(Editor’s Note: Brooke Shamon, BHS Class of 2019, wrote extensively for The Bedford Citizen last year as she prepared to graduate. Now her much-anticipated freshman year at Marist College has been brought to an abrupt close and Shamon reflects on its impact on her and her new-found friends.)
I stood in my room, Sheahan Hall 207, for what I never thought would be my last time living there. The previous week was filled with hard-core studying for midterms, work-study, and sneaking in a meal or two here and there. I looked around at my bags all packed up, most of my belongings inside, worried that the college would end up closing and I would leave much-needed clothing behind.
“Brookie! Come downstairs!” My friend Dani texted.
I looked at my things. My room-mate Jess was already off to class. We had said a mini- goodbye. I never thought it would actually be the last time we’d see one another for a while. I wrote one last note to Jess, thanking her for an incredible freshman year, for becoming my best friend here, for everything we did for each other, and explained that we’d be back in two weeks. We both refused to believe it would all end here, but when I got down to our lounge, something inside me knew this was it. Dani, Heather, Sabrina, Kyle, Kyle, Gracelyn, and Cameron all sat around the big table together with the TV playing in the back.
“Brooke! What time are you leaving?” Kyle asked.
“My mom says five minutes until they’re here,” I replied.
I walked over and sat on the large table in the middle of everyone and looked around at my friends. Sabrina shut the TV off and things got quiet. A few other friends had already left or were stuck in class and those of us remaining were huddled close in the lounge — the eight of us clinging to what we had left.
“I’m gonna miss you all so much,” Dani said, tears in her eyes.
That’s when we all filled up. My Habitat for Humanity trip to South Carolina had gotten canceled a couple of days before as had Kyle’s rowing trip to Clemson. We all knew our school was likely next. You could hear sniffles around the room as we all looked down, memories of the year flooding back to each of us.
Freshman year was full of learning and experiencing. Not just learning in classes but learning about ourselves and learning about who our people were and were not. I found this group about a month into the semester and have a special bond with each of them. Heather and I had our gym routine, Sabrina and I share a love for fashion, Jess and I just got each other the minute we met. I pushed myself to try new things this semester; signing up for the Habitat trip was one of them. I had decided to volunteer for the Silver Needle Runway Show and to stick with Marist College Dance Ensemble. I took what I learned last semester about listening to my body: knowing when I needed to sleep and saying no to going out; making time for and checking in with people back home and putting schoolwork above everything else. I discovered that I enjoyed learning and that I wanted to go to college for me. I found it interesting to spend time in the library with nothing else to do aside from studying famous fashion designers for my Introduction to the Fashion Industry class and figuring out Plato’s Platonic Forms.
I learned that I have really great friends who would go out of their way for me in a heartbeat, as I would for them. Those up-until-four-am nights, meeting new people, new guys, trips to McDonald’s at two am, dance parties, trying to fit fifteen people into our dorm room and just being able to sit and talk with everyone is something I’ll miss more than anything. Ever since coming home I have spent probably five hours each day FaceTiming my friends from school. We’re not used to being apart and while we knew this day was coming we were not prepared for it to end so abruptly.
While we all know the decision to move to online classes for the rest of the semester is for our safety and the safety of others, it’s hard to not feel sad, frustrated, confused and disappointed. The first thing that came to mind was our poor seniors. I have become friends with many through dance and work and I can’t get the image of them crying before we all left out of my head. I could not imagine my four years at Marist ending this way and wish we could do something more to help our seniors.
The second thought that hit me was when I got the dance email two weeks after leaving school, titled: “Stupid Coronavirus.” Our showcase was over and I would spend five months without dance. Megan, senior president for the Marist College Dance Ensemble, wrote: “I can’t believe that this is all really happening and I’m so sad that I even have to write this email. But for obvious reasons, dance has to be canceled for the rest of the semester…I know how hard you have all worked this semester on your beautiful dances. It’s going to be so hard not seeing all your faces every week.” That was a hard email to read.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this was an unexpected bump in the road. My friends and I talked about how crazy-fast freshman year had gone by. I still remember the day I got accepted to Marist and the day I put my deposit down. Sometimes in the rough moments it feels like time will never pass, but at the end of the day it is already March and we are about to pick our housing for next year. When you hit college the days and weeks mash up together. You’re in this little bubble of a campus and time just seems to fly by.
Back sitting in that lounge on that last day together in Sheahan Hall I got a text from my mom asking me to meet her at the door. We brought my things down, my friends helping. I told them I’d come back up to say good-bye, but they insisted on coming down. As we headed towards the door I turned back to see a very disappointed Kyle sitting in the lounge.
“I’ll meet you guys down there,” I said to the others.
Dani waited for me as I walked down the ramp back to the lounge to see Kyle. He looked up at me kind of surprised as I opened my arms for a hug. The tall guy stood up and hugged me back for a while.
“I’ll see you in two weeks, okay?” I said.
He nodded. “Two weeks.”
“Have a good break, Kyle,” I said, stepping back. I started to walk away, afraid to let him see me cry.
“You too, Brooke.”
And somehow, we knew that’d be it. The last time we’d be living under the same roof.
When we got to our car, my family smiled at the group that had rushed down to help. After giving each other individual hugs and plenty of “I love you’s”, I looked at everyone and opened my arms for one last group hug.
“I’m sure this is not what CDC recommends,” I smiled, trying to get everyone to laugh.
A little over a week later we got an official email letting us know we would not be returning to Marist until the fall and would instead move to online classes for the rest of the semester. I called Dani, she cried. Called Gracelyn, she cried. And was about to pick up the phone to call Jess until I saw the message from her.
“Brooke. I’m sad. Can we call?”
I had held it together as much as I could with my other friends on the phone; I’m looked at as the mom of the group most of the time. But when Jess and I got on the phone together and realized this was it we both fell apart. Each day since we’ve all jumped on a FaceTime call to catch up and be around one another as that was all we had known back at school.
This semester has not been perfect or easy. The excitement and freshness of freshman year was mostly over. The first semester was filled with new adventures around every corner with many new things to look forward to. We had a lot of expectations coming into our second semester and found it felt more routine. Friendships shifted within our group — some good shifts and some not so great shifts. The freshman year high was over.
However, there were a lot of memorable parts to second semester with moments shared that were perhaps more important than those experienced earlier. Second semester had enough laughter and love and fun to cause a chain reaction of feeling like there is something missing without it. While I love it at home and am lucky to be with my family in a time like this, Marist has become a huge part of me and a lot of that has to do with the people I live with there. While second semester was not always all that, we were not ready for it to end just yet. We were not ready to say goodbye to freshman year.