A ‘Close Reading’ of My COVID-19 College Experience
I wasn’t walking around thinking “This is my last meal at Cooper. This is the last night I’ll spend in the library. This is the last time I’ll get Oswego Sub Shop.” My senior year was cut short, and I have some regrets.
I put plans on the back burner, saying I’d do them once the school year was finishing up. I could say no to lunch with friends because we could hang out once the semester was ending—and it would be all the more special! There was no problem skipping mug night because it happened every Thursday. I didn’t watch nearly enough sunsets.
SUNY Oswego holds a color run every year. Freshman year, I didn’t know it was happening. Sophomore year, I was out of shape. Junior year, I was busy. This year, I was determined. I was going to the gym regularly, so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t suffer. I convinced friends to run with me, thinking we could take some fun pictures. I don’t know why it makes me so sad that I never got to run a silly 1.5 miles.
Part of me says it’s rational to spend time mourning my final semester—to grieve memories never made. All expectations of what my departure from college would look like were ripped from me very suddenly, and that’s along with all the other changes the pandemic brought.
The other part of me doesn’t want to waste time imagining events that don’t exist. It yearns to assign meaning to the mayhem and identify lessons learned from the experience, use them to become a better person and continue living life. This voice occasionally guilts me because it knows there are those who have it significantly worse than me during the pandemic. Both takes on the situation are valid and they’ve both made me feel better in different ways.
I want to share some of the realizations the second part of me has come to. I was an English major—it’s in my nature to evaluate lessons from the story. Maybe they’ll help you in some way.
1. I clearly shouldn’t wait to do things that I know will make me happy.
By making plans and memories now, I can avoid having regrets later.
2. It’s okay that my senior year feels unfinished. It gives me more reasons to reach out to friends, visit the campus, stay in touch with professors. I don’t want to feel finished with these things that have brought me such joy.
3. Without a weekly schedule, I become a creature of the night. Work doesn’t get done during the day. This didn’t get written during the day. I look like a rodent during the day. I need a weekly schedule.
4. Trying to plan every detail of my future is a pointless endeavor.
Obstacles are unavoidable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I shouldn’t compare where I am to where I thought I would be.
5. One lost semester shouldn’t make me lose sight of the progress I made over the last four years. Freshman year Sam had a crap work ethic, bad judgment and poor social skills. I’ve worked hard to become the current-day version of myself.
Thanks to the professors and mentors who supported me in what I love to do and made me better at it. Thanks to the co-workers I had as an RA who suffered through many incidents and late nights alongside me. Thanks to the best friends who kept me both sane and insane.
I love you guys. l
—Samantha Zerbinos ’20
She puts her English degree to use as a digital marketing specialist for Semify in Rochester, N.Y. Her short nonfiction stories have been featured in the Great Lake Review and Stone Canoe. Her time in self-isolation has largely been spent learning to cook, having writer’s block and bonding with her wonderful siblings.
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