October is a time for metamorphosis. Temperatures shift, leaves change colors, and the patterns on our face masks change from those of popsicles and dolphins to bats and pumpkins. It takes a lot of energy to change and many of us are absolutely drained. This year has been an extended metamorphosis, so what stage are we in?

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” ― Wayne W. Dyer

Even at the beginning of this pandemic, I never believed we would truly achieve a new normal where the crazy imbalances somehow finally righted themselves. As we move closer to the end of our first pandemic-filled semesters, we can assess the changes and count our unique unsettling situations, campus and rec center closings, and all the general confusing circumstances. In the midst of all this disorder, we now begin to settle down. Every other day brings new challenges and questions we may never have had to answer before. There is a small sense of certainty in this constant uncertainty.

The numbers continue to climb and the losses are painfully present in the empty spaces all around us. We’ve learned that grief can be enduring or fleeting, excruciating or numbing. Whatever realities we’re experiencing in our individual lives and workplaces will no doubt mark us forever. Whether your loss is that of a loved one, whether you mourn celebrations and the simple smiles and gatherings we once took for granted, we’re all coping in different ways. While it’s true that there has never been a year quite like this one, the emotional waves are uniting.

“In times like these, it’s good to remember there have always been times like these” – Paul Harvey

If it feels like our personal lives are aching, our professional lives may just seem on pause—it’s a caseload that is growing and must be addressed. There’s always another shift to fill, another class to cover, another “something” to do. But this year is just the intermission, right? What happens when the intermission becomes the show?

We have no idea when we’ll be out of this pandemic. Our documentation of this year is like a time capsule—attempting to translate “COVID-19” into “the new normal.” We’re all asking when we’ll be able to look back and talk about this time in the past tense. Focusing on the future has its downfalls but also its benefits. And the course of our future is right around the corner.

Students are so often the middle ground, the mouthpiece to the larger world. We’re in-between generations trying to tip the scales when it comes to the future we‘ll be living in, governing, and making our home. Yet we can so easily be discredited, written off as complacent or disengaged. It could be this time of year—a buildup of awareness—propelling us into action. Maybe because we’re now the students that we read about in history class, participating in the Greensboro sit ins or protesting the Vietnam War. Is it because we’re 18 and up that we’re looking up—up to places of power—and questioning where we stand in all of this?

“Representation is about demanding that we’re all seen and affirming that we all matter” – Pilar Brooklyn

Mere weeks away from election day—such an incredibly important day that only comes around every four years—many of us are taking inventory of where we stand, what we stand for, and who we stand as. We are balancing and bargaining our voices yet again, looking into ourselves to determine what costume we’ll wear this All Hallows Term. That is truly a moment that matters. In the grand scheme of life, four years seems like only like one night in the long, long extent of our lives. This is not at all to belittle the importance of this election though, but instead of say that while it might appear that what happens the next four years isn’t the be all, end all, we should remember that it will have a lasting impact.

As has been clear this past year, masks might cover our faces—making it harder to see how we feel—but they can also display images that send a unifying message. I encourage you to write your message in whatever way you want—say it, shout it out loud! Finding so many unexpected passions is part of the excitement of being in the middle of this metamorphosis.

Learning, growing, and expanding our minds makes our checklists for our futures longer. What do we care about? What are we willing to fight for and, again—especially as October creeps along—what costumes are we willing to don? It can be easy to say these factors are part of our identity. While each piece of a costume is a part of who we are—a wig of will, a cape of policy and political party—all can be taken off. This does not mean you have any less integrity than your fully costumed self. There is integrity in voting on election day, a monumental occasion, even if the costume you generally wear is not politically focused.

Moral reflection is the basis of integrity. I do not think we can hold to the same unchanging ideals in a world that keeps changing around us. We move with it or we are left behind. Take these times now where everything is in flux. Break through the shells we’ve encased ourselves in and consider talking to individuals you might not always agree with. Because even if we did disagree on everything, we can find unity in one thing: We’re all human no matter what masks and costumes we wear at times. We’re all trying the best that we can. And on November 3, I hope we are all heard.

Fitness and Wellness Graduate Assistant at University of Kentucky | NIRSA Profile

Tanika Santos, NIRSA Student Leader, is currently the Fitness and Wellness Graduate Assistant at the University of Kentucky.