Do I Really Want to Go Back to Campus?
This post has been written by Puppy Person. The illustration has been made by Gunjan Jadiya (Batch of 2023).
College has been closed for almost a year. What started off as a few weeks of shutdown, slowly increased by a few more days, a few more weeks, a few more months, until we reached almost a year of being away from campus. Now, when all these discussions are going on — about college reopening, coming back to campus, returning to our pre-pandemic routines, meeting our friends and colleagues, having fun at parties, etc. — I sometimes wonder, in a small place in my heart, do I really want to go back to campus?
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against the opening of campus. Like others, I too miss the campus, the hostel, and my room. I miss going to Chetta, physically attending classes, and taking long walks across the campus. But staying at home in isolation and attending online classes has somewhat brought a sense of calmness and comfort into my life.
A lot of us at NLS, myself included, have struggled with some forms of mental health issues (and dare I say, the current administration and pedagogy haven’t made life any easier). To be really honest, many of my issues (which might resonate with others) arose when I did not fit into the NLS norm of acing every subject, participating in every moot, nego, or debate, getting internships, publications, and other similar activities, which is all everyone ever talked about. The stress and effort of performing and coping with all these different activities was extremely exhausting.
An academically average, socially awkward, and introverted person like me always felt inferior and left out when such conversations happened, which was quite often. This, coupled with having to wake up every morning, and put on a brave face to encounter 80+ people, numerous professors, drained all the energy out of me. There were many moments on campus when I felt like I was being scrutinised and judged by others, but at the same time, was being ignored and left out by them. This feeling always triggered my social anxiety and made my interaction with others all the more difficult.
The lockdown and isolation has, in a way, slowed down the pace of life and made life simpler and easier (save for the academic rigour part). While there were difficult days in the beginning when I felt like a fish out of water as I had become so accustomed to the NLS ‘rigour’ routine, I slowly came to embrace this new normal. I no longer have the pressure of social interaction and presentation. I am fortunate enough to have a home which I can call my sanctuary and safe space, where I am more in control of my surroundings. No longer do I have to be surrounded by people and talk and interact with everyone who approaches me. This sense of safety, and an avoidance and absence of an external gaze has not only helped me strike a better balance between my personal and academic life, but also improved my mental health and social anxiety issues. I do not have to put up a facade anymore, and I can be exactly who I am in any way I want, without the fear of being judged. The lockdown has also made it easier for me to deal with certain body image issues that I developed after gaining weight in law school. Pre-lockdown, whenever I looked at myself in the mirror and others going to the gym, I would often spiral and criticise my appearance. I was always worried about how the person I was meeting would perceive me. But the lockdown has done away with this vicious cycle.
Even now, after the lockdown restrictions have relaxed slightly, armed with the excuse of safety amidst a global pandemic, I still continue to decline invitations to meet others, even as people have begun socialising. Anyone who needs to communicate with me can always text me, and I use the call option only to occasionally talk to a few close friends. Life is good. This might just be a completely personal experience as I am aware that while I could afford to shut myself in at home, not everyone can. Lockdown has treated everyone differently, but have you not, at least once in this year ever preferred this calming familiar environment to the hubbub of NLS?
However, be that as it may, I know this isn’t perpetual. The pandemic will not last forever, and we will eventually come back to campus and resume our rigorous life in Rigour Raj. I know that avoiding social interaction isn’t the cure to my issues. But my life is going smoothly right now, and this lockdown will eventually come to an end, so do we really need to force it? Can’t we have fidelity to the process, and let it take its course (sorry for the Juris reference :p)? So, I ask you all once again, do we really need to go back to campus right now?