I had the idea around the middle of June.
It wasn’t an easy path getting here: the decision not to return to Williamsburg this fall was a complex and painful one that I’m sure all remote students experienced.
As the summer heat settled and the numbers for COVID-19 were on the rise, I knew that this pandemic was not going anywhere before the fall semester began. Thus began the internal wrestling match of what should come next.
I was still grieving over the time and memories lost in the abrupt end of spring semester. I had just transferred to the College of William and Mary last fall, and that transition took some getting used to. I felt like this spring had finally allowed me to fall into my dream routine. I had found a circle of people that felt like family, was loving my new position at the Wellness Center as a Wellness Ambassador and really began to believe that campus was where I belonged. That it was my campus as much as anyone else’s.
I was on a socially-distant walk with my best friend, talking to her about the hardship of the last few months. The fatigue from quarantine and the state of the world weighed heavy on both of us. From the beginning, we both felt strongly about safety during the pandemic, social distancing practices and staying at home whenever possible. She has asthma and I worked for my grandparents. The fear of bringing the virus home took a daily toll on us. By June, we both felt depleted. And the thought of going back to school — navigating staying safe in a college community — was overwhelming for our mental health and wellness.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I know at first it was a joke. It must’ve been something like, “I wish we could just leave it all and go to Fripp.”
Fripp Island, South Carolina. A miniscule three miles of land off the Sea Islands of Lowcountry. A haven that my family has been visiting for 40 years, and where I’ve dreamed of living my entire life.
“Me too,” she said.
And so began the cold calls and the email chains. I reached out to anyone I thought would be intrigued by our plan. That we were two burnt-out college students, who were taking courses online, but wanted to live on the island for the semester.
An owner of a small studio apartment reached out to me. She told me she would love for us to lease from her for the fall.
So, I type this from the couch overlooking the marsh. The palmetto trees still drip from the morning rain. I’m studying for a midterm but cracked the window so the salty air will linger through the apartment.
The island certainly isn’t the untouchable happy place I imagined at the beginning of the summer. Life has still followed us here. I am still tired, still worried for the state of our country. Still fatigued from being a socially-distanced extrovert. I know the decision was right for me. To take a step away and rebuild myself from the last year. I’ve been staying connected through club Zoom meetings and very emotional FaceTimes with friends. I’ve had the space to process the last few months, to find meaning and purpose in the small moments. I wouldn’t trade this strange, magical opportunity I’ve found myself in for the world. I can’t wait to be back in Williamsburg when it feels right. The sandy gravel roads are far from the uneven bricks of Duke of Gloucester Street.
I hope anyone reading this can give themselves the permission to feel.
Allow the waves. Try your best to not judge yourself for the way they wash over you. Reach out if the tide ever gets too rough. And know that everyone has an ocean in front of them, and it’s perfectly okay if all you can do right now is keep swimming.
Email Marrin Scalone at