I know we are all sick of talking about Covid-19, but now that miss Monkey Pox is on the rise and a new pandemic has hit the scene I figured it was time to bring this one out of the vault.
Forget the babies born into the world in the midst of a global pandemic, I’m here to advocate on behalf of the group most drastically impacted by the social isolation of COVID-19: 2020 college freshmen.
College is supposed to be the one time in your life where you can use the excuse that you were young and dumb. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t doing many young dumb things confined in the shared cubicle of a dorm room I took classes from the other 8 hours of the day.
Scratch that. I guess I did spontaneously dye my hair one shade darker blond on a rambunctious Thursday night.
But in doing my part in the lockdown, I felt like I was missing out on the college experience.
Maybe, I watch too many movies, but I remember laying in my extra long twin-sized bed thinking “this is it?”
I’d always imagined that I’d get to college and immediately be consumed by this mass of teenagers with red solo cups and raging caffeine addictions who would whisk me away and open my eyes to the mystery of college life.
The young dumb things. This ever-knowing group would reveal to me the secret of how to make the most of the next four years.
Surprise surprise, this didn’t happen. When I stepped onto the curb of university property, no one descended upon me. No one even remotely gravitated towards me. Not even to help me move in.
College always seemed like a time of infinite possibility. It’s the point in life where you’re pushed out of the metaphorical nest, plummeting to the ground, bound to bounce along before eventually getting the hang of it all.
When you think about it, college students are the equivalent of baby birds in many ways.
Weak immune systems, some with patchy (dare I say balding) hair, and an unsettling amount of vomiting involved.
But that’s just college students in general.
Looking at the incoming freshmen class in 2020, we see a group of people, myself included, who missed many of the “lasts” associated with high school and had many untimely “firsts” at college.
My first college party? Outlawed all of my freshman year. A single outbreak could put a fraternity chapter on probation for the next calendar year.
My first of many all-nighters in the library? Chaos during finals week? They sent us home at Thanksgiving not to return until 2021. A two-and-a-half-month winter break. I took finals, ramped up on Monster Energy, sitting in front of a glowing laptop in my basement.
Freshman year passed in a blur of Zoom classes and room temp cheese quesadillas.
I never met most of the people living on my floor. And before I knew it, I and my once random roommate parted ways.
Year 1: Done.
By the time I returned to campus in August 2021 for the start of my sophomore year, I was on a mission. I had a list of objectives and a plan of action. This was going to be my year.
Boy was I mistaken.
Step one was to make more friends. I wanted to meet people. Mingle. Put myself out there. I think I was a little overconfident in composing my list.
I’ll be honest, I gave this one my best effort. But I had nothing on the beast itself, a year and a half of social isolation. Curled and shaking below the monster sat the freshman class of 2020.
I tried to make conversation with the people in my classes, asking questions I already knew the answers to, and comparing assignments or exam scores. After I had someone physically cringe and swivel away from me, I decided trying to make small talk with my classmates was no longer feasible. Or necessary.
I took another approach and tried talking to random people.
I would wait until the perfect moment just standing in line for food at the dining hall or in Starbucks. And then, I would strike.
I would drop a timely and casual, and by casual I mean strategically crafted, joke. I’m kinda funny, this should have worked. It did not.
And then I got desperate.
I resorted to outside sources. I figured it was probably time I did a little research on my target audience.
I am humbled to say, I sat down and watched a couple of TED Talks on “How to Make Friends”. And somehow, not even scientifically proven methods could break through the pandemic-hardened shell of my peers.
Waving the white flag, I shifted my focus back to academics while nursing my bruised social ego.
But here’s the thing about focusing on academics. You have to focus…on academics.
That means paying attention in class. No procrastinating assignments. No cramming or winging exams. No rolling out of bed 5 minutes before class starts and rolling up to 8:00 am lecture in your crocs and the same clothes you’ve been wearing for the last 72 hours.
So rather than focusing on academics, I took an alternative approach. I simply reflected on my academics and the wealth of knowledge bestowed upon me.
And what I realized was that after spending two years taking finals online, I’m not sure that I’ve actually learned a whole lot. At least anything that will make me a competent employee.
You know the quote from the “New Girl” character Nick Miller? Let me be a little more specific.
“I’m not sure I know how to read I just think I’ve just memorized a lot of words.” – Nick Miller
That line resonates with me on a concerningly deep level. I just get it, man.
So while I don’t know anything about taxes or how to negotiate salary, I can proudly say that I have learned a few valuable lessons during my first two years. Mainly through trial and error, I have learned what I would classify as “practical knowledge.”
College has been my opportunity to learn some street smarts. A hail mary attempt to try and balance out my natural-born intelligence and adequate amounts of skepticism and backbone.
Listen up and learn from my mistakes.
In college culture, there’s advice tossed around to girls that you never chase after a pong ball.
The ping pong ball bounces off the table and disappears into the abyss of shuffling sticky feet? You don’t flinch.
Your ball is intercepted? Don’t move a muscle.
You fumble the catch? Rock solid.
You straight chuck the ball in the opposite direction? You don’t bat an eye.
You never, ever, submit yourself to the shameful crouched position of someone scurrying after a rolling ping pong ball. That is someone else’s problem.
Well, no one ever told me this.
In fact, in my little unsocialized brain, this thought never even crossed my mind.
So, on the night of my first college party, when that little neon orange ball went rolling, I was on my hands and knees under the folding table crawling around to find the ball.
After what seemed like years, I found what I was looking for.
I quickly wiped my wet hands that were covered in some type of radioactive disease-ridden frat basement floor slime, stood up, and promptly bumped my head on the table in the process of standing.
This caused me to spill some of the mystery liquids from the cups arranged on the table. Lucky for me it missed the super cute tank that I decided to wear on my first evening out.
On the flip side, most of the mess was soaked up instantaneously by my hair. To this day, I think it’s thinning because of this traumatic event.
Picture this: a red-faced girl, shyly holding a neon ping pong ball, covered in sweat and what she is hoping is beer but is seemingly close to urine.
That, is the image of a person who has never been socialized.
Sorry quarantine babies. The class of 2024 is the biggest loser.