An unfortunate anniversary

While the life we live today is still far from the life we lived over a year ago, it could be worse. It could always be worse. This is why it’s so important to appreciate.

Lilah Kimble

Kimble and her roommates took photos on the colonnade in March 2020, after being told they would have to leave school. Photo courtesy of Lilah Kimble, ’23.

It’s now been over a year since the email. I remember where I was — sitting at my desk, FaceTiming my mom and sister — when the Outlook app notification appeared at the top of my phone screen. The dreaded news that many of us had been waiting for finally came out. I wish that I had been able to appreciate my final days at the Washington and Lee University that I chose to attend, because nothing has been like them since.

The days leading up to the infamous email were filled with anxiety for myself and for many of my peers. One night I was reading on the third floor of Commons as a few guys talked right behind me. They were debating if Washington and Lee would join the list of colleges who had sent students home and shut down their campuses early.

I remember wishing that I could just know — I couldn’t stand the uncertainty and panic. Why hadn’t the school made a statement? Looking back on it now, it was silly to have any hope that we would be able to stay. No one was prepared for a pandemic.

Conversations about the coronavirus raged throughout cam- pus. In my writing class, I asked my professor what he thought would happen. I will never for- get what he said: “This might be something that will change your generation entirely. This could be an event that completely changes our way of life.”

He even compared the potential social impact of COVID-19 to the impact of 9/11. Some students looked shocked, others looked skeptical. I was neither. Maybe I’ve read too many novels or maybe I’m just a realist, but major change seemed plausible. But I was nervous. The energy on campus was eerie. Every class I went to, I heard at least one person wondering aloud if it would be the final time we would gather together in person. At the end of one of my politics classes each day that final week, the professor said goodbye to us, recognizing how it could really be the last time.

That Friday, it was, but none of us knew. Most of us didn’t look around, appreciating the fully-exposed faces or the closeness of seats. We left, as though it were just another class — not our final in-person class of the entire year.

We couldn’t know — and we can’t blame ourselves for not knowing. The world is chaotic and unpredictable. The only thing we can do is try to live, while recognizing that we won’t ever truly know what is to come. While the life we live today is still far from the life we lived over a year ago, it could be worse. It could always be worse. This is why it’s so important to appreciate.

It’s easy to get trapped in the mindset of living for the future, not the present, especially at a place like Washington and Lee. To live for the weekend, to live for the breaks, to live for whatever is next—whether it’s law school, med school, a different graduate school, or life on Wall Street. Living for the future prevents you from appreciating what you have.

Kimble said she and her freshman year roommates, Lauren, kept laughing even though the worst part of the year. Photo courtesy of Lilah Kimble, ’23.

So, don’t let the coronavirus be an excuse. Yes, this is not the best life any of us have lived. It sucks, actually. Whether you follow the guidelines strictly or you break the rules every weekend, this life is not the one any of us would prefer — it is the one we have. We need to appreciate the good in life and improve it as much as we can.

Schedule time with friends. Make new friends, even if you don’t know what their faces fully look like. Call your family. Look around and find the good things—they are there. You just have to see them.