More than a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic upended our daily lives. Members of The Review share their thoughts about how the pandemic affected them:
I was in school on a Friday, March 13 (ironically enough) when the news of a mandatory quarantine broke out. At that time I didn’t think much of it and saw it as an extended spring break from school because I heard that it was only a few people who got the virus in the United States, so I thought it was just another Ebola outbreak situation that could be contained. As I look back on the past year I feel 50/50 on how things went. I understand that the circumstances couldn’t be helped, so I don’t overthink things on a personal level, but it is also quite disappointing seeing how our government, some citizens and the previous president handled the matter compared to outside countries. When I left my high school campus that Friday I did not think that would be my last full day of high school. I thought we would go back in two weeks’ time, finish our senior activities, such as prom and graduation, and that I would enjoy the summer following with my friends while preparing for my first year of college, but I was so wrong.
Some stories I have to share regarding COVID-19 is that since I work in healthcare, it was a bit crazy seeing how people like me were regarded as “heroes” for putting our lives at risk for the sake of others, especially when some of those people disregarded the virus. I found it quite selfish of people who refused to follow the safety guidelines solely because they believed their rights were being violated and that they were being controlled by the government. Over the past year, I have struggled a lot mentally as I had so much time on my hands to just get into my thoughts, and during the summer I was glued to my phone and did nothing else but live on social media. I became hyper aware of myself and started comparing myself to others and their accomplishments, and I barely left my room in the summer because there was no point in going outside since I wasn’t able to hangout with my friends for their safety and mine. I only went out for a few days out of the week when I needed to for work or for groceries. Unfortunately, a lot of my close friends and family got COVID-19, which was really scary because all you heard were the deaths caused by COVID-19, so you couldn’t help but think about it. Some positives that have come out of this year-long quarantine is that I have had enough time to myself to actually think over what I want in my life.
Prior to COVID-19 happening, I was in the midst of my college application/acceptance process and I was very unsure of what I wanted to do or afraid to go the untraditional route. With the time I had, I was able to create a plan for myself for my future that is realistic towards achieving my goals. Instead of rushing to decide to attend school out of state and figuring things regarding the financial aspects and my major out later, I had time to think about my financial situation and also with the pandemic upon us with no determined time of it being over while the school dynamic shifted from in person to online it would be better for me to join the university’s Associate in Arts Program, where I would be tuition free for two years and work to save money. I have also been able to delve back into some of my creative interests that I neglected in the past to focus on school. Lastly, I have been able to bond and get closer to my parents. Before the pandemic they worked day to night in order to make money to pay bills, so I barely saw them because I was also heavily involved in school. They both lost their jobs during the pandemic which sucked, but I was able to see them more that way and we got closer.
I was a high school student when the quarantine started, but I got the announcement that my school would be closing for two weeks on the same day that the university evacuated their campus. When I heard the news, I was in a dress rehearsal for my school’s production of “Mamma Mia,” and I was literally running from one scene to the next as I heard the news. I was honestly really upset, but I couldn’t do anything about it because I was on stage. However, I remember whispering and mouthing words to my friends onstage about what was happening, because we all just found out. I mostly felt really sad because we weren’t going to be able to do our last high school show when we planned to do it. Looking back on the past year I mostly feel disappointed. I feel like so many things happened, but it didn’t really count for anything because no one could do them the way they should be done. Prom, graduation, all of that junk, having my first college semester, just everything. It feels like everything happened but in a really insignificant way. When we first had school closed, I knew it was going to last longer than two weeks, but I was thinking it would only last for a couple of months, and then in the summer it would be fine. I thought things would be back to normal for my first fall semester, but they did not. I remember on the last day of school before the “two week break,” no one really did any work, and it really felt like the last day of school. I got to sit in the auditorium during lunch and hang out on the set, and it was all very sad. During my last period, I had a study hall so my friends and I just sat outside.
