Ending Where I Began


Sarah McGinnis

Illustration by Elliot Burr

Growing up, I always imagined I would move out of my home state and study at a big college. I imagined myself taking the subway to class, roaming a busy city with textbooks in hand. Before I knew what major to choose, I enrolled in community college like most of the kids I went to high school with. Instead of hanging out in dorms and rushing sororities, I commuted to class in the morning and to work in the afternoon at one of my two jobs. If I wasn’t studying, I was cleaning clothing store fitting rooms or answering the phone at a salon front desk. It wasn’t the college experience most freshmen have or the one I hoped I’d have when I was in high school, but going to community college first helped me save on student loans and bulked up my resume.

I kept my grades up, juggled my work schedule and worked toward a future I wanted desperately. When I arrived at Kent State in the fall of 2019, I was certain I was at the last stop before my life really began. I was ready, more than ever, to slave over textbooks and study guides for another two years. In the meantime, I might meet some friends and get a taste of the college life I didn’t experience for the first few years. Then, once I was finished, I could really begin my adult life as a professional in a place like New York. 

My first year wasn’t perfect, but the experience of being away at school, meeting new people and exploring the fashion building was all I ever wanted. I even had the opportunity to start writing for student-run magazines, which felt like another step closer to my dream career. 

Nearly seven months later, COVID-19’s presence in the United States led to the Kent campus closure and a subsequent quarantine. Soon I was packing my apartment up and travelling 400 miles back to my small hometown in New Jersey. What I thought was a temporary (and necessary) adjustment soon became a complete derailment of the life I made for myself at college.

In the blink of an eye, I was in the same position I was for the first 20 years of my life. All the progress I made in my academic and personal life seemed to fade into the mundane background of my new old life. The familiar schedule of finishing classwork and heading in for a shift reminded me of my first two years of college. I fell into the same routines of working and studying, only without the benefits of a university life that I used to have. Most of the time, it feels like I have to balance all of the worst parts of both colleges I attended. Plus, I now have the added struggle of managing remote classes and multiple student media organization positions while in a different state.  

The endless deja vu I’ve been feeling all semester is not going away anytime soon. Like many Kent State students, I will be completing my spring semester online and at home again. This could mean another semester with limited contact with my professors and friends from school, or maybe we’ll all get a little better at socially-distanced communication.

It would be easy to wallow and feel like I lost more than I gained this year. After all, I’m ending my senior year of college in my hometown. Whenever I’m feeling down and mourning the senior year I’m not experiencing, I try and find a metaphor in my situation. Ending where I began seems like a fitting end to 2020.