There it is again: the constant chaos of students clad in everything from Hawaiian shirts to ski masks wandering around Washtenaw Avenue, indicating a potentially more normal school year at the University of Michigan. After the isolating changes of the previous academic year, it goes without saying that many are predictably excited to be walking outside maskless or seeing people in a lecture hall. However, with this radical improvement in learning conditions comes an important reminder to be kind to yourself throughout what may be more of a transition than some may think.
I can’t explain in mere words, and certainly not within the confines of a column, my personal excitement to be back in a semi-normal Michigan school year. It almost seems impossible that this weekend we saw the sea of maize and blue walk to the Big House through the streets of Ann Arbor once again. The anticipation leading up to this migration was overwhelming.
What would it feel like to be surrounded by 110,000 people again? What would feel different? So many unasked and unanswered questions remain and yet we have to learn to manage expectations while still enjoying what we’ve missed because frankly, we deserve it. While there will still be masks in classes and I’m certain other differences will arise throughout the semester as the situation continues to evolve, it is our responsibility to stay attentive to not only our surroundings, but to ourselves.
Change can be really, really hard. Some people thrive off of change; they long to sporadically make plans and often find themselves in “we’ll wing it!” type situations. Many people instead reject the idea of change as uncomfortable, unnecessary and uncontrollable. It is inevitable that everyone will go through some sort of change at some point in their lives — even something as simple as the transition from high school to college or even moving from a residence hall to an apartment.
Of course, the perspective someone has on the concept of change is both on a spectrum and extremely circumstantial. What may be extremely challenging or overwhelming for one person may be easy and unproblematic for another. This is simply a fact of human nature. With this in mind, it is necessary to exercise caution and take care in your initial interactions with your friends, peers and even professors as we move to yet another unknown.
As society slowly opens back up, be aware of the comfort levels of those around you. COVID-related anxiety has been so prevalent that many medical journals have actually given a name to the experience of increased anxiety, apprehension or overall fear as a result of the pandemic: COVID-19 anxiety syndrome. Even some who may not fit exactly into this syndrome’s diagnosis are coping with things like increased agoraphobia, claustrophobia and social anxiety among many other stressful things to deal with.
Of course, it is important to be mindful of mental health regardless of a pandemic, but it is arguably even more essential when there are constant changes ensuing in society.
Having said all of this, it is still an exciting time to be alive. Exciting, to me at least, doesn’t need to mean all good, but it is electrically refreshing to see the hustle and bustle that University students craved so desperately. It feels like coming home in an entirely new way to return to long walks between Angell Hall and the Modern Languages Building, watching the line grow outside of Rick’s and, of course, the unbeatable atmosphere of the biggest stadium in the Western Hemisphere.
All in all, change — whether good or bad — is inevitable. So, cope in whatever way serves you best; go get your vaccine, go relearn how to interact with human beings in person and, of course, wherever you go, Go Blue!
Jess D’Agostino is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.