By Shannon Anfuso
I stood in the middle of Blake Arena, feeling as though I was but a small fish in a giant pond. Scattered throughout the gym clad with white beanies and makeshift name tags were all the other wide eyed little fishies, my fellow members of the class of 2020. A hush came over the crowd as an energetic ballad moved to replace the silence. I had never heard the song before, but I knew it would not escape my memory once it had entered.
“Bring your secrets, bring your scars
Bring your glory, all you are
Bring your daylight, bring your dark
Share your silence”
Phillip Phillips holds the note a moment before uttering:
“And unpack your heart”
And there it was. The official song of the Springfield College class of 2020. I knew I was in the right place.
The following three and half years were an eventful, whirlwind of discovery and growth. Victories and failures big and small, making lifelong friends, NEVER walking on the grass, and realizing cereal definitely tastes better in a Cheney cup than in a bowl. Of course, I knew it would all come to an end eventually. Just not so soon. And not like this. There was supposed to be more time.
I was hoping we’d be back. Just two weeks ago, when I was up in my second-floor bedroom, packing a small bag for the week-long trip home for break, I was hoping this wouldn’t be the end.
The walls were plastered with memorabilia of famed musicians, reminders of home, and pictures of loved ones, unrecognizable from the monochromatic cinder block cell I moved into 6 months prior.
On a shelf, just feet from my bed sat a teal record player, spinning dreamily through the night with soft music echoing around the small space that became mine, where I had unpacked my heart.
But it all evolved so quickly, the hope ran out in a few day’s time and in just 8 days I would have to return to pack much more than just a small bag, gathering the rest of my belongings, the rest of my heart, from the small space that was mine. The posters were taken down, the pictures packed away, and the music no longer played. The small space returned to the monochromatic cinder block cell that I moved into 6 months prior.
It was unrecognizable. The small space was no longer mine. For the first time, the house was quiet. Closing the front door on my way out, I shut the door of a house that was always too loud with memories I loved too much during a chapter that ended too soon.
The 8-hour car ride home was pretty quiet too. I didn’t feel much like singing anymore. Until it played. The song that held so much weight. It appeared on shuffle out of nowhere as though there were some higher power that was saying “Hey! Snap out of it!” It was then that I began to adjust my thought process in an effort to count my blessings, rather than my problems.
During a time so ever changing and fragile, I am finding it proves rather difficult to articulate or even understand how it is I am supposed to be feeling in the days and weeks following the development of this unprecedented, global event.
In a time with so much pain, so much sickness, sorrow, instability and chaos; where countless others are losing so much more than just the final months of their senior spring semester, is there even room for my own grief?
And although it doesn’t make the abrupt end to this chapter sting any less, it feels nearly frivolous to mourn the loss of something that was a privilege to begin with, something that most people will never have the opportunity to experience.
I was fortunate enough to experience 3.5 years of college, when a dishearteningly large portion of the nation will not be given the same chance at higher education. To attend any university, Springfield College no less, is an absolute blessing and although it may have ended prematurely, I was still fortunate enough to get to spend 34 months, 8 semesters, and 3.5 years at the most unique institution in the world.
Springfield College: where we hold the doors for each other, complete thousands of hours of volunteer work, and again, NEVER walk on the grass. Where we don’t cut corners in life, so we don’t cut corners on the grass.
Where I entered with thousands of other scared little fishies, and left with friends that became family and memories that will last a lifetime. Where I learned of true strength, genuine love, honest friendship, and the beauty of life.
Yup. I got to spend 3.5 years THERE. And ya, it ended early. Too early. I wasn’t ready. And the future scares me. Terrifies me, even. To be thrust back into a giant pond, in an uncertain and untimely manner as a little fish once again.
It may even feel unfair. But class of 2020, we will make it through, as we always have. We spent three and half years in a place like no other, learning to fly, and mending the broken wings of the failed takeoffs, while celebrating each other’s triumphs.
It won’t be easy, and some days will be harder than others. And on the days where you’re feeling particularly lost, small, unsteady, or just sad, remember your fellow classmates who shared this unforgettable, short lived journey with you, and with our strength and resilience, we’ll carry each other through.
“I’m on your side
So shed your shadow
And watch it rise”
A quick thank you to those with the thankless tasks:
Thank you, President Cooper, for your careful and thoughtful decision making. Thank you, Dr. Poisson, for your continuous advocacy for your athletes. Thank you food and custodial service staff for continuing to work and care for those students who cannot be home. Thank you, professors, for scrambling to make last minute changes and accommodations for your students. Thank you, academic advisors, for reminding us that we CAN do this. Thank you coaches for your adjusted workouts and sharing words of positivity and encouragement. Thank you, school teachers, for trying to make sense of a senseless time for young and developing minds. Thank you healthcare workers for fighting for others’ health and safety at the potential cost of your own.
And thank you class of 2020, for sharing the ride with me. See you all soon.
“Meet me where the sunlight ends
Meet me where the truth never bends”
263 Alden Street, you take a piece of my heart with you.
Photos Courtesy of Shannon Anfuso