By: Morgan Biles
When my friend first told me that the Coronavirus started spreading outside of China, I wasn’t initially worried. I wasn’t going to let a little bug stop me from enjoying my semester abroad in Amsterdam.
But by late February, the mood in Europe started to shift. What’s that phrase? We make plans and god laughs? Well I hope God got a good chuckle when I woke up on the morning of March 12 to dozens of texts, missed calls, and even some frantic Facebook messages. While I had been sleeping, Trump had announced he was banning travel from Europe.
Cool, cool, cool.
By the end of the day, I got the email from my home university: all abroad programs, including mine, were cancelled. First, I drowned my sorrows in €3 wine, then I cried, and finally, I packed up the past six weeks into two small suitcases. Goodbye Amsterdam, hello….Kansas?
The selfish part of me was angry of course, if there was going to be a global pandemic, couldn’t it have, like, waited a few months so I could complete my goal of consuming my body weight in stroopwafels, fries, and poffertjes?’ But the rational side, the side that has at least an ounce of care for my fellow humans, cringes at this selfishness. Sure my time abroad was cut short and yeah, that sucks.
But, in reality I’ve been lucky. I flew home from my six weeks of frolicking in Amsterdam, without having to worry about the cost, greeted by parents who are healthy and still employed, to a home stocked with food and toilet paper (not too stocked though, my family isn’t that type). Really, my biggest dilemma in quarantine is deciding what I should name my sourdough starter –– which is nothing compared to the doctors having to decide over who gets a ventilator.
Now, listen I don’t want you to think that amidst this global pandemic, my only thought is how #blessed I am. It’s not. As upset as I was about having to leave, I’m even more angry that people aren’t taking social distancing seriously, hospitals can’t get basic supplies and there are people in Washington who care more about their stock portfolios than the lives of millions of citizens. With as much time as I spend reading The New York Times or scrolling through Twitter, I should be a cynic. But try as I might, I can’t help but not be an optimist, so forgive me as I try to scrape a silver lining out of this mess.
In my experience, the things I regret are rarely things I did, but rather things I didn’t do. When I started my semester abroad, I set a goal for myself to not overthink things so much. I didn’t want to leave abroad with a case of the woulda-coulda-shouldas. As much as I tried to stick to this mantra, I still falsely kept thinking I would have more time.
As a 21-year-old it’s easy to feel invincible. To feel like there’s nothing but time. To make excuses for not going out on a Wednesday night or not going to the museum on a Friday morning, because hey, there’s always next week. But as this situation has taught us all, sometimes next week we won’t have the choice between going out and staying in. Sometimes there’s not a next week at all.
I regret that I didn’t get to see Amsterdam in the spring, especially after spending all of February biking through cloudy, freezing days with 20 mph winds. But I don’t regret the nights we closed down the karaoke bar or the people who stayed friends with me even after they heard me sing. I don’t regret the ‘family’ dinners cooked on my little hot plate, the seaside hot chocolate, or the afternoons I strolled solo around museums. As much as I wish there could have been more time, the time I had was enough to fill journals of memories and for that I can’t complain.
When this is all over and our world starts spinning at a normal speed again, I hope to go back to Amsterdam. And when I go, I’ll go with an even greater appreciation for whatever time I have there. Which brings me to that silver lining: