There is a Phoebe Bridgers song called “I Know The End” — while the song can be said to be about leaving places and people you love and accepting that everything comes to an end, the title remains an enigma for me. How can we know anything about the end? If at all, we as a society have learned the exact opposite, that tomorrow is elusive and that the end is anything but clear. I speak from experience when I say this, because my time at the University of Pennsylvania has embodied the paradoxical serendipity of not knowing anything for sure.
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The pandemic changed a lot: The way we view friendships, how often we actually wash our hands, and many other seemingly trivial facets of how we are collectively reorganizing our sense of life. But perhaps one of the most significant things it changed in a lasting way is how we view our relationship with our careers and how we consciously choose to spend our time.
On a rather quiet and empty train ride back from New York to Philadelphia from Thanksgiving Break, I had a lot of time to do some thinking: Of what I was going to pick up for dinner, of how I was going to pace out the rest of my semester, and ultimately, of what it means to be thankful. Every mile closer I got toward the City of Brotherly Love, the more my reflection became pensive about the semester, and year, that is about to transpire. And as I kept imagining how different life was for all of us exactly one year ago from today, all I kept thinking was how grateful I am to be back at Penn, happy and healthy.
A year and a half ago, the word “zoom” meant little more to us than a means of moving quickly. That obviously changed in March 2020, when our entire world turned upside down and we quickly had to become acquainted with the seldom known software called Zoom Video Conferencing (and other analogous solutions like BlueJeans, Google Meet, etc.). Our classes, our jobs, our friendships, and frankly, our lives became nothing more than pixel manifestations on a screen.
It started out with a slight sore throat in the morning. Then a runny nose followed by congestion. By the end of the day, I had many of the symptoms of the Delta variant of COVID-19. I panicked and became full of anxiety. Convinced this was more than just my seasonal allergies (despite being fully vaccinated), I immediately filled out my PennOpen Pass with my new symptoms and started a cautionary quarantine period at home for the sake of my professors and classmates. As is protocol, I went to my local pharmacy the next day to get a COVID-19 test and anxiously awaited the results. Over the next few days, I developed a fever and felt just downright sick. When the results came in, I was shocked: Negative.