The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Staff Ed: Reflecting on two years of life in a pandemic

6 min read
A room with a large, cluttered table with desktops and desks in the background.

Editors complete newspaper layout in the clubhouse at UMW Apartments. | Norah Walsh, The Weekly Ringer

The Weekly Ringer Editorial Board

As we approach the two-year mark of COVID-19 in March 2022, we want to reflect on the tumultuous relationship that we’ve had with our college and personal lives while living through a pandemic. 

“This might be sad, but I think I’ve learned how much trauma we can endure and how much trauma we were already enduring on a daily basis just by being in a country that expects so much of us and provides such little support in return,” said Weekly Ringer Editor-in-Chief Jess Kirby, a junior communication and digital studies and sociology double major.

In history classes, there’s always an implied sense that the events we’re currently living through will be documented and studied just as we do with past events, such as elections, wars, conflicts, etc., but the thought of living through a global pandemic never crossed our minds until we were neck-deep in it. 

When the pandemic first hit, all of us were in different places in our lives, whether that was personally or academically. However, the ways in which we coped with the world taking a pause were similar. As we transverse the unexpected twists and turns of this pandemic together, we hope our experiences are relatable and allow you to connect and reflect with us.  

“I’ve learned that I don’t have control over anything but myself,” said senior Spanish major and Copy Editor Abby Slaughter. “What I mean by that is the world is so unpredictable and things you never thought would happen are just daily life. I’ve learned that all I can do is take care of myself and hope that nothing goes wrong along the way.” 

Learning how to be by ourselves without much outside stimulation was a stretch for most of us, with introverts realizing how much they actually enjoy social interaction and extroverts learning how to be more introverted or learning that they were more content being alone than they thought. 

“I learned how much of an introvert I am,” said Cosmy Pellis, a senior sociology and English double major who is also one of the associate editors of The Weekly Ringer. “I didn’t realize how much I was draining myself until the world slowed down and I could have more time to myself to read, be outside and write.”

When activities stopped, school sent students home and people started learning and working from home, it made everyone pause and reflect on their lives. All other happenings that could interrupt these thoughts of self-reflection had ceased, and people were able to consider life in a greater sense, especially when it came to taking account of the positive elements of their lives. 

“I felt a lot more like a person when I had time to recharge,” said Pellis. “It really made me think about who gave me energy and who I really wanted to be close to; some friendships fell away and some really strengthened.” 

However, as our lives have picked up speed again, many of us feel like our self-worth is determined by our productivity, forgetting that we’re people rather than machines.

“I had an administrator, JoAnna Raucci from the RISE program,” said Weekly Ringer Opinion Editor Norah Walsh, a sophomore Spanish and philosophy pre-law double major. “She told me that I wasn’t a robot and that no one expected me to be a robot. And that really made me think, ‘Yeah, I am allowed to actually pause,’ because we were able to do that when the pandemic first hit in March of 2020. … But then you’re thrown into this environment where it’s so fast-paced and there’s so much to do and get done and you think you have to do all of it because you’ve had the time to rest.”

Looking back, the pandemic has changed all of us, and we’ve gained insight as to how our lives are subject to drastic and sudden change at any time. Many of us have learned how to accept this lack of control, but when it affects our education we feel the profound effects. 

“I don’t feel like I’ve learned as deeply in the past five semesters as I did when I was a freshman with all in person classes, curious as ever, just trying to learn how to write a news story and understand sociological theory,” said Kirby. “Since then, it’s been more about making it and surviving it and getting through it rather than enjoying the learning process and being in a collective space with other people for the sole purpose of learning.” 

The sadness we experienced throughout this time also contributed to our shared experience of the pandemic, and we can both empathize and sympathize with students who faced worsening mental health struggles, family strife and perhaps even the death of loved ones during this time. 

“I’ve just become so desensitized to things going wrong, but sometimes we’ll have a correction in the paper and it’s just like everything comes crashing down all around me all at once in terms of my emotions,” said Kirby. “While I feel like I’ve grown as a person since before the pandemic, I just feel like a disheartened, less passionate version of myself. I’m just really, really tired.” 

Mental health struggles were exacerbated by appointments moving to online formats to mitigate the possible spread of COVID-19. 

“I also learned that the mental health system sucks,” said Associate Editor Bernadette D’Auria, an English major in the five-year secondary education program. The lack of in-person presence during therapy sessions created a more impersonal environment, making therapy seem more like an interview than a safe space to seek help and guidance from a professional. 

Many of us also took for granted feeling safe every day.

“I guess I took for granted not feeling paranoid all the time,” said Walsh. “There’s a kid that sits next to me in one of my classes and his mask is visibly mesh … and he often doesn’t have it on correctly. And when he’s reminded he gets aggressive. In addition to having to be cautious around men because of their tendencies, there’s also a fear of getting sick from someone not caring about you and caring so much about themselves.”

Josephine Good, a senior international business major and life editor of The Weekly Ringer, shared what she misses from before the pandemic.

“Seeing people, sitting in a classroom without a mask on, not having foggy glasses, being able to wear glasses instead of contacts, having people over to my apartment—so many things,” she said. “Working out in a gym; being able to go on dates, if I’m being completely honest. Now, you have to be so cautious about where someone has been.”

This is not to say that our experiences have been devoid of positivity, and some of us were able to find sources of joy while stuck inside, especially when we looked back on the courses of our lives. We used this time to reflect on the good lives we had led so far, which held promise and created glimmers of hope to our future.

In reference to how she experienced pre-pandemic life, senior art major and photography editor Emily Warren said, “I felt like I never valued connections with classmates, professors, teammates and coaches as much as I should. I now have realized how important even small conversations can be and how these connections you make now will have an impact on the rest of your life.”

With vaccines allowing us more freedom to be social and hug our friends and family members, our lives have drastically changed since March 2020, and some elements of our lives are still severely altered. 

“I had this ridiculous wave of sadness the other day,” said Slaughter. “There’s some people on campus and I don’t know what they look like.”

We want to commiserate with you, fellow students and coveted staff of UMW, about how much COVID-19 has changed our lives and how this community has been a pillar of support. Growing and evolving through a situation where we didn’t know what lay ahead of us was intimidating, but having the Mary Wash community with us along the way has made us feel a little less alone, a little less desperate and a little more hopeful about our collective futures, both on and off campus. 

This staff editorial was led by Norah Walsh.