For most students, college is part of a larger life plan that includes a desired path of educational opportunities, internships and networking that eventually leads to a career. When these carefully constructed plans are interrupted, it can be difficult to deal with.
The outbreak of a global pandemic that has ravaged the United States since as early as March was perhaps the biggest interrupter that I or my peers have had to face thus far in our educational careers.
For the first couple months of 2020, I felt like I was on top of the world. As I began my fourth semester at ASU, I was volunteering, interning, enjoying my classes and hanging out with my friends on a regular basis. It felt like I was finally reaching the place in my life that I had so long dreamed and worked for.
In what felt like a blink of an eye, everything changed. I was sitting in my dorm room during spring break when the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic. I still got up and volunteered for my campus job the next morning. But over the course of the next few days, my job, as well as all of my classes and my internship, transitioned to online-only operations to help prevent the spread.
Suddenly, I realized I had already seen my supervisors, teachers and peers in person for the last time for months, possibly longer. Despite the University’s action to continue holding lectures over Zoom, I could not help but dwell on the fact that life as I knew it was permanently changed for a reason that was completely out of my hands.
With the start of summer, I had long planned to work and save money. However, those plans were disrupted as many businesses in Arizona closed or laid-off workers and stopped hiring, and even those that remained open would have required me to possibly expose myself to the virus. I am lucky to live with my family, but I can not help but feel like, as a young adult, I should be constantly working to advance my career rather than sitting idly in my bedroom at my parent’s house.
For the last few years, Arizona's unemployment rate had been steadily dropping, beginning January 2020 at 4.6%. By April, after the pandemic swept the nation, Arizona's unemployment rate skyrocketed all the way to 13.1%, its highest point in more than a decade. With so many people being laid off, I knew my chances of finding a job would be slim to none.
During these strange and unprecedented times, how do we remind ourselves that it is okay for things to not go as planned — and how can time lost during a pandemic actually be used strategically to work on ourselves mentally and emotionally?
There have been times during quarantine that I, just like everyone else, have desperately longed for life to return to normal. However, I have found that the best way to deal with the interruption of plans is to simply shift focus from working on my career to working on myself.
In life, there will always be times when things do not turn out the way that we planned, whether it is the outbreak of a pandemic, or more simple things such as rejection, unexpected family emergencies and more. By using these times to self-reflect, perhaps we can better prepare ourselves to deal with adversity in the future.
Just because we can not attend in-person classes or internships, does not mean that we must stop learning. We can read books, take online classes, practice our skills and even implement new methods of communication that could continue to be used to make life easier in the future.
Additionally, I have learned things about myself that I might never have otherwise, including what my priorities are and what exactly it is that I want out of life.
While I miss going to school and meeting new people with all my heart, what I have missed even more than that is seeing my friends and family. In the past, I have been guilty of turning down invitations to hang out with loved ones because of work or school.
Now that I can not see any of my friends, I find myself regretting all the times that I said no to plans. I hope that when this is all over, I am better at making time for my friends and family, because those are the things that I miss the most when they are taken away from me.
On a less-intense-but-still-relevant note, one of my favorite quarantine pastimes has been watching some of the shows that have been sitting in my watch list for months and that I’ve never had the time to actually start. One of these shows, Netflix’s “The Dragon Prince,” included a quote that felt incredibly relevant to my current situation:
“You don’t know where the river of life will bend and turn … Don’t try to control where the river goes. There is only one thing you can know and control: yourself. Look at yourself. Who are you? What do you stand for? Once you know that, then wherever the river takes you, you’ll be right where you were always meant to be.”