Back to top
Zooming In
Man making funny face into camera.

Zooming in

Everyone’s saying it: “We’re living through history.” Doomscrolling through pandemic pandemonium, divisive politics leavened only by photos of everybody’s sourdough bread—2020 has been a year that will not soon be forgotten, no matter how hard we may try. Yet while the headlines mark important events sure to go down in future textbooks, day-to-day life seems less momentous and more monotonous. Days and weeks blur together and life just feels—pretty weird. We’ve met all our co-workers’ cats when they derail video meetings. Unaware instructors give lectures while accidentally muted. Grocery delivery apps feel more like a game of Russian roulette, with only a slim chance you will get everything you ordered (seriously, what happened to all that toilet paper?).

Yet, we’ve adapted. Some of us have even tried to make the most of it. We took up gardening, adopted dogs, started running, and got famous for our dance moves on TikTok. The campus also partially reopened this fall; the semester started just before Labor Day and ended at Thanksgiving to minimize travel for the on-campus population. Though the majority of classes were held online, exceptions were made for courses where face-to-face instruction was absolutely essential. Students with in-person classes were allowed to live on campus under strict health guidelines, and everyone was tested for COVID-19 frequently. Even the award-winning UMass Dining Services revamped campus eateries to provide outdoor seating and a simplified menu to minimize wait times. But these steps toward normalcy only seem to highlight the strangeness of life in a pandemic. Perhaps it’s better for all of us to stop chasing what was, learn from this moment, and embrace “the new normal”—as these members of the UMass community have done.

Young student showing off book.

“Every time I had a Zoom class, we always had a sharing show-and-tell kind of moment where we went around the whole class and would bring in our pets or a piece of art that we did recently, or share a poem…Some family members sat in on classes…it just made it feel like a much more intimate experience because Zoom can feel super dissociative.”
—Brianna Silva ’21, journalism major

Young woman showing photo collage.

“I’m an introvert, so being quarantined is not too bad for me because I’m like, ‘Ah, my introvert self, my hermit self is thriving and it’s beautiful.’ But I think being forced to be inside feels a little bit different…So, I try to look at it in a way of trying to help others instead of just how it impacts me. And I take everything day by day.”
—Cynthia Ntinunu ’19, administrative assistant, Emerson College

Man wearing mask and making peace sign.

“I’ve had a great time scheduling park walks for work where we do our three things: wash your hands, wear your mask, social distance. But there are a bunch of nice walking paths where you can go…and have a fairly good time. It’s important to continue to engage with colleagues off Zoom. So, if you need to have a meeting, go for a walk.”
—Gregory Thomas ’92, executive director and lecturer, Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship Management

Man shown with bike

“We’ve been missing the kids so much…so our administration worked pretty hard to find a route for a car parade that included all of our students. We probably had between 20 and 30 cars that the teachers decorated with balloons and signs. It was really special. And as a cyclist I thought, ‘Why not ride my bike?’ I had a couple balloons hanging off the back. It was really great because I felt like I was that much closer to the kids, to say hi and tell them I miss them.”
—Keith Burgoyne ’93, ’00MEd, PE teacher, Town of Amherst

Student with dog in bedroom.

“My friends and I do virtual hangouts, and before we figured out livestreaming, we would all work really hard to press play at the exact same time, and you know, make comments about the movie.”
—Makailey Cookis ’22, communication major

Woman holding yarn.

“I just can’t wait, once everything is better—and I have to believe that everything will get better because I believe there are a lot of smart scientists and doctors out there who are trying to work together to figure this out—but the first thing I’m going to do is just hug my parents.”
—Nita Trivedi ’02, contracts analyst

Man making silly face.

“I really miss making people laugh, which is always easier for me when I’m in the same physical space as another person. As an improv comedian, I get to bring out all of my goofiness and celebrate the awkward parts of myself in ways that help audiences—I hope—connect with their own humanity and find the laughter in that. It’s so much more fun to goof around in 3D!”
—Jim Young ’92, chief positivity officer (life, leadership, and business coach), The Centered Coach

Got your own story of life during the pandemic? Share it on social media with #umassmagazine for a chance to see it here.