Like many (or all) of you, I found that nearly every plan I made in 2020 changed drastically after COVID 19 shut the world down. (And no, I’m still not ready to talk about my long-planned but inevitably cancelled trip to Iceland. Thanks for asking.)
As we kick off 2021, I’m cautiously optimistic for the year ahead (mainly owing to my expectations being so low at this point) but I still find myself making plans and then altering them based on new situations and information. Flux, it seems, is my current (perpetual?) state of being.
Take, for example, the plans I had for my soon-to-be six-year-old Dutch (sometimes warmblood, sometimes dragon) Kashmir. After a fortunate December of mild-ish upper Midwestern weather, during which time I was able to school and hack him at home as normal, the cold, ice, and snow kicked in around Christmas and never really left. (Last winter we didn’t get serious snow until much closer to February and it wasn’t long-lived.) My plans all along had taken the fact that I live in Michigan into account and so I made arrangements to move him to a facility with an indoor arena at the end of January (figuring he could afford a few weeks of downtime between the holidays and his move).
Then he started using the downtime against me.
Anyone who has ever lived with a young warmblood knows how diabolical, clever, and occasionally dangerous they can be when left to their own devices (and the more athletic they are, the worse for us). Recognizing Kashmir’s need for some sort of job, I reverted to doing groundwork to give him some discipline and shake up our routine – which is around the time I recognized that he’s now ready to use his back in a different way than he was the last time I sat on him. So out of curiosity (and my own boredom), I threw the saddle back on him and hacked him out to my arena, which is currently covered in about two and a half inches of snow. (Bless him – for all of his sometime evil-tude on the ground, he’s remarkably drama-free under saddle.)
Flash forward a week and we’ve played in the snow at the walk and trot nearly every day and are having an absolute blast doing it. He’s really coming over his back thanks to his need to balance differently on account of the conditions and I’m getting an entirely new feel from him as a result. Then today I realized we’re doing the exact type of work we need to do – which I might not have discovered if I’d ridden him only on ideal footing for a few months. So now I’ve upended my entire winter plan and decided to keep him home and keep playing with this new feel. (Flux FTW!)
Now, you’re probably wondering, what the heck does all of this have to do with the college search?
I think if 2020 taught us anything, it was that sometimes there is a wider gap between what we (think we) want and what we actually need. And without extreme circumstances to reveal that to us, sometimes we go on about our merry way without ever being the wiser. For students researching colleges right now, that might mean that a college all the way across the country is suddenly less appealing than it was a year ago. Or perhaps the turmoil of 2020 sparked a new interest and now the colleges that previously made the list based on particular programs have to be re-examined to see if they offer different majors or minors. But what’s exciting about that – as I discovered by changing Kashmir’s plan – is the knowledge that all of this was discovered before you were committed to a faraway school or a program you might not have enjoyed in the end. Think of the time (and money) you’ve saved by finding out what you need right now instead of down the line!
So as you outline or expand your college search during the next few weeks and months, students, ask yourself: What do I want now that I might not have wanted before? How have my priorities (and that of my family) changed during the pandemic? And – most importantly – what do I need out of my college experience? (I’m talking about your basic, fundamental needs here – not the fancy trappings that used to be part of the conversation prior to the pandemic – e.g. lazy rivers.)
It’s a very brutal and honest conversation to have with yourself (and your family), but if you do the work and ask the questions, you might be surprised at how helpful the answers are. The pandemic and subsequent quarantine haven’t been fun for any of us, but the aftermath won’t be productive if we don’t seize this opportunity to make lemonade out of a year of lemons. And yes, in my case, the lemonade is a little frozen thanks to the snow covering my arena, low air temperatures, and wind chills, but you know what I mean.