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BWW Blog: Returning to an Empty Campus

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BWW Blog: Returning to an Empty CampusHey Broadway World! Welcome back to Life In The Key of B! with Bella Bosco

I recently traveled a total of 18 hours over the span of 35 hours to return to my college, Western Connecticut State University. I was there to retrieve my belongings that I was permitted to leave at school after COVID-19 turned from an extended spring break into finishing spring semester online. I'm very grateful to WestConn for keeping my things safe and for helping my family stay safe by not having to return to get them as the situation was escalating in April. I'm glad to have my things back and be home safe again.

As I'm sure many of you can relate, I use long car rides as a time to think and reflect. I love to stare out the window and watch the scenery, with a killer playlist to match.

Today's post will chronicle my fast journey back and forth to school, and all of the emotions I felt, and continue to feel. This post will be different, and more personal than my previous posts, so bear with me as I try to express my feelings and concerns as we prepare to return to the programs we value and the people we love.

Before I start, I want to say how confident I am in the measures WestConn and my program have taken to ensure a safe return to campus in the fall. The feelings I have are truly my own, and WestConn and my department probably can't do anything more than they already have to try and ease my own anxiety.

While I was on the ground in Connecticut, I was able to see friends, visit campus, and get bagels from my beloved Bagelman Deli. I learned some things about myself throughout this short, intense 18-hour journey.

We only have about a month, some of us less than that, until we are back on campus. Considering we left around March 13th, time has flown by. There's a lot to do until then and time is moving quickly. In addition to packing, buying new tapestries and dorm decorations, my packing is different this year. Do I need to buy more masks? What kind of special cleaning supplies should I have? How much should I take with me? Should I pack lighter for any number of reasons?

When I saw my four friends, all of the visits were outside, we were masked, and six feet apart. This was the first time I've seen anyone from school since March. I miss these people so much, and it was so great to laugh and talk in person. I was surprised by what I noticed about our time together. I've been waiting to see my college friends since I had to leave them in March. Yet here I was ... way more comfortable sitting outside, with masks, sitting six feet apart. How was this possible? "Theater friends don't like physical contact" said no one ever. How was it possible to be together without hugging?

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being cautious, it made me wonder how my friends will react when we are back on campus. Will everyone still be wearing masks? Will they still want to hang out with me if they know my concerns and boundaries? Will my boundaries change? Will I eventually relax, and will it be safe for me to do so?

After picking up the boxes of my things WestConn generously stored for students like me; we took some of my belongings to a storage facility to return to in a few weeks and then packed the car with the rest. We stopped by one of my favorite delis just outside of campus, Bagelman.I was pleased to see that all of the places I visited had clear COVID protocol, signs that read "No mask, no entry," and even new outdoor seating. Seeing all of my favorite spots with people masked and distanced was surreal. I was still nervous to go inside, but it seems like Connecticut is taking things very seriously.

As we drove away, I felt a sense of closure to my freshman year, but surprisingly, I still had anxiety. I had seen friends, been on campus, and felt like I got exactly what I had been craving since March. When we left in March, no one was wearing masks, and we hugged each other good-bye through tears and brave faces believing that we would be together in just three weeks. It was almost as if COVID-19 didn't exist on campus. None of us knew the extent of this horrible pandemic yet.

You may find my statements about feeling closure and anxiety to be contradictory. That's because they are. We are all complex people, and these (as I'm sure you've heard for the thousandth time) are unprecedented times. I am split, I am torn, and my mind goes a million miles a minute at times. That is ok, and that is how things will be.

We all have work to do to prepare ourselves to return to the people we love with a very different reality to navigate. This is my journey. And it will be different for me just as every adventure is.

I'll end my reflection with another reliable truth about any road trip back and forth to the east coast: Billy Joel. My absolute favorite song by Billy Joel is Vienna. For me, the whole song is about knowing success is not linear, and can come at any time. Right now, I think all students and young people are frustrated by what's going on, what do we do with this time, when will normal, let alone success, feel real and possible again? Driving home to Ohio through the dramatic ups and downs of the mountains in Pennsylvania, the song and the lyrics hit home even more than they have before:

"Slow down, you crazy child

You're so ambitious for a juvenile

But then if you're so smart, then tell me

Why are you still so afraid?

You've got your passion, you've got your pride

But don't you know that only fools are satisfied?

Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true

When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?"

The truth is, there is no right or best way to prepare for the future, because news, reality and this virus changes every day. We are different every day. Our fears, our hopes, our plans, the emotional ground we stand on is different every day.

So as we prepare for our own journeys -- here's how I'll take some comfort. This song and its lyrics, will serve as my anthem. I will cling to music and to the arts knowing that my life and my dreams will be there for me. I may have to slow down and be more adult than I want. My passion and pride may take knocks in the weeks ahead. And, I'll believe that there will be an end to this, and when that end comes, we will all find that our Vienna is waiting for us.


Here are my check ins for this week:

  1. What am I listening to?

    Recently, I have been on a real Ben Platt kick. I am constantly playing his album Sing to Me Instead, and have watched his Netflix special twice. There is something so personal and vulnerable about his music and his voice. It truly touches me, and I find myself moved to tears frequently. I also just finished season two of The Politician, which offered moments and messages that were far more inspiring than season one.
  2. What's feeding my soul?

    Every year since 2017, I have participated in a leadership seminar called HOBY Ohio South, it is an extension of the international Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership program. My regional Ohio seminar with high school students aims to inspire and empower students to be leaders and social change agents who know they can make change in their communities. This year's seminar was virtual, and while obviously different than the normal in-person conference, I still feel re-energized. The connections HOBY people share are amazing. They were more important this year than ever.
  3. What arts programming have I watched recently?

    This goes without saying, but HAMILTON! I was truly blown away by the genius of Lin Manuel Miranda and all of the talented actors, technical artists, and creative team. As so many others have their own Hamilton love story, I fell in love with this musical my freshman year of high school when it opened on Broadway. I was dramatically devastated when members of the original cast left the show. I remember my Mom (always a step ahead) assured me that they would film and eventually release the original cast's performance. I'm so glad she was right! (So is she!) We woke up to watch it together at 3 a.m. EST on July 3rd! What's your favorite Hamilton song? Tell me with the hashtag #LifeInTheKeyOfB

Thank you for reading! See you soon!

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