This article is an anonymous guest post by a brilliant writer and dear friend. Its views and opinions may or may not represent my own. They certainly represent my friend.
Remember when you weren’t a total asshole for getting all of your friends sick? You’d show up to the party with a little sniffle and say “yeah I was throwing up yesterday, it sucked, but I’m a trooper so here I am at Feb Club.” A few days later a few of the people would get sick and think “ugh, I must have gotten it from them.” It sucked for maybe 24 hours but wasn’t that big of a deal.
I remember that time, when my willpower was the only thing standing between me and my friends. I worked the long hours to make the money. I’d take the craziest flights with the craziest layovers. I would stay up all hours of the night finishing homework I should’ve done yesterday. This community. This connection. This is what matters.
I’ve looked forward to my college reunion since the day that I graduated. I remember standing in a circle with my friends in the Trumbull courtyard, pieces of smashed tobaccoless pipes scattered across the stone, and thinking “at least I’ll get to relive this moment in five years. I know it won’t be the same. I know everyone in this circle won’t be here again. But I will be here.”
Until I couldn’t. At year five, the entire event was canceled. It wasn’t safe to invite a global population to gather. At year six, the invitation was open and I was forced to decline. At any other point in history, I would’ve shrugged off my cold symptoms and carried on. In 2022, one faint pink line trapped me behind the glass watching snapshots of my friends reunite without me.
Over two years later the pandemic still is thrashing through our lives wreaking havoc in more ways than one. We all find ourselves forced to draw a line in the sand and wage an internal battle with ourselves of when we can cross it. Each wave of new information eradicates our former boundaries and forces us to draw a new line. Even if we plant our feet firmly in the ground and refuse to move, it’s inevitable that the current pulls us as we tumble through the wave.
When we come up for air, we find we’ve drifted further apart than we ever have before. And many of us will decide it’s not worth the risk to find our way back to center.
Weeks ago, my friends said, “we will do anything to make it happen.” Outdoors. Masks. 6ft. Not ideal but doable. A thin line where we could meet without crossing boundaries. When the day came I found myself alone in Central Park, surrounded by strangers, because no one came. Despite all of the texts filled with brief apologies I couldn’t help scanning the crowds at each turn. I knew my friends were somewhere among them, just out of reach.
I read their promises: “we will see each other again soon.” And for the first time, I don’t believe them. We’ve changed. We have new priorities. “When my semester ends.” “When work slows down.” “Once I move into my new apartment.” … And as much as I want to recall those feelings of connection and belonging over the smashed tobaccoless pipes, the rejection I feel now is overwhelming.
As my friends took their last maskless selfies before heading into New York City, some took the virus with them. They had spent three days dancing, drinking, kissing peers who had flown in from all around the world in blissful ignorance.
At the end of the day, the passengers on the train, the patrons in the restaurant, and the millions of strangers in New York were worth the risk. I wasn’t.
Maybe this is the same path taken time and time again. Friends grow up, and move on. But something today feels different. This virus has accelerated the timeline. It stole two years of our youth. It stole the days when our priority was still finding each other. It dumped us on the other side, scarred and unprepared for the conversations that lie ahead in our relationships.
It’s no one’s fault. I’m still angry.
Maybe we should more clearly mark our boundaries. Maybe I need to stop forcing people to draw their line in the sand.
Maybe life is just that hard and all we can do is try to keep our own heads above the water.
For now, I continue to sit in my disbelief. Staring at a puzzle that I have no interest in completing. And just wait for all this to be over.