Back in February 2020, I remember being in the doctor’s office with my mom at the University Health Sciences Campus talking about the arrival of the fifth known case of coronavirus in the United States. This case happened in my home state of Arizona and infected a college student returning from Wuhan, China.
Back then, I did not take fears of the coronavirus spread too seriously. I expected such fears to be temporary as I saw back in 2014 with the concerns over the Ebola virus outbreak.
My first sign of taking the disease seriously came when the announcement to postpone the 2019-2020 NBA season occurred. I still recall walking into the Village Dining Hall and seeing on the television monitor the suspension of the Kings-Pelicans game. I went back into my apartment and prepared myself to go back home for spring break. At that point, every student realized the likelihood of being able to come back to campus was slim despite emails telling students of a possible return in April.
I hopped aboard the Tufesa travel bus on my way back home to Arizona. Arriving at the bus terminal in Phoenix, I informed my parents that I brought with me a few toilet paper rolls and an entire bottle of hand sanitizer since this was the time when everyone entered into panic mode. I perceived such an attitude from everyone as being concerning due to a feeling that the pandemic represented a doomsday event.
When I got picked up from the terminal, my parents informed me that my dad had lost his food service job that he had held for many years. His former employer faced troubles keeping the company afloat even before the pandemic had occurred. The global crisis put the last nail in the coffin in the fate of the company. Immediately, panic entered my mind until they both clarified that he had obtained a new job with a new company as a food worker. I breathed a sigh of relief considering how most people dealt with the prospect of unemployment. I never thought such a dilemma would ever enter into my own personal life.
I eventually settled back at home and took advantage of that. One of my journalism professors had to push back the date of his assigned midterms because he needed to transition students from taking the exam in an in-classroom environment to taking the exam on Blackboard.
I felt lucky that most of my classes could be done online. If something positive came out of the pandemic in its early stages, it was that I was able to complete my midterm without too much worry. In fact, most of my test-taking sessions ended up being open book.
Eventually, the seriousness of the pandemic dawned on me as I saw cases getting higher in my own state. I always logged online to check the number of people who became infected or suffered fatalities. I checked into the news and grew angry seeing people not taking the virus seriously. The pandemic proved to be incredibly overwhelming, and I grew concerned for my mental health.
My thinking eventually got to the point where I wondered what would happen if someone in my own family got infected. By far, no one from any friend group knew about anyone who had contracted the virus. Still, I couldn’t help but see news article after article about the most recent celebrity being infected or about the possibility that the virus could be spread through the delivery of mail. I still recall one of the final family gatherings that I had attended before the governor issued the stay-at-home order. Some close family friends and I separated ourselves from the adults at the family gathering since we all knew of the higher risk of infection associated with older people.
I became saddened to see many aspects of my daily life change including attending church. My family and I had gone to one final Catholic Mass before my parish postponed future gatherings. During that final Mass, none of us were allowed to shake hands during the “Peace be with you” salutation. Of course, we switched to watching Mass virtually, but the atmosphere did not feel the same.
I turned back to my classes and how I would try to go through them. When the structure of some of my classes changed, I became disappointed at the fact that I would no longer be able to interact with my peers. Being online was not the same because I constantly stared through a digital screen, which proved to be quite tiresome.
Being back home, though, turned out to be beneficial as it gave me an opportunity to be with my family that I had not seen for a while. My parents, always worried about me being out of state, were happy that I returned.
We all improvised and worked hard in order to adjust to the conditions set up by the pandemic. I eventually worked out a way to attend classes and be involved in news media.
I fought back my fears and continued attending my classes as usual. Of course, learning would now be different, but I did not want to digress from my classes.
My confidence in taking classes increased as time went on and I was able to immerse myself in my courses this time online. Furthermore, being in this pandemic demonstrated that I should never take any opportunities for granted and that I should be grateful for being alive.
The school year came to a close, but I earned good grades and realized the significance of expecting the unexpected. I find it difficult to admit, but I found myself slowly beginning to procrastinate. In a sense, the pandemic caused me to reflect over my own life. If I could not go campus and take classes regularly, what was the point? Why should I continue to do the work and put in the effort when everything around me is going downhill? To this day, those questions still linger in my mind.
With the help of family and friends, I managed to push and understood what I needed to do in order to succeed academically. Moreover, religion also represented an element of significance during the tough times. Even though we could not attend church, my own mother reminded us to place our trust in God’s hands.
Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic did impact some aspects of our family’s and friends’ lives. Over the summer, my mother lost a colleague that she used to work with and one of her cousins that resided in Mexico. It took a while but the coronavirus did enter into the lives of the people that we knew and cared about. Hearing such news proved to be devastating and I felt sympathy for those affected. No one in my primary family circle has contracted the coronavirus, but I try to remain optimistic and hope that I can continue to look at a brighter future without being affected by the virus.
I look forward to the day when I am able to go back to USC and be able to take classes in person once again. Funnily enough, my parents and I joke around. They have admitted that they don’t want me to return since I’ve spent so much time with them during the pandemic. I don’t dismiss their feelings; I understand how much they care for me, and I would certainly like to have them with me at my side even if I return back to campus in Fall 2021.