Charles Melton is a senior news and telecommunications major and writes “In Reflection” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
The winter has always made me feel nostalgic. Waking up to cold air makes me feel like a 16-year-old boy, scrambling to get my jammers and goggles for swim practice, slamming back coffee and sprinting out the door.
Now, with the end of the fall 2020 semester so close and that fabled finish line in sight, I’ll have more to remember waking up in the winter.
College has been one of the mo
st informative experiences in my life. I’ve learned about myself. I’ve been deeply invested in learning reporting and eventually becoming an editor. I’ve made lifelong friends and connected with professors who have taught me valuable skills.
Despite everything COVID-19 has managed to take away from my college experience — be it a graduation ceremony, in-person classes and internship opportunities — it can’t take away all that I’ve built, and it has given me new experiences that will follow me for the rest of my life.
Adaptation, namely, was the most valuable skill I’ve learned. Before there was a pandemic, I was adapting to a new environment, new people and a new system of education.
Since March of the spring 2020 semester, being a college student has been about adapting and overcoming a shared obstacle: learning how to function without ever being close to those I was functioning with.
Now, being so close to receiving my bachelor’s degree, there are still so many uncertainties that lie ahead. Will I get into graduate school? Will I be able to get a job if I don’t?
I’m applying to grad school as I write this, which can onl
y add to the feeling that I’m stumbling through the dark, looking for the light switch.
With my end goal of becoming a professor in higher education, grad school is not only the next big step toward that goal, but also the next big need.
Even if I get into and pass grad school, what’s next? What awaits me outside the walls of a college campus in a much wider world?
It’s not a pleasant thing to sit down and ruminate on, but there’s also a sense of adventure not knowing what’s ahead but moving forward all the same.
I am so fortunate to be surrounded by others experiencing the same dilemma I am, sharing our struggles and working through them side by side.
I’ve had support from a family that has cared for me since childhood and brought me to adulthood and from a loving girlfriend, who has managed to make even the most dire situations seem like just a bump in the road. Having people like them by my side has reminded me that, even though this is a journey I have to complete on my own, I am never alone.
It was never fun swimming in a pool by myself. I only thrived when my friends and competitors were beside me, pushing me to my physical limits and comforting me when I was done.
College is a similar situation. If I had gone through this final semester alone, I’m not sure what situation I would be in.
So, to those who are graduating, look toward those around you. Be supportive of your friends and loved ones, who, even if it’s not apparent, could be going through the same thing you are.
There may not be a big ceremony at the end of the race or anyone there to give you your diploma and send you off into the world with inspiring words of encouragement, but there are people who can.
With the absence of this ceremony comes the opportunity to celebrate one another. Congratulate those who have accomplished their goals, and be the inspiration to those who are still working their way through college. Be a comfort to those who are struggling the way you have.
This winter, moving closer and closer toward completing my degree, I think about the journey it took to get here and my growth of character.
Even if I had to crash against the water at every stroke, swimming in the uncertain waters of college and COVID-19, I made it to the end, and so can you.
Contact Charles Melton with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @Cmelton144.