On March 30, President Nathan Hatch announced that the remainder of the semester will be conducted remotely, due to the deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19). For many underclassmen, it will be a semester full of online classwork, Netflix and counting down the days until they get back to that special place in Winston-Salem. But for us seniors, it will be different. It will be a semester full of frustration, regret and melancholy reminiscing. The abrupt ending to a book that was not done being written.
This frustration and sadness will come from the idea that “It was your last time [fill in the blank with any Wake Forest memory],” and you did not even know it. The sadness may also be derived from the various experiences COVID-19 is robbing us of:
The chance to say goodbye to friends made over the past four years. People who were once mere strangers and soon became so intertwined in your daily life that they are now the equivalent of family.
The opportunity to express your gratitude towards a professor that may have impacted your life deeply. The individual that gave you confidence, mentored you and taught you to be better.
Or, maybe even the most tragic of missed opportunities: the chance to tell someone you were sorry. The chance to overlook whatever little thing caused such a great divide. The prospect of moving forward over the final two months and recapturing the comradery that was once there.
The opportunity to go to Last Resort on the final Thursday night, knowing that no matter how crowded it got, you were going to make it till the end and close the bar down.
The chance to participate in Wake-n-Shake, where you would dance all day in order to support cancer research.
The chance to scream that simple and yet powerful “Wake” “Forest” chant as the Deacs run out on the field.
The chance to live a stone throw away from all your best friends. That feeling of knowing no matter how difficult your day was, a couple beers and a few laughs were only a few doors down.
The chance to joyfully launch toilet paper into the trees on the Quad as you celebrate the most recent Demon Deacon victory.
The last chance to Darty. The one day a week where it was perfectly normal to wear a ridiculous, over-the-top outfit, simply because the sun was out as drinks were being poured.
The chance to act like a “dumb college kid” one last time…
It is the idea that we will no longer have these opportunities that makes us feel so empty. The fear that although one day classes will resume, a new wave of students will arrive and everything will go back to “normal,” the school will no longer be OUR Wake Forest.
I am writing this today to remind you that the fear that OUR Wake Forest will simply disappear because we are no longer together on campus is simply irrational. The people, comradery, traditions and memories that make up OUR Wake Forest will continue to live on. But rather than taking place in Winston-Salem, OUR Wake Forest will live on in smaller moments:
The daily phone call with a friend that, despite being hundreds of miles apart, makes you feel as if you are still living two feet apart in the cramped rooms of Collins Residence Hall. The excitement of meeting up with your buddies to watch the Deacs play on Saturdays in the Fall. The occasional reunion with a large group of friends that will cause you to sit and reminisce for hours, making you feel as if you are all once again sitting at those crowded tables in the Pit.
So, no matter how angry, upset, frustrated or empty you may feel right now, I challenge you to smile. Smile because you had the chance to receive an incredible education at a university that made such a positive impact on your life. Smile because of the deep relationships you have built over the past four years will continue to flourish for years to come. Smile because although we will no longer be together on campus, OUR Wake Forest will live on forever.