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Is This Goodbye?

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Illustration by Abby Haywood/The Collegiate

By Paige Bodine

Part of my reasoning for choosing community college in addition to the amazing price was not being ready to leave the house. I know that sounds pretty lame, but I secretly liked living in the comfort of my home. I got along with my family for the most part and never felt a huge push to leave. After two years of going to community college, and living through a lockdown, I would have to say that I have grown a ton as a person.

Learning to ride the city bus actually led to some pretty cool conversations and connections with students from Grand Valley State University, Calvin College, and Kendall College of Art and Design, and quite frankly no smell phases me anymore. Planning campus activities at Grand Rapids Community College made me realize how much work goes into anything on campus and to be okay when you plan something and you get low participation because if one person’s day is a little brighter it is totally worth it. I also learned how to be okay with being alone. When I first started at GRCC all of my high school friends went to big, exciting universities and posted lots of pictures about how amazing it was.

As my high school friends were adapting and loving university life, I was struggling to make friends and get connected with anyone. Of course, I was happy that they were having a good time but that inclination in my heart to compare myself and my experience to the pictures posted was evident and toxic. I felt so alone and like I had made a mistake. That is when I took a break from all social media.

Turns out the experts are right, comparing yourself to others can lead to a downward spiral that can turn into some dark thoughts. As the weeks dragged on I began to realize what a unique and amazing college experience I was having. It was almost like a fog was lifted and I began to see how blessed I really was. I was running on GRCC’s cross country team and as the weeks passed our small team began to get closer. I even got the opportunity to run at the National meet in New Mexico, which was something I never in a million years would have dreamed of. In my classes, I met some of the most hardworking students from all stages of life which inspired an all-new appreciation for community college students.

Suddenly GRCC felt like home.

I knew where my classes were and the best spots to have lunch. I began to have friends and finally seemed to get into a rhythm. Soon life sent me a new curveball.

COVID-19 resulted in the school being closed for days, weeks and then months which meant a copious amount of time spent at home. I was in the middle of taking a statistics course. It was one of those college classes that was required but I had absolutely no passion for, so I closed my door and focused on trying to pass my now online class.

The only time that I left my textbooks was to work at the retirement home near my house, which let me tell you was not the most cheerful place to work during a global pandemic. There was so much fear about getting the residents sick. It was frankly difficult to witness the residents not allowed to leave their rooms for weeks and lack any social time that we as humans need. Trying to think of a not scary explanation for why they were not allowed to leave as I handed out packaged food and looking like someone from the movie “Outbreak”, was a difficult task. Thankfully, I had some great co-workers that made the best of the situation.

The main takeaway that I have from this really rough year is the importance of giving with a humble heart and enjoying the little things in life. Through living amidst a pandemic, I have really gained confidence in myself and almost feel ready to be on my own.

Leaving the house and transferring to a university this fall to start the next chapter is going to be a difficult step. Having so many good memories from community college and living at home makes it even harder to part ways. Goodbyes are something that I have always been really terrible at. For me, it means leaving something behind. A huge part of me is excited about the adventure! I have learned and discovered so much about myself so far and I am only 19. Imagine who I will be in two more years; it’s both terrifying and exciting. So it is goodbye to the buildings and being a GRCC commuting student and hopefully the city bus, but not a goodbye to the people that I have met and the person that I have become.

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