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Journal #4 - What does it mean to return?

the student's mottos for the day

Settling on my dailies.
Photo credit: Chris Stone '23 (Vietnam-virtual, SIT, summer 2021)

Hey folx,

As I’ve tuned into my workflow, I’ve started thinking about the other ways I care for myself. Each day I start my day off with a cup of coffee. During my freshman year at Swarthmore, I would drink coffee almost constantly, maybe five or six cups a day! I wasn’t particularly impacted by caffeine, I was mainly drinking it for the taste. I don’t think that was a good reason to drink so much coffee though. I’ve brought myself back down to just one. (Also, I take my coffee with two sugars and milk, thank you very much.)

Writing daily journal entries for a bit over 30 days now has encouraged me to think about some other goals I might want to set for myself in my routine. Two months ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend. We did a few walks around our town catching up, and it made me realize how much I’d never really noticed about my hometown. As a result, I’ve been walking every day for about an hour each week. There were a lot of things that scared me about it before and I’m still a little scared about it too. It took my parents a while to get used to the idea of me doing this, but I think they’ve started to ease up and I try to stay cautious. I’ve started feeling almost like I can’t do work unless I get my walk-in. I remember trudging up to my 8 AM’s for engineering but being so thankful for having a beautiful campus around me, having previously gone to a high school that was a refurbished warehouse. It really makes a difference in my headspace for the day. Sometimes I’ll get to see deer and new flowers blooming. There’s this one house that has a lot of birds, I notice the cacophony resound as I pass by.

Collage of my week, and some things I’ve seen during my walks like flowers and a caterpillar.

Photo credit: Chris Stone '23 (Vietnam-virtual, SIT, summer 2021)

At the beginning of my walks, I’ll do 100 voice recordings to contribute to the largest open-source, multi-language dataset of voices knowing as Common Voice. It helps open-source developers train speech technologies, which is often difficult because the majority of speech databases are privately enclosed by proprietary developers.  Afterward, I’ll listen to an array of podcasts, or text-to-speech converted news articles. I listen to a lot of fiction podcasts, usually supernatural or sci-fi. I find these easier to process. I also listen to non-fiction podcasts, though they take a lot more focus. I also found out there’s a new docu-podcast about Chester, PA called Chester is Rising after attending the CRCQL meeting this week. It’s a really important story and I look forward to listening to it soon. 

In Journal #2, I talked about not being able to sleep well. With some help from some Swatties, I was able to wrangle that in somewhat, allowing me to function better during the times of day that I want to. I’ve started tracking my sleep and trying to record my dreams in the morning too. I found out that I actually wake up in the middle of the night often, and if I’m really anxious, I won’t be able to sleep until I cool my jets. I’ve been working on trying to listen to my body more. Still, it can be hard to know what to do next. It’s been a work in progress to be kinder to myself.

I made a charcuterie board with some friends!

Photo credit: Chris Stone '23 (Vietnam-virtual, SIT, summer 2021)

I feel like I’m finally getting into a cadence that I’ve been reaching out for all of the quarantine. Except, in a few weeks, I’ll have to be transitioning to living on a college campus again! It’s been quite overwhelming! I’ve kind of been living in quarantine like this will be what the rest of my life will be like. I mean, I can imagine that once I graduate college, I imagine I might find myself working remotely or with an international organization again. I’ll also have to know how to take care of myself too. College feels like a blip in the midst of all that potential future. However, I’ve made connections that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I have a few friends I’ve been able to stick with even while I’ve been off of social media, but in other cases, it’s been a lot harder to sustain those relationships and I certainly did not want to live the rest of my life like that. It has been a bit of experimenting with different things: scheduled Zoom calls, sending letters, and so on. After not talking much aside from the occasional exchange for most of quarantine, a friend and I started exchanging voice memos like personal podcasts to one another. Finally! A way that brought back the energy we had on campus! It’s a delight to be able to both pick off where we left off and know we’ll see each other at college again soon. 

Time feels like it passes so much faster doing a study abroad program that ends in two weeks. It makes it feel like summer is almost over even though it’s only the beginning of July! In the back of my head while I do work, I’m also trying to remember how to pack for college like I’m a freshman again and hope there are enough weeks in between to get everything I need. I feel like the summer before my freshman year, I was much more prepared for going to college than I am now, even though I have two years of college already under my belt! 

A picture of me sitting on Mertz field in September of my freshman year! I decided around the same time I got accept to Swarthmore that I’d start growing out my hair. It’s so much longer now!

Photo credit: Chris Stone '23 (Vietnam-virtual, SIT, summer 2021)

I have voice journals and pictures from my freshman year and going back to them now, feels like a dream. I am proud of myself for the ways I’ve grown since freshman year and know that going back to school does not mean I’ll be that same person anymore. Likewise, other people won’t be the same as they were when we last saw each other on campus and I need to acknowledge their growth too. 

This internship reminds me that while we’ll be heading back to school, there will still be other parts of the world or even within the US that won’t be reopening come this fall. There are also places that have already been open for a very long time! Going back to Swarthmore also won’t be the same, I’ll have to reserve study spaces and figure out how to run clubs without most of the upperclassmen I once knew. Moving on will look different for everyone when that time comes, it always has. Let’s be gentle with each other.