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We have earned a right to hope

How studying outside brought me hope

<p>Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

While planning out classes for my third year, I realized I had never experienced spring on Grounds because of the pandemic. So, catching a bit of spring fever, I felt obliged to take advantage of the warmer weather. I decided to make an effort to study outside every day in April, just to get out of the confines of my apartment and experience spring in Charlottesville — weather permitting, of course. 

Each day, I would wake up and check the weather to figure out the best time to head outside. Then, I would gather my notebooks and computer and text a couple of friends to let them know where I was planning on studying later. Whether it was the patio by Newcomb Hall or sitting under a tree on the Lawn, spending those mid-mornings and afternoons outside felt amazing. The sun warmed my back, and Central Grounds provided plenty of comfortable places to sit. However, after a couple of days, I quickly realized the downsides of studying outside.

The main drawbacks were wind, bugs and heat. When it is windy — which it often is — keeping my notebook on the page I'm trying to read is a losing battle. When large bees attempt to watch my synchronous math lectures with me, I hold my breath and pray they won’t sting me as I imagine the scene I would cause over Zoom if I jumped out of my seat to fight them off. Finally, when it’s midday and there’s no place to hide from the hot sunlight, my laptop starts gasping for air and eventually slows or shuts down.  

Despite these inconveniences and annoyances, spring on Grounds is beautiful. The grass on the Lawn turns into this warm and luscious shade of green that matches the dark and dense leaves on the trees. The flowers by Garrett Hall blossom and protrude into the walkway with their light pink petals bordered in bright fuchsia. 

The experience of studying outside this spring has afforded me the opportunity to watch Grounds, as my dear friend Ari Herman puts it, “come alive” — and not just in terms of grass and flowers. As each day passed in April, I noticed from my favorite study spot on the patio across from the amphitheater more and more people walking past. 

At the beginning of April, Central Grounds looked just as I had expected — somewhat barren with the occasional cluster of students passing by. However, this scene quickly changed as the weather warmed and the flow of people walking by my study spot became more constant. In other words, Grounds started to look somewhat — and note, I tread incredibly lightly with this word choice — normal again.

Of course, people are still wearing masks and at least making some effort to distance. With that said, seeing the growing number of people walking around the amphitheater and waiting in line for food trucks brought me back to my first year — when there were constant herds of students walking between classes at almost all hours of the day. So while observing these changes, both in nature and in foot traffic, I couldn’t help but feel a certain bit of hope. Hope that the dream in which life looks as it did over a year ago will become a reality once again. Hope that one day soon we will all pack into Scott Stadium together and sing the “Good Ol’ Song” once again. And finally, hope that I won’t have to sit through another breakout room with silent black boxes. 

But I know getting my hopes up too much might lead to disappointment. My friends remind me that the future is still uncertain as variants of COVID-19 continue to possibly threaten the efficacy of vaccines, and as other parts of the world struggle to reign in the spread of the virus. With that said, I think we’ve still earned a right to hope.

Obviously, the past year has been one of trial and discomfort — and uncertainty still lies ahead. But at some point, we need to let ourselves embrace hope. I still remember sitting back at my desk last October and realizing that we were almost eight months into this pandemic. Any hope I had held from last May, July or September for a return to normalcy had died out. So eventually, I refrained from hoping in order to stop feeling disappointed. However, I’ve now realized that this self-imposed policy is really working against me. 

While I’m grateful for my health and blessings, I am also hopeful that we see the light at the end of the tunnel. This hope makes me feel like I have regained at least some control over my life — and whether it’s completely justified or not, it is empowering. So, my advice to you as we head into the fall semester is have some hope, take control of your life and, like the heart of Central Grounds, come alive.

Mario Rosales is a life columnist for The Cavalier Daily. They can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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