The Week The World Changed: Holy Cross Senior Edition

Emma Powell ’20

Guest Writer

It is difficult to believe that just a couple of weeks ago, I was frantically telling everyone packed at Pub night that there was “NO WAY THIS IS OUR LAST PUB NIGHT.” As people fought back tears, I laughed off their reactions that I deemed over dramatic and over active. I continued to swing back my Angry Orchard ciders, positive that I would be doing the same thing the following week. To those who correctly reacted, I am so sorry. 

The next day, I was sitting on a Dinand main room computer when a familiar gmail notification went on an open tab. As I read the email, my heart dropped. People around me reacted before I did. There was a sudden rush of people running out of the library. Gasps, desperate whispers, and an aura of anxiety bounced off the walls of the library. I just stared at my computer. Then I became hysterical…I cried because it occurred to me that was my last time studying in Dinand. This was the worst thing that ever happened to me (besides of course the death of a family member). Holy Cross has been my home for four years. Now, just like that I had 72 hours to say goodbye not only to my friends, beloved clubs, the future of events and initiatives I had spent a year planning and professors but I also had to accept I might not have proper closure of my transitional period into adulthood. In all honesty, the walls felt like they were collapsing around me and the unknown was suddenly a lot bigger than any kind of certain thought I had for my future, even for the next five minutes. For many college seniors, across the country, I expect they too will experience feelings of devastation and true loss that is unexplainable. It is a total feeling of hopelessness. 

Those 72 hours are now a blur of goodbyes and missed goodbyes as I tried to cram in hundreds of meaningful interactions while trying not to break down. I cried with friendly acquaintances, laughed with day one friends, and even met new people where my first thought was, “I don’t have enough time for this potential friendship.” Those “what-ifs” and “should’ve, would’ve, could’ves” stung like a thousand knives to the heart.  It was the best and worst few days of my life. 

An unexpected prolepsis, and I am back in my childhood bedroom (which is really just a walk-in closet in my sisters’ room) that I have not spent any real time in since I was 18 years old. The happy certainties I had dissipated. As the situation progressed nationally, I realized it was not even safe to hang out with friends from high school, go to the spin studio, or go to the public library. For every young person sent home to their hometown, this is probably the most uncertain and bizarre experience. For me, I spend my days doing school work, live stream workouts, an occasional walk, and watching an unacceptable amount of TikTok. 

The worst part is trying to be aware of my own privilege…I have a bed to sleep in and unlimited access to food. I have people close to me who cannot even say that. When staying home is the proper and even “brave” thing to do during this pandemic, it is hard to justify self-pity. This is complicated by having parents on the frontlines. My mom comes home and has to strip her scrubs in the basement and grapple with the fact she may infect her entire family. My dad tries to ensure there is enough food in the house and goes to work midnights as a police officer. No one but college seniors can really understand what this feels like but I am trying to think of the collective and gain perspective. That said, it is difficult.

My long-time favorite professor and close mentor put it well as she tried to support me in this hard time. Everyone is entitled to the stress, anxiety, and outright anger at this moment. You can have perspective and still be distraught.  What keeps me going is with the loss of transition is that I also have hope that this can bring our generation together to work towards good. For now, I will rejoice in the time we had, even just to keep sane. 

Moving forward, I will try to use this time to reflect, reconnect, and hope for better days. I will continue writing and publishing thoughts that I think might help about the environment, personal life, and what it means to live in this historic moment. I invite others to submit perspectives from quarantine even just for your own catharsis and sense of community. After all, our grandchildren will ask us what it was like to graduate (or not graduate) college in Corona Spring 2020. I hope that I can tell them we made it through, a little damaged, but strong and united.

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4 replies »

  1. I feel your pain! Emma, this is beautifully written. Hang strong! We will come out of this. The human spirit is strong! (Our oldest son is on the fore-front of this too! He is a paramedic!) our thoughts go out to all the people out there helping the sick!


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