See Ya Never, 2020

March 12 was a weird day. I woke up to a phone call from my future supervisor offering me my top choice of an internship at UVA. I was going to grad school. Right then and there I decided I was going to UVA, and I immediately texted my family and got so excited. I even took a picture to announce what I was doing next. But something was off. The night before Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus, and the NBA was put to a halt. The SEC basketball tournament abruptly stopped. My history class had been canceled because my professor was in Nashville to watch Alabama play, but he never got to see the Tide that day. My dad and I slowly began canceling our plans to go to Florida that weekend for our annual trip to Orlando/Clearwater. We were still told not to worry in class. “It’s not that big of a deal.” Quickly other SEC schools began extending their spring break, and we joked that Alabama would never cancel classes. We would be the National Champions of the Coronavirus. But that night Alabama made the call to extend spring break. We were told we’d be coming back, but it still felt like the end. 

On March 13, I cried. A lot. I cried right before I would give my last ever ambassador tour. I cried leaving my tour. I cried saying goodbye to the friends who hadn’t left yet. Most of them had left since it was about to be spring break. I cried eating my last meal at Theta, and I cried on my drive back to Georgia, not knowing when I would see Tuscaloosa again. I also cried during my extended spring break more times that I could count, falling into a depressive state. I knew my circumstances were a lot better than others. I had a home, food, and WiFi to do online school with both my parents and sister at home. But I couldn’t help but mourn the loss of my senior year. So much of my senior year had been focused on getting into grad school, and I kept telling myself that if I could get to Spring Break, I would have fun after. I would have fun at my last two date parties. Senior celebrations. Graduation. I had it all planned out, and suddenly, things I didn’t expect to be my lasts were. Finishing up your senior year from your childhood bedroom is weird. I spent my time completing my senior capstone for PR. (We won!) I conquered GBA 490 without getting to celebrate at Houndstooth for a shot. (If you know, you know...) And then I turned my tassels on my graduation cap once again in my childhood bedroom. I did get to officially move out of Theta a few days after what would have been my graduation date. I said goodbye with a Buffalo Phil’s picnic on the Quad with one of my littles, and the best roommate I could have asked for my senior year took my grad photos. Not the ending I expected, but a good one. 

If finishing your undergrad in your childhood bedroom is weird, starting grad school in your childhood bedroom is even weirder, especially when your parents are in the midst of selling your house. Meeting my cohort through Zoom while completing group projects via Zoom calls, Google Docs, and iMessage. It was also a tense summer for our country. The protests kept me up at night because I was terrified at what would happen to the people who were protesting for their lives. If someone else would be shot. If another leader would say something stupid. I felt helpless but also worked to educate myself even more and donate money to causes I felt called to (something I continue to do as much as possible.) In a fitting turn of events, my summer group project focused on the University of Missouri 2015 Student Protests. The parallels between the CS1950 protests and the student protests were clear but especially the impact of student athletes. In 2015, the Mizzou football team helped bring national attention to the protests that had been going on for months. They put pressure on the university president to resign. Over the summer, we saw college athletes march across their college towns, calling for action and support of their lives. Athletes have an incredible amount of power, and it’s incredible to watch college athletes use it. 

By the end of the summer, I felt a sense of anticipation of finally moving out and moving to Charlottesville for the fall even though all my classes would be online. I had been planning on moving to Virginia since March, and I was finally doing it. I left for Charlottesville in early August, saying my final goodbye (lol okay) to Peachtree City and my childhood home since my parents would be in the new house by the time I came home for Thanksgiving. 

