These past few weeks could only be described as some sort of fever dream. Between the pandemic and racial unrest across the country, it was more than clear that the beginning of my collegiate experience would be unconventional.

Evanston has always served as a place of comfort. After 13 years of residency I am well versed in its streets, architecture and people. With college around the corner I became insecure in my ability to exist without Evanston as my cushion. I feared that my reliance on the people and systems around me was so extreme that I lacked the tools necessary to be independent. Nonetheless, I packed up all of my things and traveled six and a half hours to Columbia, Mo.

The University of Missouri-Columbia is a fascinating place. The campus is large, but there exists a certain intimacy that felt familial, perhaps because of the shared pursuit of academic success. I’ve forgotten how much I love being a tourist. I have the space and independence to venture to new spaces and absorb the atmosphere around me. I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in this foreign environment, but still hesitant to call it home.

I’m always on edge, consuming COVID-19 reports with my morning tea, a vanilla chai that smells like home. I reference the University of Missouri’s Show Me Renewal plan, which reports the number of active student cases on campus.

While attending college at this time is a risk, it has proven thus-far to be a good choice for me. I operate on a hybrid schedule. I have brief, in-person classes twice a week, and longer lectures via Zoom or Canvas. My in-person courses are the highlight of my week. I feel safe knowing that special precautions are being taken to protect students, and I feel more engaged with the material.

Fighting a pandemic and racism simultaneously is utterly exhausting. I’m done seeing Black death circulate on my social media on a Monday morning, being able to see bodies go limp and having the life sucked out of them. One of the most difficult aspects of my moving away from home is not having my family close by for emotional relief. Alone, I am becoming numb to loss, numb to emotion, simply numb. Jacob Blake, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Jamarion Robinson, Breonna Taylor and so many others. So many others. But how to stand up against racism and police brutality in this country?

Most of my ideologies are ruled by an internal locus of control, the idea that I have control over the outcomes in my life. In terms of my activism, I have to believe that I can create change with my voice, my words, my actions.

Even though I am physically in Columbia, my thoughts are still in Evanston. I am hopeful for the future. The young people of Evanston have proven to be a force to be reckoned with. In the form of physical demonstration or verbal prowess, they have been unapologetic in speaking their mind. I am proud to know and be related to the young people who are progressing this community. I am confident we are going to take the world by storm someday.

In my first few weeks of college, I have simply been going through the motions, missing my family, swimming in this fever dream. I think it’s time I woke up.

Take note, Evanston. Our world is changing and I won’t be asleep to miss it, will you?

Sarah Parisien

Sarah Parisien is a long-time Evanston resident and journalist. She studies journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and takes special interest in diverse narratives and equitable writing.