The end of a term calls for relief. The end of a school year calls for reflection. The end of one’s time at Dartmouth calls for something harder to identify — for pride and gratitude, but also sorrow for all of the friends, places and traditions that graduating seniors must leave behind. This year, the end of spring brings a new kind of grief. Amid one of the most turbulent times our generation has ever seen, the Class of 2020 must seek a sense of closure for their college years, despite losing their last chance to be together on campus.
Dartmouth students live in 10-week cycles. The start of a term is always exciting — fresh classes and activities make Dartmouth feel new again, even if you’re in your fifth consecutive on term. By week three or four, club meetings, social events and midterms all settle into a steady rhythm. But in the blink of an eye, finals arrive. Weeks eight through 10 flash by, then the whole cycle begins again.
Decisions we make in quarantine are very different from the ones we make in normal life. A question like, “What will I wear to class today?” has simplified to “Which old pajama T-shirt will I put on?” And deciding whether to wear jeans or sweatpants has become a no-brainer. On the other hand, quarantine has also made some of the most menial deliberations seem more important. Suddenly, the choice between eating cornflakes and Cap’n Crunch for breakfast has become a 20-minute debate, ending with you deciding to dish out both.
Well, here we are: week six of spring term, and week eight or so of social distancing. The curve of coronavirus cases may be flattening, but most of us are still exactly where we were a month ago — at home, alone. And by now, isolation feels almost natural. Amid talk of what the post-pandemic world will look like, it seems we’ve already arrived at a “new normal,” even if we hope this normal won’t last for much longer.
Let’s face it: Zoom calls are awkward. In those seconds between when you join the meeting and your lecture begins, what are you supposed to do? Prepare your pen and notepad? Sip your morning coffee? Ask how the professor’s day is going, even though you know every day is the same in quarantine? Or perhaps you resort to a small talk staple and describe the weather where you are.