It was just a joke.
At the first major Go Global meeting I attended, way back in 2019, COVID-19 was only briefly mentioned — and it was a joke. In the midst of questions about health insurance, one student asked what we would do if the virus made the leap across the pond. Would that strange virus from the opposite side of the globe affect our exchange trips? Most of us laughed to ourselves and then started taking notes about more important things like deadlines and budgets.
No one is laughing now.
Throughout the pandemic, I spent my free time scrolling through Instagram liking picture after picture of downtown Edinburgh, where I would have been if not for a minor global pandemic. With its dark academia vibes, Edinburgh is something out of a fantasy novel. And I’m very familiar with fantasy novels; I spent more time in fantasy realms during the pandemic than I did in reality. But mentally existing somewhere is a lot different than physically being there.
Instead of rain jackets and rain boots, I spent my third year in pyjamas. Instead of learning how to navigate local transit to get to school, my commute consisted of three steps from my bed to my desk. Instead of finally — finally — having my own space, I split my time between my partner’s house and my parent’s house.
Life was not going to plan.
I’ve always been a big planner; I get off on colour-coordinated ‘To-Do’ lists. But there’s no way I could have planned for last year.
And now I’m being told to plan for next year. Which classes are you going to take? Where are you going to apply for Grad school? Will you be commuting again? The answer to all of these questions is: I don’t know.
And how could I know?
The last time I spent hours researching every possible thing that could go wrong (or so I thought), the little control I had over my life’s trajectory was ripped away from me. I had to frantically readjust my plans just to keep myself afloat. Before the pandemic, the future was an exciting chance to try new things and grow, but now, the future is an unpredictable void waiting to swallow me up.
The worst part is, I know the future hasn’t really changed — my perspective has. The future is still going to slowly become the present, and I’m still going to need to constantly tweak my life’s ‘To-Do’ list. I might even have to scrap the whole list altogether.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here. Maybe I don’t need to think about my life as a series of events and achievements that need to be ticked off until I run out of time. Maybe I need to just think about what I need to do right now. Maybe all I really need is a ‘For Now’ list.
So maybe I can’t control everything, but maybe I don’t need to. Maybe I just need to focus on the little things that I can do right now. Maybe I just need to take things one day at a time.