I have gotten MUCH more illness-related anxiety over this past year because of COVID-19. Anytime I have a headache or my throat is dry I feel like I have COVID-19. It has really affected my ability to socialize with my friends, because I am always nervous that I am infectious. Also online school is tough, but it’s tough for everyone I feel like. Something positive, however, is that I feel like since I had to stay home, I have bonded with my brother and sister more, as well as some of my highschool friends that I didn’t talk to that much before COVID-19.
Just as our parents’ generation will always remember what they were doing on 9/11, my generation will remember what they were doing on 3/11/2020 — exactly 18 and a half years later. While there is obviously a huge difference between a pandemic and a terrorist attack, both events impacted how we see the world and will have ripples that carry far into the future.
Like many, I was naive and did not originally understand the seriousness of the pandemic. As cases started to appear in the United States, and the rumors of the university shutting down began to percolate, I turned to writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote to try to comprehend it, but even that did not help. To this day, I feel that I don’t fully understand what has happened. In a very practical sense, maybe I do. But I am still shocked by how quickly the world transformed into something from a science fiction novel.
Maybe I learned a few things during the past year, but I will not write about what I have gained from the pandemic. COVID-19 took a lot from us — our jobs, our lives, our loved ones. And for most people, it’s truly been a horrible experience to have to live through.
Unlike the ripples that spread from 9/11 — increased United States military involvement in the Middle East, the growth of the military-industrial complex and Islamophobia — I hope that the ripples from the pandemic will contribute to positive change — more regard for the importance of our health, better government systems for responding to crises and so on. It will take time to see these ripples, but we all bear the burden of history on our shoulders just as we bear the burden of the future. If we choose now to act to correct the mistakes that led to the pandemic, that weight will lessen both for us and for those who exist long after we are gone.
On March 11, 2020 I was in the library studying for the three exams I thought I would have the next day. I was sitting with a group of people in my economics class, and we were all wondering if we should even be studying as we were hearing about other schools canceling classes. Then, all of a sudden, the email came through saying we’d be closed as well. Everyone in the library was either leaving or on the phone with their families. I was both in a state of disbelief and naively excited. I was free of my exams, I would get a little break from school and I could see my dogs. I could have never guessed that this would still be going on a year later, or that I would still be taking all of my classes online; I would have certainly thought things would be normal by fall 2020. Instead, I was back on campus a few days later to move my stuff out indefinitely. I still look back on this first phase of quarantine fondly though, mostly because I was surrounded by great people. My family formed a bubble with our neighbors, so my sister, our very close friend and I were hanging out every day going on walks, watching every Marvel movie and we were briefly really into baking. All in all, COVID-19 taught me to keep my loved ones close and appreciate the little things. It certainly was not always easy — I quickly learned to stop trying to make plans for the future. But I was really lucky to be surrounded by great people and to have everyone be safe and healthy (even if I complain constantly about my study abroad being canceled).
I often pride myself on my strong vocabulary, but I must admit that in March 2020, I did not truly know the definition of the word “pandemic.” Upon learning that I would be sent home from college because of a contagious disease, my most urgent priority became going to a crowded Harrington POD to spend all my unused dining points. I was not the only student with this ingenious idea. The thought of that ransacked Harrington POD still haunts me to this day. Then, it struck me that the appropriate course of action for the night would be to go hang out with my friends one last time. I asked to borrow my friend’s chapstick that night. This was not exactly my finest moment.
I, like many others, had no idea that a two week spring break would turn into a year of turmoil. If I could go back and talk to my March 2020 self, I would not tell her that in a week’s time, she would be wiping down groceries like a madwoman, or that in a year’s time, she would still be writing articles for The Review about COVID-19. For me, getting through the pandemic has meant taking life and whatever it throws at us day by day.
