Silver Linings in Zoom Calls

Clenched jaw, pounding fists. I could feel my throat closing up right after a contemptuous sneer made its way to my mouth. For a brief second, I closed my eyes, reigning in my emotions by trying to convince myself that it was just a sham, a sick prank, or a tasteless joke made by my friends. Huffing out a breath, I reread the tiny black words laying themselves out on that single white block bubble on my phone — the soon to be bête noire that I had to accept.

‘University classes for the next semester will be conducted online in light of the Movement Control Order imposed by the government.’

Groans of frustration took off from the tip of my tongue as reality began to set in.

So much for all the plans I wanted to do. Guess I’ll be at home longer than I thought.

“It’s online,” I announced to my parents. My voice was a little pinched. I was sure they could hear the disappointment laced in my tone.

“Oh,” My dad replied. “Well, that’s a good thing! The situation there is getting worse. You’re better off staying at home. We just need to find the silver linings in this.”

I tumbled on my bed. My eyes fixated on the blank ivory ceiling, trying to mentally prepare for something that I had never done before — online classes. I imagined the worst scenarios that could happen with the sudden, out of place transition — not being able to keep up with the syllabus, having troubles with group work, drifting off from my friends… I slammed my pillow on my face, forcing myself to sleep in order to stop these dire trains of thoughts from wheeling further in my head.

How could there be silver linings, dad?

I dreaded the first day of class. I entered my given Zoom classroom with little to no motivation and made no effort to participate unless I was being called out by my lecturers. In my mind, I could only picture my classmates looking like black screens. Hearing the assessment briefing didn’t ease me up at all. In fact, it made me anxious as I scrambled to ruminate on ways I can get through it with a good grade but without the campus resources that would normally be in the grasps of my hands. The thought of how I will have to endure this for at least a semester made it even worse.

“You’ll get there. I promise.” My mom said. Her palm over the back of my hand as she gave me a reassuring smile when I complained about how awful classes were.

“Give it time. Silver linings, remember?”

And so did those silver linings come.

To my astonishment, I began to adapt to my new classroom environment as the weeks went by. It wasn’t until the last week of the semester, I realized I actually like online classes. As a matter of fact, I like it more than the physical ones! I began to count all the blessings that my apprehensive attitude had initially blinded me to see.

Wearing headphones in class allowed me to pay better heed due to the minimal distractions I surround myself in my room. There were no chit-chats with friends that I would normally have in lecture halls. My initial worry of falling behind in class was quickly proven wrong when in fact it made me become a better and more proactive student. Classes weren’t as boring as I thought it would be. Instead of being glued to one spot and listening to long-winded lectures, my tutors tried their best to involve us in any way possible to keep our attention, making lessons interactive and fun to be in. The extra time I had from online classes forced me to venture out of my comfort zone to join more clubs and take part in more activities, allowing me space to learn more. Ironic how the most growth I have seen myself in was the year I was confined by the four walls of my room.

My friends? Our bonds are stronger than ever despite living 600 over miles away. We made Zoom calls to each other twice a month as an effort to catch up with one another and to check in to see if each one of us were doing fine. Of course, I would be remiss to not mention the fact of how Zoom calls made our conversations more fun and entertaining with the help of the app’s features. The days where we would spend a whole hour laughing at each other’s virtual backgrounds, pasting each other’s faces on our virtual background, or even testing out funny filters on Zoom were the moments I enjoyed with my friends the most, even if it was at 1 am in the morning.

But the biggest blessing I have ever gotten out of was the fact that I got closer to my family. Right after my 6 pm class, I would rush downstairs to the dining room to see my family waiting for me with a table of delicious, hot-from-the-wok food — something that was not common in my dorm, considering the countless nights when I rely on delivery take-outs to curb my starvation. All of us working together in one room was just like old times where we would huddle together to do our own work. Though none of us spoke a word to each other because we would concentrate on our own task at hand, it was still a nice feeling to know that my family is there in the room with me. Perhaps Dad was right. There are silver linings to be made out from an initial horrendous situation and these silver linings are ones that I have taken for granted for the past years.

So, when the new semester was about to pave its way, I found myself in a state that I was all too familiar with but this time with a different reaction to the news.

‘There might be a possibility that university classes will continue online for the next few semesters.’

After all that I have been through, sure, why not?

A professional binge-watcher and Kalimba enthusiast who is trying to pen down manic thoughts all in due time