“Do my dreaming and my scheming/ Lie awake and pray/ Do my crying and my sighing/ Laugh at yesterday…” These are the lyrics from “In My Room,” one of my favorite songs by the Beach Boys. I’d say they feel especially fitting during this period of quarantining, in which my room is where I’ve processed a lot of thoughts and feelings in the last month.
Now, back at my childhood post, I think about the first day of freshman year. As I was hugging my parents goodbye, I remember saying, “It’ll be totally fine but, just thought I should put it out there that I’m realizing I’m not made for college. I think we can all agree I’m more of a homebody, right?” My parents just smiled and pretended like they didn’t hear me. But seriously, this was something I had never experienced before. College was a place where you lived and breathed among 18-to-22-year-olds, where you had to actively search for a person significantly older than you among a sea of recognizable faces. Three years ago, that was a terrifying scenario. Since then, it has become an environment I find thrilling — one I’ve found myself craving when I’m not in it.
In fact, I’ve become so dependent on campus life that the idea of coming home for an indeterminate amount of time and switching to the online school of the Covid era was daunting. How would I function without the subtle but steady stream of adrenaline that rolls through me during the day-to-day in Middlebury, Vermont? How could I replicate the heartbeat of the college experience? Closing my laptop at the end of a Zoom class doesn’t give me nearly as much satisfaction as walking out of the classroom with a friend, bikes and skateboards whizzing by as we chat on our way to Atwater for lunch. My lunch break now consists of walking ten steps to the kitchen and, if I’m lucky, running into a family member. Otherwise, I just munch for half an hour and turn back to my computer. I acknowledge that I am so lucky, so privileged to go back to the home I have, especially during this pandemic when many aren’t as fortunate. Still, as is true whenever I’m stuck at home for more than a few days, I’ve felt more and more melancholy.
One night, ten or so days into quarantining, I (with wine in hand) spontaneously committed to learning the Tiktok dance to Ciara’s “Get Up”. After two hours, I was tipsy, sweaty and laughing at myself. Looking in the mirror, I realized I was having a really good time. Somehow, I felt guilty. I was confused, surprised at feeling good and having fun all by myself.
I’ve had similar experiences since then: I catch myself feeling really content, not just content but truly happy — I find myself grinning at a line in a book, laughing really hard at a meme, wiping sweat off my chin at the tail end of a run, catching my reflection in the mirror, exclaiming at how delicious the first bite of my lunch is, flailing around my room and yelling with the music that’s only playing in my AirPods. Grinning so wide! I catch myself and wonder, Am I going crazy? Having such a good time wasn’t something I thought possible under these circumstances. I’ve always spent plenty of time alone, but looking back, I didn’t appreciate what it had to offer — slower living and clearer thinking. Solitude always seemed to serve as more of a recharge, a time to daydream in between being around other people, my face-to-face sources of validation and fun. I’ll admit that I’m not currently working my way up to a hundred push-ups, learning a new language, or starting a book club like so many people seem to be on Instagram. Instead, I’m catching glimmers of bliss during ordinary moments of self.
During those moments, my heart beats faster and louder. I hear that other voice in my head — not the one that whispers insecurities, regrets, or doubts — growing into something steady, starting to sing. Telling me I am living well, that I can trust myself to make life joyous right now, by myself, in my room.
Rachel Rose is a member of the class of 2021.