Does this week feel at all different from last year? Let’s find out.

If you were around since 2020, you might think that this week was all too familiar. Clicking buttons, braving the freezing cold to spend 30 minutes for a crumb of social interaction (fully masked, of course), forcing yourself into a monotonous routine so you don’t go crazy…If I were to tell you that we are not in a hellish time loop permanently stuck in 2021 and instead fully a month into 2022, we would all lose our minds!

Thankfully, however, I’m here to tell you that even though we are beginning the spring semester in almost the exact way we did last year, the situations are actually vastly different. For starters, we are all triple-vaccinated, so we do not have to fight for our lives anymore when staring at the lackluster chip aisle in the Morton Williams. Also, we can all actually live on campus, so instead of suffering in our hometowns, we can suffer in our shoebox dorm rooms together. These are all extremely good news—blatant signs that things around us are getting better…

…Except they’re not. Things are actually much, much worse, making living in a pandemic (but at college now) suck! In no particular order, here are some reasons why:

  • I’m expected to walk outside in the cold to get my food. Alright, I do like the freedom to leave my house whenever I want and have no issues with transportation or almost unavoidable infection; this is a big difference between last year and this year. However, get this: I don’t like suiting up in my puffiest winter jacket and waddling like a snowman just for some already-cold Grab-n-Go food from the dining halls. When I was home, I just walked to the kitchen—no brave venturing required! Now I have to assume the morning routine of a 1600s pilgrim girl, putting on layer after layer just to make it through a maximum of fifteen minutes of outside exposure. This would have been much more bearable if this were last semester, where being outside was actually more comfortable than being holed up in my dorm room with no A/C (I will speak on dorm temperatures later).
  • Grimes released bad music. Life was great in 2021 when the last thing Grimes released was Miss Anthropocene, which was yet another banger of an album that truly elevated her as an artist. Now we just have to accept that a breakup song about her ex-gamer boyfriend (“Apartheid Clyde,” as Azealia Banks would say) is a part of her discography. For Grimes apologists like myself, this is atrocious. I just want the 35-track night core album, Ms. Boucher. Again, I like living with my friends again—this is incredibly healing for my soul—but I also like it when Grimes makes good music, and 2022 is just not giving me that.
  • I was not burning from the scorching heat of my dorm room’s radiator. If we’ve learned anything from the past two years, living without a single sense of control over the things around us makes us all go a special kind of bonkers—as if we were forced to live in a sensory deprivation tank for five years and then thrown into the Canadian forest to fend for ourselves against whatever horrors live there. However, even if I couldn’t control whether or not the people in my neighborhood refused to stop spreading COVID-19, at least I could control my house’s temperature. On campus, I’m forced yet again to spin on my little hamster wheel—doing my silly daily routine in my dorm because everything is online—while my building does absolutely nothing to cool me down! I get it, the city is cold in the winter…but I do not need to be sweating my eyebrows off in a t-shirt and shorts in the middle of January. If they won’t let me adjust my own radiator, can they at least turn the dial down a little? Isn’t heating expensive?
  • We can’t blame everything on Bill DeBlasio anymore. Alright, New York was hit bad, and I don’t think any of us want to see it at such a terrifying scale ever again. However, the one thing that united New Yorkers throughout the pandemic was not the subway signs that told us to wear masks; it was not the singing in the streets to boost morale. It was through doing the one thing New Yorkers do best: complain. And who was an easier target than former mayor Bill DeBlasio? Now we don’t even have him to take the brunt of all our whining; we just have Eric Adams, whose only real “scandal” was that he gave a house tour of what was clearly his son’s apartment to prove that he actually lived in New York. Again, he’s weird, but he’s not a uniting figure like Bill DeBlasio was…the fun is gone this time…
  • People are way too comfortable with the “unmute” button. Now that everyone currently enrolled knows at least three people at Columbia, less and less people are too embarrassed to even turn on their camera and/or unmute. This means that there will be entire lectures where people will just leave their mic on, and everyone else just has to deal with whatever they do in their own corner of the screen. Highlights I’ve experienced are: sneezing into the mic, someone fully making breakfast and washing dishes, a whole morning rush at a local café, and someone shouting unprompted, “this is crazy!” Seriously, I know we all know each other (Columbia is two-people wide), but we’re not that close.

And finally:

  • 2021 may have put my heart, brain, and soul through a woodchipper, but at least my mom paid for everything. If this warm, cable knit sweater I’m wearing but absolutely did not pay for has proved anything, it’s that my mother’s love can get me through anything, even a life-threatening pandemic that dealt extreme psychic damage. And now I just…don’t have that? I have to pay for my own food now? My school supplies? Maybe it’s the fact that my post-Zoom meeting coffee (with a heart drawn with foam art!) gave me a Pavlovian sense of reward for a hard day’s work back in 2021, but life sucks now that every little ~treat~ I give myself does not come from a place of unconditional love. Awful. Just awful.

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