By Audrey Parmentier
March 20, 2021
If you had asked me in 2019 how I was doing, the answer would be simple: “amazing.” Or so I thought. My life before COVID-19 was busy and hectic, but in my mind at the time, I was having a blast, living my heart out in college during the prime of my life. When I first came to college as a freshman music major in 2018, it was a completely different experience from what I was used to. I came from a small town, where I was an only child and was homeschooled by my mom for my entire pre-college education. Although it was a nice way to grow up, I always felt isolated. Even among my fellow homeschoolers, I tended to get teased because I wasn’t the “typical” homeschooler. My life was so different from everyone else that I found it nearly impossible to relate to anyone or anything, which caused me to feel sad and anxious most of the time, even though I did my best to put on a happy face when I was around other people.
Although I grew up in a strong Christian household, the more complicated my life became, the more I began to lose sight of who I was completely. This loss of identity, along with the struggles of isolation, made me start to lose my purpose in life and grow weaker in my faith, as I felt like God was going to eventually abandon me too. Despite these feelings, I kept trying to stay strong and optimistic that college would be a new beginning for me: a chance to find out who I was and make a new identity for myself in the process. Little did I know that this process would be a rocky road filled with more bumps and hardships than I had ever anticipated.
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.” – John 15:19
My freshman year seemed great to me. I made friends immediately at my college marching band camp, and from there, the amount of people I got to know dramatically increased. These people were so welcoming and friendly towards me, which was something I had never experienced prior to college. However, I did have some doubts, as many of my friends had bad habits and partook in things that I knew were wrong. I brushed it aside multiple times, but the more I hung out with the friends I was making, the further I grew away from God, and I didn’t even realize it.
In the summer of 2019, I went on tour across the country with a drum and bugle corps for two and a half months. This was, by far, one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and it made me incredibly happy. I was in the best shape of my life, and my confidence levels were through the roof.
However, there was one thing still missing: my relationship with God. This made harder entering my sophomore year of college. As the “honeymoon phase” of being in college began to wear off, I started to struggle with more things, physically and mentally. I began to give into more temptations, got involved in silly drama at the music school, and once again began to lose my identity that I was so sure I had rebuilt for myself. The only things I had left to look forward to were my band concerts and eventually going back to drum corps the following summer. However, in March 2020, my life flipped upside down within days.
COVID-19 was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I suddenly found myself sent home, and everything that I was looking forward to was cancelled immediately. This huge change was, of course, a massive shock to my system, and any motivation that I had to improve myself physically and mentally disappeared. Through all the times that I pushed God away in the last year, I had nearly nothing to look towards for consolation. Eventually, I realized I had to make a change. I forced myself to catch up on assignments and stay at least a little active. Most importantly, though, I forced myself to pray. It was truly hard at first, but as I looked more and more towards God to talk about my problems, the more I began to see small changes. As summer approached, I had more motivation to work and make the most of my time in quarantine.
Suddenly, as I started my junior year at UNC, I began to see more and more of myself as I truly was: not in the way that my friends and family perceived me, but as my true, raw self. My feelings were exposed in a way that they never had been before, and eventually, something incredible happened: I fully discovered my own identity. This feeling, though scary at first, was such a relief to me. I had lost the ability to pretend to be someone I wasn’t, and instead, I was embracing being 100% Audrey.
This change in my own personality and time for self-reflection allowed me to truly make a new beginning, as I formed new, real friendships through my current college ministry and met my amazing boyfriend through the ministry that encourages me every day and loves me despite my ups and downs. As a result, my faith is stronger than ever before, as I can truly see how great God is and how he has made such a positive change in my life over the past year.
As I fast forward to reflecting on the one year anniversary of COVID-19, despite everything, I am so grateful for this time that I had alone for forcing me to be real with myself. Prior to COVID, I had allowed myself to belong to the world, and although that provided me with temporary happiness, none of that happiness compares to the newfound joy that I have knowing that I am a daughter of God. Allowing myself to be loved by Him has helped me to love myself as well, and that is something that I will be forever grateful for.
Image Courtesy of Audrey Parmentier.