When I was nine years old, I convinced my family to drive 3.5 hours to Hershey Park to see a Selena Gomez concert. As a huge child fan of the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place, I was thrilled beyond belief to finally see Selena in person. As we found our seats on the bleachers of Hersheypark Stadium, I gradually noticed the clouds turn a dark gray, and I soon heard the rumbling noise of thunder. As a massive downpour began, the opening act exited the stage, and the concert came to a halt.
I’ve never liked the concept of rain. Personally, I don’t have anything against rain itself, but I despise the power it holds and the inconveniences it creates. From ruining all outdoor activities to making it difficult to move from place to place, rain has always provided me with distress, acting as an ominous factor that constantly looms above us all.
About four years ago, I remember waking up on the day of my sister’s high school graduation and feeling my excitement fade into subtle disappointment. There was a thunderstorm, which meant that instead of having graduation on the football field with countless family members and friends, the ceremony would be moved to the gym, limited to only two guests per graduate.
I felt especially sad for my sister since she had been looking forward to a traditional graduation for so long. Nevertheless, while my parents entered the gym to watch the ceremony, I led my grandparents and cousins into the auditorium, where we sat in the overflow seating to watch the livestream. As I sat in that auditorium, staring at the projector screen, I thought to myself, “If only the rain had gone away, we would have had a regular celebration.”
I spent the next three years hoping and praying that it wouldn’t rain on my graduation day so that I could enjoy a “traditional” graduation experience. While it did not rain on the day I graduated, there was, instead, a global pandemic. And because of this, my sister watched me graduate through a livestream, just like I had watched her three years prior.
Looking back at these memories, I see that rain was never the issue: it was my lack of ability to adapt. Throughout high school, I had tightly clutched onto the concept of traditional experiences, to the point where I could barely comprehend any alternatives to prom or graduation once COVID-19 hit in the spring of my senior year.
As I now enter the final week of my freshman year of college, I realize that holding onto my unrealistic expectations of what college should be like will not get me anywhere, and that I need to move on and make the most of what I have.
Yes, a part of me still feels cheated by the fact that I only had one semester in person this year, that I never got to eat inside of a dining hall with friends and that I never had the chance to take a class in a crowded lecture hall. But while these notions disappoint me, I realize that it’s not useful to just sit around and think about everything we’ve missed out on, and instead, I should be savoring and enjoying every opportunity I still have available.
In that regard, I am beyond grateful for everything I have gotten to experience this semester. I’ve gotten to live on campus, establish my independence, meet new people, immerse myself in the Hopkins community and even venture out into Baltimore — whether it was to visit the Maryland Zoo, attend a Yankees-Orioles game at Camden Yards or just go for a spontaneous late-night food adventure with friends.
While this was not the semester any of us expected, we have learned to adapt to it, even when that has meant trading a crowded lecture hall for Zoom classes and exchanging the indoor dining hall experience for the tents on Keyser Quad. I am so thankful for my freshman year experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The end of my freshman year also signifies the end of my sister’s senior year, which means that she is now graduating from college. And, once again, I will be watching her from a livestream. However, this time, I will not mope around, thinking about “what could have been.” Rather, I will be cheering her on through the screen as loudly as I can, and celebrating with her thereafter, savoring and enjoying the memories.
I think back to that Selena Gomez concert from so many years ago. The rain poured heavily for over half an hour, and as I sat there drenched, I began to accept the fact that Selena would not perform.
However, the audience began to adapt. People began zipping on their raincoats and ponchos, holding up their umbrellas and persevering through the nasty weather. While it wasn’t what we expected, it was a unique experience, seeing everyone huddled together as the stadium began to flood. And, to my surprise, the rain soon slowed down, and Selena appeared on stage and performed.
While it is daunting to not know what lies ahead, I have decided to withdraw my expectations and open myself up to new opportunities and experiences. As I continue into my sophomore year, I am excited to see where life takes me. Rain or shine, we have to learn to adapt.
Gabriel Lesser is a freshman from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. His column explores his memories along with his current reflections and the lessons that he has learned.