The decision to shut down the campus was one that myself, and many others, had expected. I had been in meetings for various organizations I am in about this possibility the whole week leading up to the decision announcement. Despite all this planning and talking, when the announcement happened the full reality of what that meant set in. I thought having the school shut down would be a relief. I had spent most of last semester and certainly all this one in a constant state of being busy. Every time I stopped to catch my breath, I realized I had 10 other things I needed to do. I’m sure all college students can relate.
The idea of all those things being cancelled sounded like the relief I desperately needed. Yet when that relief was delivered to my e-mail on March 12, I didn’t catch my breath—I got all of the air knocked right out of me realizing what that actually entailed. To top that off, the next day I woke up to a text message that my job at Mutual of Omaha was being closed immediately and would be for the foreseeable future. Over the course of one weekend they moved a company of 4,000 in-office people to working from home. They packed up our equipment, and we all filed in to pick it up. I didn’t even get to grab my “Women’s History” desk calendar. Everyone is experiencing this same turmoil in their life and there is little we can do to help one another.
Since the announcement from UNO, I have read many posts online of how this shutdown has affected people, forcing me to realize the full impact. This was not the relief I wanted, rather the moments I had worked hard for were ripped away all in one instance. The class of 2020 is not only grieving the loss of their “lasts” in college but simultaneously dealing with moving out of the dorms, working from home, losing their job, protecting themselves and their loved ones and figuring out how this will impact them post-grad. It is a lot to take in.
When I took the time to think about all that I was missing I became sad which quickly turned into feeling selfish. Here I am, in good health with a job that allows me to work from home and I have a home to work in—yet I’m sad because I can’t physically be on a campus? It all felt silly. After some intense journaling I understood that my feelings about the campus closing are valid. Being upset I am missing out on these opportunities I may not ever see again and having sympathy for those who have been impacted more are not mutually exclusive. For seniors, this spring is a moment we have been working toward our entire lives. For many, everything we have done so far in our lives was so that we could get to this point. Though we will still be receiving a diploma, it is not the way we ever expected it to be and that is a significant loss.
So, to my seniors who are upset they are losing their last moments of college, you are valid. Give yourself permission to grieve over this, because it truly is a loss. We all thought we had two more months before we were thrown into a state of confusion about what to do with our lives and instead we were thrown into it much sooner than we were prepared for. We will leave quarantine and be college graduates. There are no rules written for how this looks, and we are all in uncharted territory.
To the rest of my fellow Mavericks, your feelings are also valid. There are professors and classmates you did not get to say a proper goodbye to; events for your organization that have been planned all year will never take place; theatre shows in the middle of rehearsals won’t be shared with the world; sport seasons will not be finished; lab projects are cancelled; and there are so many other lost moments. These losses are heavy and will take time to heal. Give yourself that time to heal and look forward to a return to normal in the fall.
I find solace in seeing how our Maverick community and the Omaha metro is coming together to support one another. There are many food bank opportunities, donation drives and our state legislators are encouraging people to purchase gift cards from local businesses to help keep them afloat. I personally have offered grocery delivery services to those in my neighborhood who need it. Giving back helped me to feel much better and more in control of the situation. Though we are all socially distancing ourselves, reach out if you need help. This is a tough time and the only way we are going to get through it is together.
When this is said and done, we may not have had the experiences we were expecting but hopefully we will have had one where we were a part of something much bigger than ourselves and helped our community to heal.