Dear Fall 2020 UNL students,
This year has been filled with uncertainty, and this upcoming semester will be no different.
Will there be an effective COVID-19 vaccine soon? Will we have to shut everything down again and go back home? Will the Husker football team finally have a winning season?
I cannot answer those questions for you with certainty, and I doubt even our nation’s brightest experts could either — though I would love to see Dr. Anthony Fauci’s prediction of the Huskers’ record with a Big Ten conference-only football schedule.
However, I am certain of two things. One is the importance of handwashing, which I believe is the last remaining piece of pandemic advice yet to be politicized, though I may have just jinxed it.
The other certainty, which may somehow be even more important than handwashing, is that you will not be missing out on anything due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nope, absolutely nothing.
That may seem like a bold statement to make, given how many events have already been canceled or drastically changed for the fall. But I can, without a doubt, say that the pandemic will not cause you to miss out on anything.
There may be fewer in-person classes, fewer parties and fewer chances to meet new people at university-sanctioned events.
The key in these statements, however, lies in the comparison. Fewer compared to what? Fewer compared to last year, and the year before that and the year before that, perhaps. But still, technically more than 1868, the year before UNL was founded. So I guess you can be grateful for that.
Comparing this year’s experience to past years, instead of taking advantage of the opportunities each day this fall brings, is what will cause you to miss out on something, but it won’t be COVID-19’s fault.
2020 has the same number of days as every other leap year, which means that you actually have more opportunity in 2020 than in its mere 365-day counterparts.
Yes, the actual school semester is now a little shorter, but that just means you now have a longer winter break. This can be the opportunity to spend more time with family, work more, take a longer vacation — the possibilities are endless.
It almost sounds like the class of 2019 missed out.
But wait just one second. The class of 2019 didn’t actually miss out on anything. Without this longer break of 2020 to compare it to, I did not hear a single person earnestly complain that our winter break did not start in November last year. Students were too busy studying for finals and picking out their ugly Christmas sweaters. And don’t worry, you’re not missing out on college Christmas parties in 2020 either.
To be clear, this does not mean that you cannot be disappointed in the cancellation of traditional collegiate events. In fact, if that drives you to do a better job of preventing the spread of COVID-19 to allow some events to come back next semester, then that disappointment could be a good thing.
Also, you are definitely allowed to be angry about the real victims of the pandemic, who have been filling up hospital beds and cemeteries since at least March. And you can undoubtedly be angry about all the other injustice and violence going on in 2020.
The world is not sunshine and rainbows, and you don’t have to pretend that it is.
However, you cannot give in to the lie that you are missing out on tons of experiences this semester because you cannot miss out on something that is not actually happening. You won’t hear a Hawkeye fan lament the time they missed out on watching the Iowa football team win a national championship because their power went out. Why? Because it never happened in the first place.
If anything, with fewer campus events, you might actually miss out on less than ever before — as long as you see each new day as a unique opportunity to make memories instead of continually dwelling on the memories you won’t be making.
This will certainly be a unique semester in the university’s 151-year history. It is tempting to worry about the changes that might have to be made and constantly predict what will come next.
Yet, as a college student and not an administrator or professional epidemiologist, you do not have to worry about those decisions. Instead, you just have to worry about navigating what each day brings.
I do not pity the folks making these decisions about cancellations, but other than helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, there is little that college students can do to control them. Why obsess over these decisions if you don’t have to?
So, please, do not let the cancellations and changes caused by the coronavirus ruin your semester. Of course, that does not mean to ignore science. Follow the guidelines that the university puts out. But don’t fixate on all the things you can’t do this semester.
Instead, focus on all the things you can do. I guarantee there are many more possibilities during a pandemic semester in 2020 than there were in the coronavirus-free 1868.
Oh, and one last thing: You should probably go wash your hands now. Don’t worry, you won’t miss out on anything in those 20 seconds.