By Jack Drummond
Depending on what student you ask you may hear that COVID-19 was a benefit to them and their studies while others may claim it was a negative through and through. I sit somewhere in the middle of this spectrum and assume most other students do as well. COVID impacted everyone in their own personal ways, so while my story is only a unique fraction of those experiences, I still hope that everyone may find some common ground within it.
With time now to reflect I can see that my loss of order and routine has been the hardest on me. Back in high school I began to sleep extraordinarily long hours and eventually I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. It took a long time for me to learn how to schedule and routine myself with the disorder because of just how easy it was to fall into its lethargic ways. I spent a majority of my high school years sleeping all day and playing video games all night, every high school boy’s dream. The problem was that I was missing out on all the social aspects of life. I was always an anxious person but being locked inside all day sleeping made my anxiety skyrocket. I had missed out on some of my most formative years because in that moment it was easier and more fun to spend my days sleeping and gaming.
After realizing all I had missed out on I wanted to make sure my future would not be the same. I spent years getting more comfortable with a routine and living life normally. I started picking up more shifts at work, I began forcing myself out of the house to spend time with friends every night. I began intermittent fasting along with running every night, finding it helped with keeping a routine. I even went on a trip across Europe with some friends in 2019. All of this is to say that I spent a lot of time crafting a routine that worked for me and allowed me to live the life I wanted. I finally started my degree at Carleton in the fall of 2019 and was ready to make up for the lost opportunities of high school.
I was thriving compared to where I had been in high school. I was seeing friends every night while working and going to school every day. When COVID hit I was ecstatic to have a break. However, I quickly began to fall back into my old ways, thinking that I had no other choice. After all, what was I to do when the whole world was shut down? This was great for a while but as me and my friends began to get burnt out from video games and our money started to run short things were turning more negative. It would take until my fourth year at Carleton for things to go back to mostly normal, however this time around it was not me getting into a routine but rather the world.
I think a lot of people can relate to the feeling of being left behind in COVID. The world has moved on but on an individual scale many parts of people are still left behind. In some ways this benefited me and in some it was detrimental. When it comes to being a student it has had an extremely positive impact on my grades. I found online school easier to work with and I no longer had a job allowing for more time to focus on school. My grades continued to rise, and I even made the honour roll in my third year.
However, I lost out on some of my most formative years yet again. My anxiety grew stronger than ever due to COVID and again I chose the easy path. I continued to choose mostly online classes telling myself they were better for my style of learning while knowing it was really because I could avoid encountering people. I put my head down and focused on school while avoiding the fact that I would have to face the real world again one day.
When I finally put my head up and looked at what was around me, I saw that the world did not wait for me. Most people have moved on back into a life of normalcy. For myself I feel far behind. I actively chose to make my only experience school, yet I still feel void of this experience due to how I approached it. I look around me and see my friends and other students all seemingly thriving well on their way towards the future while I face the reality that I am about to be thrust into the real world incredibly unprepared. But then I remember a piece of them has likely been left behind too. No one person’s experiences will be the same, but everyone lost something to the pandemic no matter how big or small.
If I could offer any piece of advice, it would be to remember that while these moments may feel big, they are only a small fraction of the life you will live. I will always regret falling back into my old ways and losing the experience I had worked so hard to be able to give myself. It sucks to lose out on the moments that I did but it will only help me learn to adapt myself for the future ahead where I can finally move on with the rest of the world. Mistakes and missed opportunities are what make us the people that we are. My mistakes in high school got me to the place I am at today and the mistakes I have made with COVID will only get me to where I am supposed to be in the future. It can be okay to fall into old ways sometimes so long as you remember not to get left behind.
Jack Drummond is a recent graduate of the Political Science and Communication and Media Studies programs at Carleton University with a passion for film, video games and education. Like countless other students Jack had to complete most of his university degree while the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. This is a short piece on his experiences during that time.