands. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have had some lows this year for sure — I think everyone can relate to that. 2020 has just not been “it.” We have all seen how so many things that we love to do just aren’t feasible in the midst of a global pandemic. 

But we have also found out who has been here for us through thick and thin, who we can depend on and the relationships we might have taken for granted. We have been able to think back on all of the exciting activities that we can’t wait to get back to once it is safe to do so — things that we did not treasure enough when we had them. And I am sure everyone is right there with me in hoping that 2021 will be even marginally better than this past year. 

But alas, here I am thinking back on how I’ve spent my 2020, and I really don’t know what I could have done differently. I tried, and I think that is as good as you can get. Everyone has tried to make the most of this year. And I am sure my fellow students can agree that they have attempted to do the best they could during these past two semesters. 

Having this past semester coincide with my fourth year, though, has made this year especially hard to grapple with. Fourth years don’t get a do-over. We don’t have one, two or three more years in Charlottesville to try to make up for 2020. This is it, even if it isn’t what we would have ever wanted for our last year. 

When I’ve been home to visit, people are always pitying the fact that I am a fourth year, and that I don’t get to have a “normal” senior year. And sure, they aren’t wrong — this has been literally the opposite of what is normal. But one year does not account for the rest of the time I got to spend here in Charlottesville. Even in this weird time, the University community has still found a way to come together — albeit not always in the safest way, but together nonetheless. 

Also, us fourth years have had the craziest four years at this school — from entering the University after the horrific white supremacist rally in Charlottesville to winning our first National Championship in basketball, we raised record numbers for Parkinson’s research. A monument was raised to honor the lives that were enslaved on our Grounds. We celebrated the University’s bicentennial year. We finally broke our losing streak to Virginia Tech in football, but we were also the first number one seed to lose in the first round of the NCAA March Madness tournament. We’ve had a year entirely upended by a pandemic. Even while I write this I am in disbelief that this has all happened while I have been in Charlottesville. 

It doesn’t feel real — any of this. Our four years at this amazing school has been nothing short of madness. But when I look at the Christmas lights on the Lawn, I cannot help but be so happy with the time we’ve been given in Charlottesville. Because even with a pandemic, the spirit of this school cannot be squashed. 

For example, students are still streaking the Lawn. I know it sounds stupid, but that is huge. This legendary University tradition can survive anything at this point. It speaks volumes about the overall attitude at this University. People have not given up on this year. A large majority of students who felt it was safe to do so still came down to Charlottesville. Even though it didn’t seem like there was much this semester could offer, people found a way to hold the community together and make it through. 

And as I reflect on the bright Christmas lights surrounding the Rotunda, I know that I would never have wished for this year to play out as it has, but I can say confidently that I think we have done pretty well. 

Lucie Drahozal is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at