~ Submitted by Brooke Shamon
I have always been one to keep track of time even without a watch on my wrist or a phone in my hand. Always marking hours throughout the day, six months until my birthday, fifty-two weeks in a year. I have never been one for appreciating the stillness time can bring you. My fast-paced mindset continually propels me into the future: to where everything will work out, everything will be okay. I didn’t realize that in the process of time-traveling I was wishing my life away. In fast-forwarding through the uncomfortable or painful moments, and even the ones that brought me joy, I was missing the most important things and people in my life in the present.
On one of the last days of sophomore year, my roommate and I made our way to the laundry room, one final load before we could finish packing. She looked over at me and smiled. “You know, we’re ju…,” she started to say before I immediately put my hand up and shook my head.
“Nope, don’t even say it. I don’t want to hear the J word,” I said.
She laughed and paused a moment, before continuing her sentence. “We’re juniors, honey.”
Even as I smiled and continued to laugh gracefully, I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around this checkpoint we were crossing through.
Time is a funny thing. It decides where and when, under which circumstances to speed up or slow us down and does it all with virtually no face. The pandemic brought our world to a halt for many months, interrupting our regularly scheduled program. Weeks prior to returning to campus in February, our world was starting up again. Slowly but surely we were all finding our way to stand on our own two feet again. In the time between my freshman and sophomore year the world wasn’t right; the pandemic just beginning. Many of us “skipped” a year or that was how it felt…and still does. Suddenly I found myself a rising college junior with no clear sense of time.
As my sister and I drove through the town of Poughkeepsie, my mother behind us in her own car, I imagined what life would be like returning to campus. I had my trunk packed to the brim, filled with everything I’d imagined I’d need especially in the case that I’d have to quarantine. I was prepared with everything necessary (and some unnecessary) as I returned to campus for the first time in almost a year. Little did I realize, no matter what I packed or picked out, nothing would prepare me for the semester ahead.
I parked and was barely out of the car when I was welcomed with screams and open arms from the friends I hadn’t seen from my previous in-person bubble for “eleven months and fifteen days.” (One of my best friends likes to remind me exactly how long we had been apart). I spent the afternoon unpacking, reconnecting, and meeting new people who would soon become companions. That first month back was filled with adjustments and re-alignment, finding my place again and realizing maybe it wasn’t quite where I had left it. My three best friends and I had grown closer, same with my freshman roommate who lived just a few townhomes down. These friendships were something that never changed, and if they did alter, it was for the better. As for everyone else, they were all spread out and those who wanted to remain connected did. Others who had found a new home and a new group were still friendly faces to smile and say hello to in passing. Many things about my life at Marist had changed…the setting, the stakes, the obstacles, and the bonds. I thought it was a wake-up call — we weren’t freshmen anymore. But my constants, my four leading ladies, reminded me some things weren’t meant to change.
But the real wake-up call came at the end of March. We received a phone call informing us that one of our roommates had tested positive for Covid. In the back of my mind, I knew this might occur; I thought I was prepared. But nothing could prepare me for the rush of emotions and thoughts that sprang into my head the moment I heard the words, “She tested positive.”
Almost immediately we were told to pack up and follow instructions to quarantine off-campus for two weeks. Each one of us in our house of seven tested positive – not a surprise as everyone in our townhome was in close contact. I was still taken aback by the news. We all recognized that in making the choice to return to campus we had to accept any unwanted consequences. But we had been so careful – we hunkered in and refused to tempt fate by seeing friends from different townhomes. We passed the time glued to television watching Lizzie McGuire and reminiscing over a time when Covid wasn’t a thing. Little did I know my four walls wouldn’t keep Covid out and I ended up experiencing symptoms next.
We all went into isolation; my roommate and I were placed together in an apartment. What followed were chest pains, plenty of coughing, and fevers that kept us sweating through the night. Our oxygen levels went as low as 94 with fevers as high as 101.3. Then after seven days we abruptly started feeling almost normal. But it was a challenging two weeks overall — the midpoint of a semester where I questioned almost everything. This virus, something I had been running from for a year, had entered my body after all. But everything happens for a reason, right? The mind shift that occurred from getting and recovering from Covid offered me an opportunity to take back control of my life and even have some fun. As the nurse at the college clinic said after checking me out, “You did your time. Go enjoy it out there.” And that’s just what we did.
Everybody went through a re-adjustment period when we returned from quarantine and it was as if I got a second chance to introduce myself to friends new and old. The P2 boys as we called them made the time even more exciting for us Q1 girls and the adventures and pranks rose to a whole other level. Shutting off our power was only the beginning…flipping furniture and sneaking into our house to move mattresses around were among the non-stop pranks. Eventually, after weeks of retaliation, we girls purchased water guns on a hot May day and ambushed the P2 house with a barrage of water guns. This turned into an all-out war leading to a giant water balloon fight across the green. It was a moment where everyone clicked and I felt whole again. My friends were back together and everything we did brought out our inner child at a time when we needed it most. Soaked to the bone and tossing balloons well into the night I knew I wouldn’t trade my experience of this semester for the world.
As I look back on my time this semester, I reminisce on the growth, the acceptance, the friends, the laughter, and all the memories I’ll have for years to come. This is what it’s all about: making the small moments count. I like to apply quotes, or words of encouragement that apply to moments in my life when I face something I fear or a challenge I want to overcome but I am unsure or wary about crossing that threshold. “Everything happens for a reason,” is one I hold to be true and I think it will stick with me forever. But from my experience what should matter most is taking the time to live in the moment with which you are gifted, soaking up even the most surprising or unfortunate events and learning from them. I am reflecting on a semester that I feared might overwhelm me but instead inspired me. It was refreshing and surprising, necessary. Ultimately, life can change in an instant…one minute, you’re ambushing your friends with water guns and the next thing you know, they’re dumping a tub of water on your head. It’s unexpected and all in good fun.
One of the concepts that has changed my view of life is simply: time. It’s ever-fleeting with a mind of its own. It’s not gonna stop or slow down so it’s what you make of the time you’ve got that matters. As I look towards my…[*looks around* said in a whispered tone] junior year…ouch…I anticipate hidden gems in the future that are coming my way. One day you’re a freshman and the next thing you know, you’re signing up for junior year classes with 88% of your graduation requirements fulfilled. It’s a scary thought, moving on, leaving your best memories and friends behind in a way…once college is over, everything changes. Ultimately, those who are meant to be by your side, will be. Treasure that, and the moments and the memories that come with your people. And always remember to take your time.
Editor’s Note: Brooke Shamon has been contributing to The Bedford Citizen since she was a senior at Bedford High School (Class of 2019). From time to time she has submitted pieces reflecting on her preparations for college, leaving home, and experiencing the challenges of Covid as a student at Marist College. This is her latest piece as she prepares to begin her junior year there.