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A College Senior During Covid Waits for the ‘After’

NOA WOLLSTEIN, 21

I left college as a second-semester junior, not knowing if I was coming back. While the class of 2020 was pitied for losing their graduation and final moments with friends, I envied them their near-complete four years at school. My senior fall has since gone online, and there’s no indication of a different fate for the spring. 

Sitting alone in a house in Long Island, as my family members returned to in-person work, I’ve struggled to adjust to the new normal. I’ve been told to think of the future, when the pandemic inevitably ends and life, in one form or another, continues. The problem is that I have no idea how to look ahead. My classmates and I are back to living like high schoolers, but with thesis deadlines. 

The road of school and education—from primary to middle to high to higher—that I’ve been on for so long is coming to an end. The big unknown beyond May was always supposed to be scary, a haze with the words “the rest of your life” floating in it. Still, I had bargained on having a framework for these last months before I enter “the real world.” It’s an interval of time short enough to make me panic-scroll through job listings, but long enough to stop me from actually applying to any of them. 

I can’t visualize a future where I still study beneath stained glass library windows, go to rehearsals for my dance company, or live within walking distance of all my friends. And while I know (or hope) new joys will fill the life I build for myself after graduation this spring, how can I predict what they’ll be? How do I see the little moments that make living sweet, when I don’t know what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be living? Who even knows if I—or anyone else in my class—will have a job? 

When school shut down in March and my dad drove me home a few days later, it felt dramatic to think of the moment I left campus as the end of life as I knew it. Yet in a sense it was: more than seven months later, I’m still waiting in limbo, holding my breath until I find solid ground again.

By now I imagined that I’d be getting through this year by embracing the unknown. As that moment of enlightenment has yet to arrive, so for now my solution is a little less ambitious. I’m focusing on midterms, taking up embroidery, and trying to take the day one hour at a time. Eventually, piece by piece, that will bring me to the future.