Silver Linings – #22169 TJ Bordeaux
It has been over a year now since COVID-19 landed on the scene, and it has not failed to affect every part of daily life since that grand entrance. The United States Military Academy at West Point has likewise never been a subtle imposition on my daily life, but the addition of the pandemic has made the weight of the institution more cumbersome than I could have imagined even as a terrified New Cadet on my first day of Cadet Basic Training.
In the Fall semester, West Point Cadets returned to the Academy in full force by mid-August taking a mix of remote and in-person classes and conducting military training with strict COVID mitigation guidelines and regulations. One of the toughest parts of this was the partitioning of the Corps into cohorts that meant that even though we had all returned, I still never got to see some of my friends while being restricted to the confines of the post from August to December.
Mental health has been one of the foremost concerns generated by the pandemic and something many of us have had to be more mindful of than in years past–I was no exception. Returning again for my final semester this year was even more difficult than I expected. I resented having to be isolated from my partner, Unique, for potentially another 4 months and I had taken on a new role as a Company Commander, a position in which I initially struggled to hit my stride. How was I supposed to balance my long-distance relationship and the stress of leading 130 of my peers, all the while maintaining a positive and optimistic outlook and demeanor? I decided for the first time in a long time that it was okay not to try and do it on my own and reached out to a professional counselor.
Being at West Point during COVID-19 has objectively made this year my least favorite at the Academy and a shell of what Firstie year is supposed to look like, but it has undoubtedly been the year in which I have developed most. I have been humbled in the best of ways and have been forced to alter my perspective to be more appreciative of the things in my life that are most important: the people, the places, the experiences. It has brought me to a higher level of maturity and balance and has helped strengthen my relationships. I feel more ready now than ever to graduate, commission, and lead Soldiers as an officer in the U.S. Army in 30 days and a wake up.