Despite all of the circumstances that college students have had to navigate during the pandemic, one student at the University of Memphis has found a way to stay sane through it all.
Connor Flinn, a junior business and economics major at the university, has relied on his faith in God to carry him through a job loss, as well as educational difficulties brought on by the pandemic.
“My first thought was, if this is God’s will, then he’s going to get us through this,” he said.
Despite losing his job during the pandemic, Flinn said that he believes his faith is the reason why he has been shielded from the negative mental health effects that others have experienced. As an eyeglass store employee, Flinn was not considered an essential worker. This left him furloughed from his job for three months with no way to pay his bills. Flinn’s main concern, however, was not his bills, but whether he would even get his job back at all.
Even after the stay-at-home orders for Memphis ended, Flinn was still out of work. To supplement his income during the time, Flinn delivered food through DoorDash. When he finally returned to work, he was thrown into a whole new world that was much different than the one he left behind.
“It was definitely a very weird transition,” Flinn said.
He said that the new social distancing guidelines, mask mandates and cleaning requirements for glasses that customers wish to try on made the transition back difficult. When his job reopened, Flinn said that there was a large influx of customers who visited their store. This left him and his fellow employees unable to keep up with the number of try-on glasses that they had to clean and disinfect after each use.
Even though he now feels acclimated to the new environment, he said that it is more stressful overall to work during the pandemic. Flinn also said that the pandemic has caused trouble with his schoolwork.
“The first semester back with the new format online was terrible for me,” he said.
Flinn said he is someone who needs the in-person format to learn because he finds it difficult to learn online or in the Zoom environment. In order to remain sane during all of these trials, Flinn directs his gaze upward. He said that although there hasn’t been a dramatic change, he does feel like he has devoted more time to prayer than he did before.
“When the pandemic first hit, and I was in quarantine by myself, that was time I spent a lot just to get with God,” Flinn said.
While time spent alone with God is a way for many Christians to connect with him, it also revealed for Flinn some things about himself that he was unaware of.
“I’m naturally lazy,” he said. “I had literally all the time in the world. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have school.”
Flinn said that during the time that he wasn’t working, he also maintained a backwards sleep schedule, frequently waking up in the afternoon and going to bed in the morning.
Although his faith has been instrumental in helping him survive the pandemic, it has also made being a Christian challenging for him. Flinn’s church, like many others, was not spared from the effects of the pandemic which has made staying connected more difficult. Flinn said that now he does not get to see as many friends and is not allowed to stick around the church after service like he was before.
“You’re not kicked out, but you’re highly encouraged to leave and go hang out somewhere else,” he said.
Flinn said that his church has adapted to the new environment by slowly reintroducing in-person gatherings. They started with services broadcast on TV, eventually moving to two in-person services at different times and at different locations. Now, they are on track to be back to where they were before the pandemic.
Flinn said that his main goal is to go to seminary after he graduates from the University of Memphis. He wants to take the skills he is learning with his degree to start a business and earn passive income while he pursues his pastoral goals.