Does anyone else remember their sophomore year of high school? If you’re anything like me,  I’ll sum it up for you — your classes are more confusing than you thought, you’re not driving anywhere other than the grocery store, and you’re spending way too much time watching Netflix. Sound familiar? 

After living for the past nine months rent free with my mother, spending time with high school friends, picking up shifts at my old job, and using all the gas in my brother’s car, I’m reminded of an old friend — me. Specifically, sophomore “me.” 

As I got further and further away from college life, I fell back into the habits I left behind when I moved away from home. My messy room now piles up around the designated laptop space on my cluttered desk. My attempt at knitting lays among the dust bunnies in the far corner of my room. A bookmark lays between pages five and six of the book I was desperate to read, but abandoned over a month ago. 

But not all the habits are bad. I talk with old friends more, I eat dinner at my grandparent’s house again, I relearn street names in my hometown. My life shifted from a college atmosphere back to a small town life with my family. Things are just a bit different now. 

The night before my friends and I left UCSC, the thought hit me: I had absolutely no clue when I would be on campus next. I stopped packing my things, looked at my friends, and decided we were going to walk around the campus one more time before COVID-19 sent us home. It was dark and cold out, as it was also the beginning of March, so most of them opted out of my impromptu field trip. 

As I walked around the campus for what I knew thought would be the last time for a while, I said goodbye to all the things I’d miss. I said goodbye to Humanities Lecture Hall, the Squiggle, and all the bus stops that I had terrible luck at. 

Like every sad scene in a cliché movie, it started raining as I finished loading my last box into my mom’s station wagon, weighed down by the sea of cardboard boxes holding the contents of my now empty freshman dorm. The only thing left to do was take the creaky elevator back up to the sixth floor and say goodbye to Room 669 and my friends across the hall. 

Walking away from Porter B, I thought things would be back to normal by fall. As we drove up Highway 17, hearing the boxes crash into each other with every winding turn, I told my mom that it was no big deal, we would only be doing virtual classes for a little while. Boy, was I wrong.

Currently, it’s looking like the soonest UCSC will return to in-person learning would be fall of 2021, leaving about 290 days between me and a second going-away party. Don’t get too excited, as we might still find ourselves in a virtual setting next year. But for now, I’m going to keep my hopes up that next fall I’ll be sitting in a foldable lecture hall chair rather than my unmade bed.  

Illustration by Ry X.

For six months, I had the college experience I had always wanted. I wandered around campus when my dorm felt too small, I took classes I knew nothing about just for the fun of it, I forced friendship on my neighbors. I lived in the daydream of college I had been thinking of my whole life. Life was exactly what 15-year-old me could have only hoped for. Now I find myself sitting at my mom’s dining room table daydreaming again, exactly what I was doing four years ago. 

At first I was in a slump. I was living in the past and only thinking about the far distant future. But after a few weeks of living at home, it hit me, if I were at Santa Cruz right now, I wouldn’t be eating lunch with my mom. I wouldn’t be getting invited to game night with all my friends, and I certainly wouldn’t remember any of the street names I had forgotten. 

So maybe, this isn’t time I’m losing at Santa Cruz. Maybe, it’s time I’m gaining at home. 

I have a unique opportunity that previous college students didn’t have. I get to help my mom decorate the house for Christmas and spend Halloween laughing with my old friends. I get to enjoy all these moments I would be missing out on if I were at school. No, it’s not the same as it was before. No, it’s not the daydream I’ve been clinging to since I was a kid. It’s different, but it has its perks. 

These small moments that I have the opportunity to hold on to, these little things that I get to keep for a little while longer make me grateful to be home. But they don’t stop me from feeling like I’m just not a college student anymore — as if I’m aging in reverse to a younger, naiver, less cool version of myself. The best thing I can do right now is sit back, maybe clean my room a little bit, and just wait until I leave for college.