Hello and a belated happy new year to all!
It's been a while since I've checked in on here, later than I intended. When we left off, I had just finished the fall semester entirely online. Following that, we rang in the New Year and celebrated Nativity. I was due to leave for Ohio a week after that to finally move into my apartment. Alas, Corona, once again, had other plans. Five days before my trip, I tested positive and was sick for a week. Before you begin to worry, I assure you that I'm in tip-top shape and have recovered just fine. I slept away my quarantine, coughed for a while, and then I was all good. I've been sicker before, so it wasn't a big deal. I'm honestly glad I was sick at home where my parents could take care of me and not have to worry about it anymore once I came back to school. Having them around was a huge help, so all I had to was rest before the semester started. My classes are, unfortunately, all online again, but there is a small possibility that two of them could transition to hybrid mode towards the end. I'm not holding my breath though. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to not expect things to change. However, this time around, I am FINALLY back in Athens! I am beyond excited and grateful to live in the apartment that I've been looking forward to since I signed my lease in October 2019.
I moved in two weeks later than planned, and since then, life has been running at a speed of one million miles per hour.
I now live with a close friend from Russian class and two other friends I practically just met, and it's been a blast. I have awesome roommates; we've shared many late nights of laughter, truth, or dares that involve my shotgunning Mountain Dew (don't ask), making fun of each other to no end, talking all night long, falling asleep to my terribly boring lectures, and some tears in between on my stressful days. I couldn't have asked for a better trio to spend this semester with. Our apartment is practically a revolving door, I had three different groups of friends coming to visit over three weekends and there's always a friend or two who stops by during the week. It is SO nice to finally be around my fellow students again, I really missed the social aspect of seeing so many different people every week. I'm the biggest extrovert, so being able to go somewhere and do something else when I need a break from classes at home is so beneficial for me. I thrive so much off being (healthily) busy, making spontaneous plans like dropping everything to go out with friends on a Wednesday night (if you know, you know) and being around my friends all the time. This kind of high energy matches my preferred pace of life, so it helps when the two keep pace with each other.
I haven't been to campus in almost a year since COVID first hit, so at first, I didn't know what to expect.
Upon my return, I can say that a lot has remained the same but also, it's a very different atmosphere now. Obviously, my courses are still online, so that hasn't changed, and I still have most of the same close friends I've kept throughout the years. Most places are open, so I can still go to the library, my academic building, favorite coffee shops, restaurants, the gym, and run on the bike path. Student life is different now, with smaller gatherings and masks mandated, and places like bars requiring everyone to be seated. So, for the time being, no dancing to Kelly Clarkson on a packed dance floor or singing karaoke for a while (RIP to my literal favorite pastime for now). I do miss the friends who stayed behind at home this year and wish dearly that they could be here with me, but a couple of them made plans to spend weekends with me in March, so if you're reading this and want to meet up, my door is always open to you! I'm not going anywhere for the next 3 months, so pick a weekend and I promise I'll make it fun.
In regard to academics, It is still hard to have classes be entirely virtual. My senior coursework is difficult: I'm taking ASL 4, two psych classes for my minor, and then upper-level CSD courses which sum up to 18 credit hours. What with my double major, I almost always take close to or at the maximum credits per semester. Learning through a computer screen is something that I still struggle with, as it just does not work for me. It's a bit easier now that I can change up my study spaces and meet up with classmates who are on campus to work on assignments together, but my 9 a.m. lectures still make me (and my roommates) doze off every now and then. I also miss going to church terribly. My parish here has not met since the campus was shut down last March, and a big reason I stayed home in the fall was so I could attend services regularly. I'm grateful to be able to participate in a different form of worship thanks to live streams, but if anyone lives nearby and wants to invite me to their church for a day, I would be forever grateful. I'm really missing liturgies and vigils/vespers right now. Going to church is such a blessing and a calming presence in life that is impossible to live without, so it's a bit of a struggle right now. However, I'm taking this period to work on my personal spiritual life and push through the trials that God has handed me. I know He allows us to face tribulation in order to strengthen our relationship and faith in Him, so I'm looking inside myself to see the improvements I can make. Thankfully, I am the president of my Orthodox Christian Fellowship and we still meet virtually for bible studies with our priest, which I am grateful for.
For the first three weeks of the semester, my classes were literally running my life into the ground with mountains of work, quizzes, and exams, so I developed a slight coffee dependency, brewed some of the strongest cups of coffee I've ever had while running on minimal sleep, running around like a chicken with its head cut off and had a couple of meltdowns along the way (but what's college if you don't have a good cry every now and then or wonder if you'll drop out if you log on to a Zoom class one more time?) Now, it's the end of week five and I've adjusted to the fast pace, did well on my first round of exams, made it to the Dean's List for fall 2020, and am much less stressed than I was before.
