Introduction and interview by Caroline Skou, Holy Cross'20
A ‘new normal’ means something different for all of us. For Jane Miller, senior member of Yale’s track and field team, normal has shifted from training trips and spending time with teammates, to cancelled final events and moving back home halfway across the country. For this installment of The Class of MMXX series, I interviewed Jane about how she continues to display resilience and looks forward to the future with optimism despite the challenges of this new normal.
When the NCAA cancelled spring sports I was devastated, but even at that point I don’t think I really expected what was coming next.
It’s kind of crazy looking back, because sports were the first thing to go. As a three-season athlete my entire Yale experience, and most of my life, has been shaped by competitive sports and the friendships and opportunities they’ve given me. When the NCAA cancelled spring sports I was devastated, but even at that point I don’t think I really expected what was coming next.
Like so many other college students, I left campus for what I assumed would be a week-long spring break. I was escaping the still-dreary Connecticut weather, headed to San Diego with some friends for the first week, and planned to return to campus to go on a training trip to Virginia with the rest of the Yale Track and Field team the following week. On the second day of our trip to San Diego, the situation across the United States began escalating and cases quickly started increasing. We were first notified via email by the administration that classes would go online from the end of spring break until at least April 5. It was shocking news and ten of us sat around the kitchen, in denial about the potential of losing the second half of our semesters. Yet at this point, my friends and I were all fairly sure we would be returning to school in April, and so we turned our attention towards what it could possibly mean for our outdoor track and field season if we weren’t on campus.
We were definitely unnerved by the news, but none of it seemed very real yet. Wednesday was beautiful, so we went to a local high school track to get in a workout. As we were stretching afterwards, spirits high and ready for post-run brunch, we learned that Harvard’s administration had blocked its athletes from competing at NCAA Indoor Track and Field nationals that weekend. That news was quickly followed by the entire Ivy League’s decision to cancel spring sports for 2020. It was at this point that everything started to feel very real, and we pieced together that athletics probably wouldn’t have been cancelled if we were actually going to return to campus April 5. It wouldn’t be until a few days later that we would receive official word about classes being held online for the remainder of the spring term, but I think at that point we all pretty much knew, and a few of my other senior friends began to cry and console each other. I was just in shock, trying to calculate if we could race unattached, if graduation would happen but just without families present, if I would be going back to New Haven at all as a student. With everything seeming to unravel around us, the one thought I kept clinging to was that no matter what, for right now I was healthy and surrounded by a group of supportive women who love and care about each other more than anything else. As the weeks of quarantine and stay-at-home orders have stretched out, this is the thought I continuously hold on to, because even as our group has dispersed across the country the support and love is still there.
Yet everyday I’m struck by the commitment of my professors, TA’s, and fellow students in making the end of the semester as meaningful and valuable as it would have been on campus.
Finishing the last weeks of my final semester at Yale online has been difficult to say the least. Yet everyday I’m struck by the commitment of my professors, TA’s, and fellow students in making the end of the semester as meaningful and valuable as it would have been on campus. The school has also implemented a Universal Pass policy to make things more equitable and reduce stress on students who are dealing with a variety of circumstances at home. While initially I was a little upset about the thought of not getting recognition for the work I had put in throughout this semester, I am completely on board with the decision now. Many of my classmates are responsible for taking care of family members, do not have working WiFi at home, or are dealing with financial and other stressors that have come during this time. I agree with the school’s decision that the most important thing is to ensure that no student has to worry about their grades slipping with so much else going on right now. People can say what they will about the decision, but from my point of view, students are still showing up and getting their work done to the best of their ability, teachers are still creating thorough and well thought out lesson plans, and the only thing that’s changed is people are now learning for the sake of learning, and not also for a letter grade.
When I’m not directly in class, I am almost always on zoom, facetime, or phone calls with friends from college and high school. Especially since I go to a school with such a diverse class, my friends are currently all over the world so it’s been a fun challenge to all catch up in various time zones and still talk and fill each other in on everyone’s lives. Going from living within a half mile of all of my Yale friends to being home and away from everyone has been really challenging, but honestly thank god for technology and zoom happy hours because they’ve really kept me sane.
Thinking about life after college has always been a little overwhelming, and now trying to plan for next year is filled with even more unknowns, which is scary. That being said, one of the big changes for me is that I’m more seriously planning on using my extra eligibility for track and field to take the opportunity to earn a master’s degree and run for a fifth year. With so much up in the air right now, it’s actually really forced me to reflect on the things I love doing and what I want out of the next few years and beyond, which is something I think was long overdue for me anyway. That being said, it’s nerve wracking to be entering a new phase of life during this time, but the most important thing is that I have supportive family and friends and even if my immediate path looks a little different than I had imagined, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
There are so many things, little and big, that I miss right now. But I think just getting together with a big group of friends and going to brunch or dinner and actually getting to talk face to face would be a perfect end to quarantine.