My last semester in undergrad was Spring 2017, three years ago. The winter was crisp, not harsh at all, I remember spending quite a few February days going on long walks, followed by an early, warm spring, with not much rain. It was probably the nicest time in my adult life that I can remember. My schedule was light, a few last classes to finish my degree, I had plenty of time to read and write. I read The Wright Bros on the 11th-floor reading room at the Thompson library with beautiful panoramic views of the sunsets, it would become one of my all time favorites. I wrote much of my first book and a few articles that semester around campus.
There was great relief knowing I was nearly finished. I could enjoy every minute of my time on campus, and I did. I took walks daily, go lift at the RPAC between classes, go for runs around campus or along the river, sit in the sauna or hot tub for a bit, then move on to where I had to be next. Nothing was hurried. My schedule was spread through the days and the week. Everywhere I went on campus and around town I would take time to look and appreciate the architecture of campus, the landscape design, and the little woodland creatures that lived at Mirror Lake hollow I would visit with. I packed a bag of cracked corn in my backpack each day to feed any ducks or squirrels that came my way – and quite a few did after figuring out I was the guy with cracked corn in his jacket pocket.
I spent many afternoons on the Oval with a close childhood friend playing football and throwing Frisbee together. He had a job not far from campus, up High Street a couple miles, it enabled him to spend a lot of time with me chatting and joking after he got off work for the day. We would find a new spot to eat dinner on the patios or rooftops at places all along High Street. I think we visited nearly every bar and restaurant on the campus area had to offer those months, with a few exceptions - fare we did not find agreeable to our sensibilities.
Spending evenings with somebody I had known longer than I did not, people watching, checking out new places and visiting old favorites, laughing, joking, having a beer or two, talking to pretty women, walking to the next place. I realized then it was idyllic, but later I would see it was one of the most entrancing springtimes of my life.
That was three years ago.
This spring is quite different. I had been looking forward to this spring semester for the past three years. Back then, I was finishing undergrad, now I am finishing law school. This spring could have been particularly grand itself. An advanced degree, closer relationships with old friends, great relationships with new friends I made in law school, my writing career is now more solidified with a catalog of work to show for the past three years of effort, and a law degree weeks away. The makings for another set of lifelong memories were all there.
Then, due to a steadfast commitment to open-borders, deference to the “free market”, and government negligence, the memories of this last semester of my formal education will not be filled with playing football in the grass with friends old and new, but with seeing anxious and tense people at the market wearing face masks and gloves dotting the cityscape on the occasions I do venture out.
I know it's something small. Probably insignificant. I know people are struggling far more than I am, people who are worried about homelessness, health issues, people have lost their lives, others who have lost loved ones. That, of course, is not lost on me, and the first piece I wrote discussing COVID-19 dealt with those grave considerations. With that said, it's often the small things that determine the quality of our lives. I was looking forward to spending this semester with my friends, having beers on rooftops and patios, eating at different places around town and campus, staying out way too late, and having some stories to tell, the way I do when I look back on my last spring in undergrad.
There are many wonderful memories that I'll never get to have due to this chain of events, none of which should have happened. We never should have had open borders. We never should have been outsourcing most of our manufacturing. There never should have been wet-markets. There never should have been the ability to travel back and forth to nations experiencing viral epidemics. There never should have been any hesitation to act. All of this current malaise, at every single previous stage, was easily foreseeable, and thus avoidable.
Sure, I'm a little annoyed that I can’t go grab a grilled cheese with fries and a beer. More notably, I'm upset that the opportunity to spend time with old friends and to strengthen bonds with new friends has been stolen from me. Stolen from all of us. I genuinely feel sorry for the graduates of 2020. How different my life was then, than theirs is now. I'm mad about the memories I’ll never get to have, about the future that was stolen.
There are some things where you don’t get a second run. For me, albeit insignificant in the grand scheme, this is one of those times. If all I lose during this pandemic is the ability to spend time with people I care about and the lost opportunity to make more memories, I’ll consider myself incredibly fortunate. With that said, it’s a loss I still feel greatly, in part by knowing that so many others will lose so much more.
I'll probably be angry about this series of events for the rest of my life.
It's always the little things that get taken for granted. Three years ago I truly appreciated where I was in life and that somebody like me was able to enjoy and graduate from a place like the Ohio State University. However, I never thought being able to walk down High Street with friends and stopping in a little dive bar for a drink would be one of the things that get taken in such a spectacular fashion.
When I look back on this time in my life, I'm sure it will not be as lucid in my mind as the spring of 2017. The spring of 2020 will be a blur of news cycles, finishing law school online, my writings documenting these times, and maybe the constant feeling of angst that has engulfed most of society. I won't have the idyllic ending to my law school career as I did three years ago. I won't be able to look back with the same fondness. But maybe, we'll be able to take this and build something that protects us in the future. I've been looking back to spring 2017 so much because I desperately am holding onto those memories in hopes I'll be able to build something where all of my people can have their spring of 2017. Maybe we can build something that ensures the COVID-spring was an aberration in the history of an otherwise tremendous people who look backward, while also forward to a place that doesn't quite exist, but it could some fine day.