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Dear Cecy, here’s what you should do

An open letter to myself a year ago and incoming first years about everything I wish I knew before going to college in a pandemic

Cecy Juárez is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.
Cecy Juárez is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Dear Cecy, you're going to have a hard time. Right around now, you have just graduated high school via your living room TV’s broadcast of a virtual recording. You’re with your family at home, and the only bright side you can see from an online graduation is that you were able to munch on chips and dip while watching it. But you’re optimistic — you can’t wait to go off to college to make new friends and do new things while living away from home. You’re a little unsure, though. You’re going to college during a global pandemic, and you have no idea what to expect.

Dear Cecy, after completing my first full year of college, here is everything I wish you knew before you came to U.Va. in a pandemic.

It’s not like the movies, and that’s OK! Not every moment will be a party thrill, and it shouldn’t be — you also need to stay safe, adhere to guidelines and do your work. You’re not supposed to spend every waking moment socializing and going out, so don’t feel bad about staying in and doing your own thing. It absolutely does not mean you’re a loser. 

No one cares if you eat alone! You don’t have to make plans with 50 people to go eat mac and cheese in the dining hall. Have a date with yourself — no one knows your story or what you’re going through, so they shouldn’t judge you. Conversely, don’t judge anyone else for eating alone, it does not mean that they’re lonely.

Be childish! You have got to let loose every once in a while — stop taking yourself so seriously. Roll down a hill and watch old Disney movies with your friends. As much as we’d like to think it, no one is really an “adult” here. Take it easy now and again and allow yourself to enjoy things. 

Socialize! It’s going to be tough to socialize with so many restrictions, but try your best to do it safely. There’s only so much you can do to be safe and, in the end, some things will be out of your control. So relax and socialize with people. Get to know their stories and tell them yours. 

If a certain lunch or dinner date doesn't turn out to be the best, that’s OK! Not everyone is going to be your best friend, and that is completely fine. Don’t let a few sour or dull outings prevent you from meeting more people. Always do your best to experience things — don’t always forgo going somewhere just because it may not live up to your expectations. Step out of your comfort zone and do that thing that you normally wouldn’t do. Worst case, you’ll just have a funny story to tell later.

Explore as much as you can! Grounds is beautiful during every season, so make sure to take pictures and poke around all the nooks and crannies. You might even find a nice spot to picnic or hammock in with some friends to kick back or study.

Be outrageously fashionable or completely frumpy. Dress however you’re comfortable with while still challenging yourself to step out of your comfort zone — the occasion doesn’t matter. Similarly, don’t be afraid to try something new in terms of style, habits or hobbies. Even though we may think that everyone fits into a certain category, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your identity is fluid, and so are your interests. No one ever fits in a singular category forever. We are constantly changing and evolving, so allow yourself to undergo that process and explore as much as you can. 

Dear Cecy and any incoming first years that stumble upon this, your first year of college is going to be difficult, but you’ll be OK. Make it a story worth telling. Be authentic, be kind to others and be kind to yourself. 

Cecy Juárez is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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