While virtual reality sucks, I do fall in love more with the content of my courses as each day goes by.
Communication Sciences and Disorders is honestly the most fascinating and unique field, and there is no better path for me in life than this one. No matter how hard it's been, the material is absolutely fascinating and I'm so ready to pursue that master's degree in speech path that I've been working towards so diligently. I'm taking a clinical neuroanatomy course right now, and it's definitely the hardest class in my major I've taken, but it's solidified my decision to go the medical SLP route and specialize in restoring speech in patients who've suffered from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, aphasia, and neurological disorders. Neuroscience is such a unique field and I'm honestly obsessed with it. It's been a huge interest of mine for as long as I can remember, so this course is perfect for me (even if makes my head spin occasionally) And because I like to keep my hands full, I'm adding a psych minor to my majors and certificate because it's another field that is very useful to my desired career.
As for adjusting to COVID times in Athens, it has been weird; it's like we know that things aren't quite normal, but we're trying to find ways to find normalcy in our day-to-day lives.
I decided to get help for my mental health again now that I'm here, as it's been a difficult year and I'm trying to live a healthier lifestyle. I'm glad I did because it's been a huge help time and time again to set my life on track during rough patches. In regard to my social life, my CHAARG small group members are all here, so we meet in person for our workouts, and they're a great group. It's good to get back in the gym with them and small group Mondays are the best way to start off every week. I really like them, and we all get along well so I'm happy I can still meet new people. I also started going to a women's bible study weekly 3 weeks ago, and ever since then, I've grown stronger in my faith with every meeting. It is a blessing to find a group of women with whom I can read scripture, talk about God, life and share the same values. They're incredible, honestly. I clicked with them and their sincerity, passion for our faith, and friendship instantly. We've had a Galentine's social, hiked at Hocking Hills as we slid down sets of ice-covered stairs on our butts, grabbed BBQ to feast after surviving our winter hike, got shakes and free fries on an impromptu trip to Steak'n'Shake at 9:45 p.m. on a school night and they got me to go ice skating at the hockey arena for the first time in college. I used to spend every weekend attending games there since I came to OU so it was about time to go to rec skate. It is so wonderful to have a holy place to praise God, especially when I can't physically be in church right now. I didn't know how much I needed this until I first met them. Fellowship is truly everything, and I'm so excited to see what other adventures we go on this semester. I also have met 2/3 of my future roommates now, and we're planning a roommate meet-up in 2 weeks so we can all bond and finally introduce ourselves in person (thanks Corona), which I'm looking forward to! They're a really sweet group, so it's a relief that my last-minute search for a place to live next year turned out so well.
To wrap up, by no means is my life here perfect, no matter how fun it may seem. I do have my personal demons to battle and am working on managing my stress levels so I can cope healthily, as my roommates sometimes need to remind me to breathe haha. But I feel myself growing stronger in my faith with each day and I know that returning to OU was the best decision I made for the betterment of my mental and spiritual health, my sanity, and just a much-needed return to semi-normal student life. After all, we were all supposed to be on our respective campuses this past year if it wasn't for Miss Corona not wanting to leave. So, it is such a breath of fresh air to come hOUme and feel like I belong somewhere again. I cannot express the joy I feel in my soul every time I return here; Athens is truly one of my favorite places in the entire world and there's nothing like it. It Is a blessing to be able to pick up so many beloved traditions that never got an end last year, from weekly bike path runs to Wing Wednesdays and late nights out on Court Street to kick off weekends that have resulted in some crazy times. I've already done so many new things, met so many new people, and felt my life change so much in just a short three weeks here, Glory to God. I'm so ready for what the second half of my senior year has to offer. As much as I am grateful for home, my family, and everyone I love there, this is where I'm supposed to be, and always has been. I sincerely thank everyone who has cheered me on and gotten me through the chaos from near and far, you are all in my daily prayers and I appreciate the support more than you know. So, here's to making up for lost time; it's never too late to start again. I truly don't remember the last time I felt this happy or whole in my life. It is such an indescribable feeling.
As with every blog post, I finish with a quote that I think sums up the mindset I have on this chapter of my life right now: "For God to help, one must desire to struggle. And when we say struggle, we mean that one must be willing to make some effort to overcome his particular weakness. If God sees even a little true will, He provides abundant help for man. He sends His grace in great abundance." = Elder Paisios of Mount Athos