Except I made it three weeks before I had a breakdown calling my mom sobbing and asking if I could come back home. Online school in a new city where you don’t really know people while also not really feeling comfortable going out into the city is rough. I loved my classes, and I love my internships, but as soon as my day would end, I would lay in my bed feeling so anxious and alone. I could feel myself becoming more and more depressed as the days went on. I was slowly starting to feel like I did in March. I think I watched more movies in that three week span than I had all summer. To top it off, I got sick. Not corona sick, but I still had to go into isolation housing while waiting for my test results since I lived on campus with a roommate. Once I got my negative test result, I packed up and left Charlottesville. So I moved back to Peachtree City and back to my childhood home since my parents still had a few weeks left before moving. My parents packed up our house while I sat on Zoom call after Zoom call in my room that my parents put my desk and bed back in. (My room was the only officially empty room and then I came back…)

Flash forward a few weeks and we moved to the new house. I felt unsettled for the first few weeks as it took me forever to actually unpack all my clothes, and I will admit things sat in my car for FAR too long. But I got used to the new house and to the new surroundings. My parents and I continued our tradition of family movie night, and luckily Mike (the dog) actually started liking me a little more. We ate meals together, and honestly nothing hits quite like a home cooked meal. I no longer felt trapped by the room I was doing school in and regularly did classwork or actual work in our living room or on our back porch. Yeah, grad school was still stressful at times, but I felt safe and significantly less depressed. 

And then we started creeping closer and closer to the election. To say I was nervous was an understatement. Four years ago, I still truly believed in the power of good people, so this election was so much harder. The hardest part was people talking about how we had survived the last four years...what was four more? I spent the last four years watching people not survive this presidency. Now being a UVA student, I regularly think about the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Heather Heyer did not survive the hate that was flamed by the president. And that’s not the only example. To say people survived the Trump presidency comes from an incredible place of privilege and is truly shameful. The Saturday Pennsylvania was called was the first time I felt like I could breathe since November 2016. I know that all the problems we face are not solved. Systematic racism still exists. The pandemic still rages on. The hate the presidency embodied still lives on, but it was a little easier to exist that day. Then we got the best news I could have asked for a week later: an official Blue Georgia. I’m truly amazed the work the people in this state have done, and I’m even happier that we pushed both Senate elections into runoffs. 

November went by in a blur as much of it was spent in pre-, during, and post-election anxiety. Thanksgiving was spent as much of the rest of the year…on Zoom. While not ideal, it was for the best. We stayed safe while still getting to talk to each other. My parents and I ate way too much food, and I got to spend the next few days eating my favorite Thanksgiving food - leftover honey baked ham. We listened to Christmas music and watch the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, which I highly recommend. It’s hard not doing holidays the way we normally do, but we’ve all had to update this year. Make adjustments. Make sacrifices. 

And then it was time for finals season…or in my case, final papers season. I finished up my final projects and papers. I got to write about things I am passion about. I spent hours upon hours editing different paragraphs and rereading student development theory, but now it’s over. (And I got good grades on everything, which was super exciting!!) I finished my second semester of grad school. In February, I will start my final semester and come May will I have a master’s degree. It’s weird wrapping up everything all within a year and all online, but I absolutely love grad school. I love learning, especially about things I really care about. I can feel myself becoming a better student and a better future student affairs practitioner

This year has been hard and exhausting. Some days the biggest thing I accomplished was getting up. I hate crying so much, but I have cried so many times…often in frustration. Uncertainty and I are not friends, but I’ve had to accept not knowing what would come next, which is something I always talk at length in my reflection posts, but this year has especially been one filled with unknowns. I have no idea where I will be in a year. Where I will be living. What I will be doing. Heck, I have no idea what February will look. However, I am still so grateful for so much. My parents for supporting through all this madness and letting me move back home. My friends for numerous phone calls, Zoom calls, and/or FaceTImes. My graduate program for being the absolute best I could have asked for in the middle of a pandemic. The people who believe in science and work endlessly to keep everyone safe (even when people don’t believe them). Taylor Swift for saving 2020 by releasing TWO new albums. And obviously, the Alabama Crimson Tide, always. 

Like I said, I don't know what 2021 will hold, and I think this year has made me accept that more than usual. I really don't have any expectations going into it except hopefully getting a job at some point. But even with that I know that it might not happen right away. Honestly, maybe going into the new year with 0 expectations is a good thing. Guess we will find out...

xx, jKm

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