Wherever you are at this very moment, know that you are not alone. I know it may feel like it. In fact, it most likely does, especially since we are all required to be self-isolating at home instead of being together on campus. But know that we are with you. Your fellow students are sharing your experience. Your faculty members are rooting for you to press onward. Every single staff person from the cafeteria cashier and the night shift custodian to the Student Affairs team are cheering you on and offering you our heartfelt support.
I know it is not easy. No one signed up for this. No one could have ever imagined or planned even a few months ago that we would now be where we are. It is pretty hard to even believe this is happening on some levels. There have been so many unanticipated changes in such a short period of time that have completely shifted our daily routines, upended our lives, and disrupted our sense of what is typical or “normal.” The amount of stress that this has caused is palpable and weighs heavy on all of us. And that is on top of the base levels of stress that you were already under trying to navigate the rigors of your curriculum, make financial ends meet, and discern your life’s calling.
In addition to the stress you must be feeling, whether you have identified it, or been still long enough to allow yourself to feel it, you are likely also experiencing a sense of loss, sadness, frustration and anger. All of these emotions are completely understandable and valid. Let me say that again. Absolutely any emotions that you are feeling at this very moment, and at any point throughout this entire ordeal, are valid.
Maybe you are finding yourself near a melting point with school because of challenges with, or lack of, necessary technology resources. Or maybe it is because your living environment does not feel safe or it is not really conducive to you being academically focused. These are real challenges, and it is unfair that you are now expected to continue with your studies per usual. And yet, this is our current reality, and there are not many other solutions right now.
Maybe you are grieving the loss of cherished memories that you are no longer able to make, or the huge life milestones that you will no longer have the opportunity to experience. Not being able to complete your first year of college with your roommates, or canceling the graduation ceremony that is your rite of passage after all that you have worked for is painful. There is real sadness in that. And it is heartbreaking for everyone in your lives, because we all wanted that for you.
Maybe you or your family members have lost their jobs as a result of businesses closing. It could be the case that you are not sure where you will get next month’s rent, or how you will buy groceries next week, or whether you can put gas in your car. Not only is the financial strain very, very real, but you may also find yourself with idle time that feels unproductive, or that you miss having the sense of purpose that was associated with your work. On the other hand, maybe you or your family members are suddenly deemed “essential personnel,” and you may find yourself feeling more at risk, less protected, or less safe than if you were able to stay at home. Whether it is loss of money, loss of stability, loss of routine, loss of safety, etc., these are legitimately scary life experiences that can feel overwhelming and insurmountable.
So now is when I want to go back to my very first statement: wherever you are at this very moment, know that you are not alone. If the weight of it all starts to feel unbearable, or if you feel stuck and are not sure what to do, or if you just need a little bit of support to get through a rough patch, whatever it is, please reach out. There are people that care about you, that want only the best for you, that want you to succeed in spite of everything going on in the world, and who are willing to do whatever they can to help you do just that. It really matters less about who you reach out to, but more so that you just reach out and ask for help. We all need help right now, and that is ok.
And if you are not sure where to start, I invite you to contact any staff member in Student Affairs, no matter what institution you are attending. If they cannot personally help you, they will likely be able to connect you with a person, or an office, or an organization that might be able to help in some way. That is what we do. That is why we are here. We do what we do because of you, because of our students, and because we want to see each and every one of you succeed. If we can help you in any way, we will.
It is true that no one saw this coming. No one chose this. This virus is devastating and scary and it is dangerous. It is likely that many of us will be personally impacted by the virus, either directly or indirectly, before this is all over. I wish more than anything that I could protect you all and keep you safe, and that I could shield you from the grief and pain and fear and loss that you may be feeling now or that you will experience. And yet, I know that this is all out of my control. So we will all just have to do our best to prevent the spread of the virus, together, though apart. Wash our hands, practice social distancing, stay at home… until we can see one another back on campus again sometime soon.
Above all else, I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that I believe in you. You can get through this. You are getting through this right now. It is true that everything will be different from now on. This time right now marks the time in all of our lives when the world as we knew it has changed. And we cannot even imagine all of the ways that it will change once we come out on the other side. But someday, even if it is hard to imagine right now, I promise that you will look back on this time with great compassion for yourself and for others, for all that you endured and all that you overcame. Just hang in there. Hang in there, my dear students. You’ve got this. We are here for you. And until we see you again, stay safe and be well.