A hint of optimism, resurfaced

At its core, this is a congratulatory letter for all of us — who have survived through this academic year, and maybe even grown through it.

Bri Hatch

As my roommate left our room for her final in-person class of the academic year (at a ripe 8:20 a.m.), she looked back incredulously and said: “What if this is the last class I ever go to with a mask on?” 

Yeah, that’s right. Take some time to grapple with that one. I stayed paralyzed in my bed by that mere intrusive thought for about an hour. 

It’s no secret that our lives have been dramatically different since March 2020. We have been forced to adopt a completely new reality, adapt to a completely new world, in a nauseatingly fast time frame. And all the while, we were grappling with the constant changes that come along with college life. 

To think that many aspects of the new reality we have become so accustomed to — out of necessity for survival — will evaporate by next semester is in part scary, and in an entirely different way, incredibly hopeful. 

Optimism, my old friend. It’s nice to meet you again, at the end of what has been a long semester, and a long year. 

I am fully aware of the fact that this whole piece may come off as cliche. I, for one, had plenty of moments over this past year where words of future hope and sentiments of “things will get better” fell flat against enduring pessimism and frustration. 

But, as this semester comes to a close, as more students and faculty become vaccinated, as we can actually faintly picture — if we squint, and tilt our heads — a reality next fall where masks may evaporate and infection rates decline, I find myself feeling just the slightest bit optimistic. 

So, I think we all deserve a piece like this, even if it does sound cheesy. 

To say that so many things have changed over this past year is a drastic understatement. I honestly don’t even think I can name them all. 

The limitations and faults of the institutions and frameworks of our country were blatantly exposed — in healthcare, in policing, in education, in welfare and in large-scale inequities. There were elections, protests, acts of domestic terrorism, trials, innovations and more. 

Personal growth and reflection soured. Relationships were put to the test. We had to find new ways to feel connected. We had to find new ways to be joyful and healthy. We had to work from home. People moved, graduated, lost jobs, got married, picked up new hobbies. 

Many of these changes are here for the long-haul. Many of these changes have sparked and will spark further conversations, actions and accountability. Most of us will emerge from this past year and this past semester radically different than we were before.

Maybe those like my roommate, who do not have in-person spring term courses, really did take their last class wearing a mask on Friday. 

So much has changed, and so much will change. But also, so many things have stayed the same. 

So many things lasted — and they will continue to last, even in a “post-COVID-19” (whatever that actually means) world. So, if you’re like me, and the thought of large-scale change like this freaks you out, remember the things that did, and will, stay relatively constant. 

To name a few: sturdy and supportive friendships, the satisfaction of finishing a big project, comfort TV shows, enthusiastic and passionate professors, the top-tier quality of a third-year milkshake, elite Lexington sunsets. 

I recognize that this is largely a rant that flowed straight from my subconscious into this newspaper. And I fully understand that most people might not be in a place of optimism yet or ever, or that this simply won’t resonate. 

But, at its core, this is a congratulatory letter for all of us — who have survived through this academic year, and maybe even grown through it. I wrote this because I need it, and because everyone else deserves to hear this, too: we did it, and we should be proud.  

The definition of progress has been radically transformed because of this pandemic — the menial and mundane became magnificent. And that’s one more thing that I hope lasts.