This week’s blog comes from Darian Paul, an undergraduate Honors student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi majoring in marine biology.
Older generations of Americans often speak of globally life changing events in their times such as wars and economic crashes. In the year of 2020, I was 17 years of age and had yet to experience any events of these sorts. For the most part, my generation has had the privilege to plan out our lives without having to consider major global incidents. From an early age my school taught my classmates and I to plan for our futures. For my 3rd grade project, I filled up an ocean themed tri-fold poster board with images and information about Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi. My excitement upon discovery of “the island university” continued to build up into my senior year of high school. My life was planned. As soon as I graduated, I was going straight to TAMU-Corpus Christi.
This plan was shattered when the global pandemic struck. In Texas, public schools went online after spring break and stayed that way until my graduation. After a few months of living in the pandemic, most Texans continued their pre-pandemic habits. My family, on the contrary, was cautious. I remained physically isolated from my neighbors and friends and didn’t even go to a grocery store for over a year. The only two spaces I inhabited during that time were my house and the nature trails in my neighborhood.
As the summer of 2020 was ending, I still had hopes for attending TAMU- Corpus Christi, but as doctors and scientists started sounding alarm bells for going to colleges in-person, my plans rapidly changed. For my freshman year, I instead became a student at Lone Star College from home, fully virtual. My dad and brother went virtual too; my dad taught online, and my brother took his high school classes online.
That year my family was almost constantly at home. Something we started paying particular attention to while being home was the weather. It became tradition to sit in our garage and drink mugs of hot tea anytime a rainstorm came. We would gather to watch the aggressive flashes of pale light and listen in awe as thunder roared and echoed.
Without in-person activities, our days melded together in monotonous stretches, so when a rainstorm appeared at our doorstep, it became the most entertaining event we could possibly experience together.
In a time of my life where it felt as if I had withdrawn from most of the world, a wandering storm was the one event that affected me the same as it did everyone else. Outside of my reality, most people continued pursing their life’s plans, but I was stuck in limbo. Falling asleep every night I had a feeling of dread knowing that when I woke nothing would have changed. However, it seemed the weather would sometimes go out of its way to break up my routine. Any day it could create dramatic shifts such as waking me with warm beams of sunlight mixed in blue sky but later sending me to bed with a dark sky suffocated by black clouds and pummeling rain. Storms never ask for permission to intrude on our days. They pass by whenever they please, permeating everyone’s reality with drops of change. They seem to take pride in knowing they aren’t something we can precisely account for in our schedules or plans.
I came to peace with the idea that while the variabilities of a storm can appear threatening, they mirror the changeability in our own lives. My academic future at the time felt uncertain, but a year later I still arrived at my island university. While my arrival was overdue, I had gained a sense of resilience that I might not have developed had I sailed unhindered through my initial plans. Psychologically, the loss of control that comes with unpredictability is hard for us to handle. People often create stress by putting pressure on themselves to follow a plan precisely without acknowledging that they are not in control of much of the world around them.
My experience during the pandemic taught me about the spiritual values that come with observing nature. Thunderstorms showed me to not be intimidated by change, but rather see it as a reminder that we do not function independently from the world. In recognizing the interconnectedness that we have with each other and nature, we can set free the idea that we must be able to control and predict everything in our lives. We can further build resilience by transforming our perceptions of uncertainty and learning to adapt to ever-changing environments. In the end, a thunderstorm arrives when it wants, but how we perceive it is our own decision.