Sitting at home in my childhood bedroom where old inspirational quotes and high school homecoming mums still lined the walls, I heard a knock at my door. When my dad turned the knob and pushed inside, he said, “I’m about to leave for Atlanta; I just wanted to tell you bye. I’ll be back in a few weeks.”
“I’ll probably still be here,” I replied, flipping through the pages of my book.
My university, like many across the country, extended spring break by a week due to concerns surrounding Coronavirus. But, before we even finished our final week of class, rumors had started to fly that we wouldn’t be returning for the rest of the semester. “I don’t think it’s a question of are we coming back right after Spring break, but a question of if we’re coming back at all,” said an English professor to a group of students before the email notification was sent out.
Crude UT-related Coronavirus memes began to circulate, and students spammed class GroupMe’s. I worried that the play for Shakespeare through the Performance course I was taking would get canceled. I realize, as I sit at home with my family and dogs without toilet paper and surrounded by closing businesses, I had been selfish. And as I watch the news showing bumbling college kids celebrating spring break at the Florida beaches, I redden with shame knowing I’m part of the same generation.
But even a few months, maybe weeks, ago, I was in the same boat of denial.
I remember one morning in January, as I skimmed through my daily digest of news, I saw the early reports of a novel virus breakout in Wuhan, China. Although I was concerned for those living there, I didn’t initially give it much thought; it was distant and had the vague underpinnings of the Zika and Ebola outbreaks from a few years ago. I thought it would shortly go away.
In February, after the Coronavirus had reached the United States, a friend in the backseat of a car anxiously scrolled through Reddit, post after post detailing where the Coronavirus had reached, and what others were doing to protect themselves. Still in denial, I let it flow in one ear and out the other: my thoughts were the same as those on social media—how is this worse than the flu?
But now, as I see Italy’s death tolls rise and hear of hospitalized friends of friends, I’m realizing that I should try to do my part to protect herd immunity. Are government officials, panicked parents and administrators overreacting? Maybe, but a comforting tweet that passed through my feed a few days ago reminded me that we’ll never know for sure if we overreacted, but we’d definitely know if we did too little.
I keep hearing–well, reading emails–from professors to find joy in this time of uncertainty.
But rather than uncertain, I just feel plain powerless. I’m doing all the things I love–working out, meditating, reading, writing, playing with my dogs–but it’s a lot harder knowing I’m doing them because I can’t do anything else and because I can’t go back to campus.
A professor recently told my roommate that we were living history as it happened and that we should be journaling, and I am, but I’m also remembering what–and who–is important in my life and finding solace in that. As soon as my dad gets the okay from his company to work from home, he’ll head back to Austin, where we’ll watch movies, play games and simply spend quality time with one another, hopefully without getting tired of each other too quickly. Until then, I wait, and I’ll continue to reflect on my experience during these strange times.