By Kate Abram
For Daub + Design
“Back to school” is a familiar idea around this time of year. As a student at the University of British Columbia, though, I still feel like I’m living the day when it was all cancelled. As September approaches, this year looks incredibly different than what any of us expected. Dreams of walking around the grounds of UBC, being surrounded by friends and the general buzz of everyday campus life have all been put on hold for an undetermined amount of time. September looks a lot like the last 6 months, working at my parents dining room table or in my room by myself. “Back to School” this season feels like a period of loss.
It was daunting leaving home at a young age – I have had my fair share of moments on the plane to Vancouver where I stare out the window and pretend that I’m the main character in a Netflix special. I’m from Winnipeg, and when I was admitted into the University of British Columbia, I was all of a sudden sold on the fact that Vancouver was going to be a part of my future. That’s how it is with big life changes - wherever you go and whatever you do HAS to be great, because it feels like your new life depends on it. I realize now that this time in my life has been a unique period of reinvention that is breathtakingly fast-paced and so hard but incredibly rewarding.
WORK WORK WORK
Whenever I’ve had a to-do list of assignments longer than my left leg or have somehow found myself setting an alarm at 1 AM to wake up at 6 AM, I have always deferred to thinking about what’s coming next. In school and in work, I got used to thinking that happiness and relaxation are rewards for stress. By always looking forward and thinking about my goals, the fun that I would end up having on the weekend or the nap that I would promptly take after class, I just kept going.
If COVID-19 has taught me anything, it’s that I’ve gone on missing a lot of things that were right under my nose because of self-inflicted stress. It’s interesting that when the rhythm of life pauses and rearranges, you’re gifted with perspective - I have gone through a few phases in life that can only be described like living in the future while also moving in slow motion. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and now that I’m not operating at warp speed, I’ve realized that I said no to events that I should have gone to, I’ve taken on the weight of expectations that I didn’t need to carry, and above all I took time with my gorgeously kind and intelligent friends for granted. Every day that goes by in this pandemic, it becomes clearer to me that my relationships have brought me some of the greatest joys of my life, and I said “no” to a lot of memories that I could’ve made.
The inherent challenge that I’m facing right now is that I don’t know what there is to look forward to. If we find a vaccine for COVID-19 or come up with a treatment, what will the state of the world be? Personally, I’m struggling with the fact that I’ve lost my sense of structure and the presence of some of the important people that pushed me to face challenges and keep going. Trying to get school work done while pushing for a career in business without the infectious energy of a campus, career role models and friends is a lot more difficult than I expected it to be. Now, I’m caught thinking about all of the things that I would have done better or what I would have had more fun with this semester, but the chance to improve and grow has been taken away from me by the circumstances.
INTO THE UNKNOWN
Honestly, I don’t know how this is going to go and I think that’s the scariest part of this for all of us. What’s pushing me to keep going, though, is the same thing that’s always pushed me - people. The sense of unity that I feel with the friends and family has never been stronger. While my experience at school has changed, I have learned to appreciate the fleeting and fragile nature of my memories with others. There’s no guarantee that happiness is a reward for stress, and even though our future beyond this pandemic is uncertain, we have the opportunity to make this moment ours in complicated ways that we might not even understand yet. All I know is that I’m learning to relearn, and trying to make the best of this, just like everyone else. I’m going to take care of myself, stay in touch with my people, love the family and friends that I can see and remind myself of what I have to be grateful for. I look forward to finding new perspectives on learning and “productivity” (whatever that word means) and most of all I look forward to creating new reasons to be happy and mindful of how blessed I am.