Take a Chance on Love

Infectious agent growing more powerful

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Infectious agent growing more powerful

At long last, Lakesiders have begun to return to campus. I sincerely hope even I’ll have walked the grounds and breathed the fresh air, albeit filtered through a mask, by the time this piece is published. Speaking of, in a twist of irony, the first true on-campus holiday celebration of 2021 will be Valentine’s Day. In any other year, February 14 would mark closeness, embrace. This year, I suppose “force hugs” will have to be adequate substitutes. More than that, though, what’s most on my mind is the question: COVID-19 or no COVID-19, isn’t a Valentine’s Day devoid of romance, replete with awkwardness and even a frantic kind of social distancing, the Lakeside standard? Normal year or not, have Lakesiders ever truly taken advantage of the Cupidian holiday? The answer is depressingly obvious.

Each year, around this time, I hear the same rhetoric: not only is the general student body not interested in Saint Valentine, they resent his implication. My usual informal polling of my peers got the same response this year, but in writing the true logic of the Lakeside antipathy to love, to romance, is clear: “Gotta stay on the grind, ain’t nobody got time for that.” I recall the aptly titled article “Libido-less Lions” which ran in last year’s February issue. It lamented the results of a survey, far more sound than any I’ve ever given, which found 9% of Lakesiders to be in a relationship at the time of writing. Completely accurate or not, that 9% figure reports the situation pretty well. Though my outlook is biased — informed by my circle of friends, none of whom are really the type for rabid extroversion (sorry, guys!) — it’s hard not to imagine the Lakeside love landscape as anything but barren.


Well, what’s the point, Lorenzo? Are you just rubbing it in our faces, off to cavort with your gaggle of admirers, no doubt won over by your impressive journalism? No! Of course not. We’re not out of the COVID-19 woods yet, after all, and the unique nature of the past eleven months can provide some wisdom, even for a holiday whose practice seems impossible. One of the most prominent threads I’ve seen anywhere, from classes, to my home, to the entire Internet, is that being alone, and having to rely on ourselves and everyone else in the world at once, has re-taught our species the value of connection. Beyond that, there’s regret. I’ve felt it myself: I wish I could have done X before COVID-19 hit. A lot of that is social. I wish I could have invested in and better maintained my friendships; I wish I could have let people know they matter to me. Sentimental stuff.

In the face of that very same stuff, I think that there are some things to be done as Lakeside gradually returns to a volatile equilibrium. Clearly, there’s not going to be much hugging, or close contact of any kind, on or off campus this Valentine’s Day. But that spirit of yearning, wanting to be close to other people again, shouldn’t die out once COVID measures are finally lifted. Lakeside culture shouldn’t shrink back to its comfortably workaholic, “grindy” form. Rather, it should be reborn — re-envisioning, perhaps not as Bernie planned it, but a fine legacy nonetheless. Lakesiders should endeavor to open up to one another, beyond the level of an icebreaker. We should dare to break from our studies, extracurriculars, and anxiety about not having done enough of either. We should pursue romance! 

At risk of droning on, COVID can be seen as an opportunity. In the wake of a relative tragedy, isn’t the best strategy to find positives wherever you can? I don’t know when Lakeside will abandon the Trace app and its ravenous battery drain. Maybe next school year? Whatever the case, Valentine’s Day — a holiday often mocked, somewhat deservingly so, for selling the commercial ideal of romance — has been in need of repurposing for the modern age, since long before our current situation came about. To see everything, from school to the doctor’s office, turn virtual has made it even more apparent. At a time where so many factors have conspired to make it harder to connect to others, I think my prescription in this article is a fitting challenge for we who seek to “contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society.”