I can always recall returning home as a freshman from Marist College in 2019 after being away for thirteen weeks. As we drove back through town, the fall leaves had left the trees and the town was preparing for the holiday season; Thanksgiving was only a day or two away. I gazed at the town I had called home for thirteen years as if for the first time.
When I got to my house and entered my bedroom it was sort of empty. My drawers had a few clothes inside that had been left behind, unworn for many years. I had packed light for this holiday visit knowing I’d be returning to school for just two more weeks before spending the winter break back in Bedford. For a moment there I felt like a stranger in my own room, memories from every year in high school stashed inside; my class ring, a photo album from senior year, a picture from my time as a cheerleader freshman year. I was most excited to be back in my own bed! Unlike my other classmates, I had not been home all semester. Sleeping on the little twin got old at school and I was excited to snuggle up in a familiar place of comfort and warmth.
Coming home for the first time since being back from school was like a little retreat. School was great, I loved it there, but I’ve always appreciated the saying, “don’t forget where you came from, but never lose sight of where you are going,” (Anjana Gwin). I don’t want to forget this place so for me, the break was a way of reconnecting to where I came from. I just never imagined I’d do so much reconnecting the following year.
This past summer was a challenge but it was also a blessing. My friends and I never got closure for our freshman year. The ups and downs, the transformations, all the growing up that happened, and bonds made suddenly ended. I knew leaving that lounge in Sheahan Hall on March 12, 2020, everything was about to change. I savored that moment with my friends and we all seemed to hold onto that through the summer. Facetimes were a common occurrence happening at the very least three times a day for multiple hours. When I wasn’t Facetiming, I was reconnecting with my family, taking the necessary time to slow down. I like to think that life is full of choices and it’s okay to choose ‘happy.’ Going into a quarantining summer, I chose to be grateful and glad that I was getting to quarantine with my family, see my grandparents and enjoy recurring visits from my cousins who followed the same safety protocol once travel bans permitted.
Things got harder again when August arrived and there was a decision to be made: to return to school or not return to school, that was the question (at least, for the semester). The thing is, Marist has always been the dream. As a twelve-year-old, I pictured myself on the Marist Beach (the green), spending time with my friends and as a nineteen-year-old, I was sledding with my friends on the very same Marist Beach. I had every single intention to return to school this fall semester, but after one too many friends opted to take their courses online and all but two of my courses were lining up to be fully remote as well, I decided to stay back here in Bedford and complete my first sophomore semester online.
I’ve been at war with myself throughout the duration of this year. The overwhelming gratitude that so far the worst outcome I’ve had from this year is a little extra time indoors and a semester away from Marist. I don’t believe that a semester and potentially a year away from campus is the biggest concern right now. It can always be worse. While it is a bit disheartening and challenging at times there are brighter ideas to look at here. I get extra time with my family and extended family, I get to see a few friends from home at a safe distance, and I get to roll out of bed at 7:45 am for my 8:00 am class that I would have been up for at 6:00 am on campus.
This pandemic has put everybody to a test, emotionally, mentally, physically –relationships and friendships have been tested also. I have been lucky enough to discover that the people I met the first day, first week, first month are still who I believe will become lifelong friends. Those bonds are somehow even stronger than while we were up at school. Everybody, no matter what age or group or time in life, is experiencing something different. College students, while again, not the biggest issue at hand here, are all missing out in some way on a year of their college career. Whether on campus or off college life as we know it has undoubtedly changed. The four of us in the friend group who have been studying from home have leaned on one another, sharing in the burden of missing out on fun nights and stressful study sessions. Those at school have done all that they can to include us in their campus day-to-day life which some days gives me the feeling that I never left. Those Facetimes have carried on and plenty of updates have been handed out from my friends down in Poughkeepsie. I am grateful to know I still have a place to return to when the time is right and hopefully that time will be spring semester.
Classwork is not the easiest, especially with crackly audio and web-cameras, but again…it could be worse. Unfortunately, we got stuck with Saturday classes and no breaks until Thanksgiving so it is full steam ahead on the school-work side of the college experience. It is great to keep busy but it can be overwhelming. The bonus about being on campus with the workload was easier access to asking questions and getting a response as soon as needed, multiple resources offered, and an in-person sharing of the burden with friends. I feel like the pandemic has altered the way we learn. While technology is a great tool to help in learning, it is not always the best. However, I will say it truly is the safest way especially for the professors with families of their own. Many opted to be fully remote and I don’t blame them. Teachers and professors are all putting themselves and their families at risk right now to teach hybrid classes. It isn’t perfect, but nothing is. While I would always choose to take a class fully in-person, a small accommodation to both my needs and the professors isn’t going to hurt my education for a year. It’s all about perspective and taking the necessary time and potentially extra time to make sure you’re understanding the material as well as advocating for yourself if you need help. We will all get past this; right now it is a moment in time.
I like to say I have gained a new perspective; before attending Marist, while I was still very much a BHS student, I dreamed of the day I’d step foot on the Marist campus. The second I did, everything felt right with some time and typical adjustments. As the months and weeks went by and the freshman year excitement slowed down, everything felt routine all over again. I took my days there for granted at the end of the second semester and wish now I never did. Hopefully, heading back in the spring, I am looking forward to returning with wide eyes and a dazzling smile as if it were my first day there all over again. Alumni I know have reminded me to soak in every moment of being here at Marist, showcasing to me just how much they never wanted to leave. I heard them, I believed them, but I didn’t always feel it. Now, I do. In four weeks’ time, it will be the end of my first semester of sophomore year. By a few weeks shy of Christmas I will have almost finished two of my four years and I can’t wrap my head around that. For these next two, I intend to make the most out of it all with this year serving as a reminder to not wish time away, to be grateful for what I have and who I’ve got with me, and to savor every moment.
Brooke Shamon, BHS Class of 2019, is a sophomore at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York has contributed to Student Voices at The Bedford Citizen for several years.