Grace McCormick is a senior journalism news major and writes “Mother of Muses” for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
As I sat in front of 15 of my close friends in a dimly lit hotel room, I was sure I would cry.
I had been thinking about what to say to these people, a group who have made every interaction I have with them fantastic, a group of friends who I will no longer see multiple times a week after I graduate.
But instead of feeling sad to leave, I felt energized and happy for all the memories and friendships we’ve cemented. Instead of crying while speaking to them, I laughed and expressed my appreciation for everyone’s dedication and love.
This was two nights before I and my friends competed at the 2022 National Forensic Association (NFA) tournament. Ball State’s speech team placed in the top ten teams in the nation and advanced multiple speeches to phases of the final elimination rounds. I can’t express in words right now how proud I am of my teammates for their spirit.
Speech is the only activity in my college career that I’ve felt consistently welcomed, appreciated and celebrated, so saying goodbye to it was hard. On the van ride back to Muncie, I remembered the 2020-21 school year of completely virtual speech tournaments and how difficult it was to only see my friends in profile picture boxes on Zoom. Having an in-person tournament to cap off my speech career while the COVID-19 pandemic continues was far from normal, but it seemed like a metaphor for my entire college experience.
Each of the three years I’ve been at Ball State have been affected by the pandemic. When I talk to my parents and their friends, they often tell me how they wish I had the opportunity for a better experience, but the reality is I have no idea what a better college experience would look like.
The pandemic has affected the entire globe and the virus itself has killed more than 6 million people. I’m lucky enough to not have personally known anyone who died from COVID-19, so I have no objection to sacrificing parts of my college experience when so many people have it a lot worse.
Throughout these past three years, I have always had the option of throwing pity parties for myself and focusing on what I’ve missed or lost. I sometimes think about how my life would have been different without COVID-19, but I can never form a clear picture in my head. I would have gone to Washington, D.C. in spring 2020, to Mexico City in spring 2022 and have had the opportunity to attend in-person awards ceremonies for the Department of Journalism.
Would those additional experiences have made my life better? I don’t know. The pandemic has unfortunately become so ingrained into everyone’s experiences that I think a lot of us would rather not think about how life could have gone without it.
If not for COVID-19, I probably could have developed closer relationships with my coworkers if we had been able to safely gather and travel outside of the Unified Media Lab. I can choose to remember how I lost that when I leave The Daily News in May, or I can remember how the editorial board still had a team spirit when I first became a news editor in fall 2020.
Beyond the pandemic, I can choose to resent my professors for assigning time-consuming homework or resent myself for taking 18 credit hours each semester, but I don’t want to spend time wallowing in negative emotions.
I know I have immense privilege to be able to do this at all, but I’ve chosen to remember the highlights and good things that happened in college in spite of the pandemic. I have experienced this hopefully once-in-a-lifetime event with my friends and family, and we’ve relied on virtual communication to get through it together.
Obviously, I can’t just wash away the bad memories from college, but I can be intentional in which experiences I document in photos, notes and friendships. I have my whole life ahead of me to reflect more on my college experience, and I’m sure I’ll wonder how I accomplished everything I did during the pandemic.
I’m sure no one wishes they graduated, entered or experienced college amid a pandemic, but it’s a reality we all have to deal with. In most cases, I find I can still be grateful for something, even during hardship.
Choosing gratitude amid challenging times might not be easy for everyone, but I would encourage you to do the same, no matter the unexpected circumstances life throws at you next.
Contact Grace McCormick with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @graceMc564.