C.O.R.O.N.A. a dream on April Fools’ Day
The date is April 1st, 2021. We are celebrating the start of C.O.R.O.N.A. also known as Campus Only Real Ongoing New Age. The whole TU/e population has gathered on campus, the previous days everyone got their jabs at the local vaccination center, promptly setup on the empty parking lots. It is now 12 o’clock noon and the Executive Board signals the start of the festivities by initiating a huge polonaise (conga line).
On this day everyone joins in by first hugging and kissing those colleagues you haven’t seen for a year and cheerfully jigging along the… what was it called again…oh yes… the Green Strip in a huge endless parade. Every community that TU/e is so proud of, pitches in and improvises a show. It is Lunar New Year again for the Chinese, early Holi for the Indians and belated Carnival for the locals.
It's also all the TU/e celebrations in one: Intro Week, the opening of the academic year, MomenTUm, Connect With My Culture, you name it… We are all the heroes of this inclusive anniversary year! Quadrivium is playing Viva la vida by Coldplay and every single individual chants out loud in what will prove to be the largest karaoke ever and make it to the Guinness Book of World Records. The huge party goes on and on and rumor has it that Guus Meeuwis may show up later and sing Brabant for all of us to waltz the night away…
Back to reality. Considering the current sanitary situation you can call this a dream or a simple April Fools’ Day joke. Whatever you label it, we need this kind of mental representations. Studies show that what we are missing at the moment is some perspective on the near future. When will we return to some kind of normal and actually co-create our next normal? So a dream, a joke (humour often helps to soften a tough reality) or any type of reflection is welcome.
Concretely, after one year of mainly remote studies and work, many of us are feeling run down by the impression that many parts of our lives seem like they are on hold. So what can we do? First, accept that we feel sluggish and consequently give ourselves grace and understanding, a break so to say, and reach out to people we care about. Social connections and compensating social distancing with distant socializing remains the best way to help ourselves and others. By joining forces in this social and mental process we can also rediscover our motivation.
Second, we need to focus on our current mental wellness in order to develop psychological wellbeing. This means, for example, to remember what gave us purpose, meaning or joy before the pandemic, and try to translate this into today’s situation. Seek out tiny joys and wins on a daily basis and share and acknowledge these with one another. Also, change our regular sceneries of the home office or student room whenever possible; so move around, do some exercise and go places before the curfew! This transformation also helps to create autonomy and develop resilience (see more here). By being forced out of our comfort zones this way, we get a better understanding of ourselves, and this eventually leads to personal growth.
Finally, to reach the above, we must give ourselves a framework, i.e. culture, our shared norms, values, assumptions and beliefs, as well as our common attitudes and practices within the TU/e community. Mapping out all cultural aspects helps us further develop our sense of individual and collective wellbeing, by focusing on community, connections and engagement, as shown in the fictive and festive example above.
But let’s all agree that if this event proves to be unrealistic after all, we can still celebrate C.O.V.I.D. 21: Campus Only Virtual International Day as a homage to our international community. Maybe an idea for a diversity & inclusion celebration during this anniversary year?