The past year is best described in one word: Rough. I feel like for a lot of people that is the best way to describe it around the nation and around the world. One year ago, I planned to go to New York City for a journalism and media convention that I felt would put me on a path to success. I sat in my political science class that morning as my professor told me we were basically getting sent home. I received an email from the professor in charge of the trip as my professor spoke. The trip got canceled. In the moment was I a tad bummed? Yes. I was close to an opportunity I thought would be a game changer in my very young time in student media. However, am I glad I did not go looking back? Hell yes. New York City served as a petri dish at that time and with little to no people wearing masks, I am sure to this day I would have contracted it. Fun Fact: The conference still did take place in person.
That is where I was the day it happened, the day the world changed. Where I am now, however, is largely different. The pandemic introduced me to something in my own head that I still carry to this day: doubt. Doubt in the entire situation. Doubt in the government. But worst of all, doubt in myself. I believe the overall effect the pandemic has had on almost every aspect of life is a reason why I feel so much doubt amongst my own life. I find myself asking questions on a daily basis. Will I find a real job out of college? Will I be successful? Will I pursue my dreams? Will my friendships still be the same? Are my current friendships still the same pre-COVID-19? The list can go on. However, with all these thoughts of doubt creeping into my head, it has taught me two things that help. The first thing is to find a thing or things I enjoy. I find myself watching sports more and taking a whole lot of pictures. I have even combined the two and have shot numerous Delaware sporting events since basketball began in December. I find it fun. I also use it as a way to take two things I am passionate about to help detox my mind a little bit. Secondly, I try to take things one day, one step at a time. A lot of the time I simply just need to slow my own thoughts down and just focus on what I can do in the moment. I feel that is something we all can use. As I said at the beginning, it is a rough time for everyone in some way, shape or form. The past year has in fact sucked. That said, we are one year closer to the end of this historic event than the beginning of it. I feel like maybe right now, that is all we can ask for.
Three weeks before the campus shutdown I became incredibly sick. I stayed alone in my apartment for two weeks with my boyfriend, who was also sick. A week before the University of Delaware cancelled classes, West Chester University, where my boyfriend attends, announced that it would cautiously shut down and move online for the remainder of the semester. I was jealous of my boyfriend who would get to stay home while I felt obligated to go on campus. Although I was wary of getting the mysterious virus, I am not a ‘skip class’ kind of person. Feeling slightly better, I trudged through what would be my final and only day on campus for March. During my mid-day class, my professor was visited by the chair of their department who privately told them that they and other faculty should prepare to move their classes online. This subsequently started a classwide conversation about an at-home future for the university. It was then that I got the strongest feeling that today would be my last day on campus for the year. As I was walking back to my car, there was a strange air around campus that only solidified my instincts. Instead of going back to my apartment, I decided to drive to my parent’s business where my boyfriend was currently working, so that I could be where everyone important in my life was. I obsessively checked my emails as my boyfriend drove us to pick up my sister from her last dance class and as she walked out of the door, the email came.
My family’s business is essential, so we were allowed to stay open when so many others had to close. We were very lucky and still thank our relatives for looking down on us to this day. However, that luckiness meant that we were one of only a few vendors that were still open, making us overwhelmed with online sales. We asked for help everywhere that we could just to maintain all the orders. My family, my boyfriend, and I would all start at 8 a.m. and would not stop working until 10 p.m. Even when the university continued online for the remainder of the Spring semester, I was still helping out just as much.
In the beginning, I believed that eventually, everything would return to normal. But as the summer continued it became clear that this would not be the case, as while in the beginning people banded together and supported one another, over time the shock and novelty of everything wore off and people returned to being selfish. I still struggle to wrap my brain around the enormous death toll of COVID-19. We are at a point where everyone personally knows someone who has either fallen ill with COVID-19 or who has passed away due to it. My family is beyond lucky to have been positively affected by the pandemic in contrast to so many others. That it is almost something that I am embarrassed to say. There are not enough words to describe how sick I feel when I look at the news and see the destruction created by this disease and the people who allow it to grow.
I think of quarantine and I think of Joan Didion a lot.
Specifically, I think of her 1979 book of essays, “The White Album.” I think of the way she characterized the 1960s: with the well meaning, but fraudulent activism, with the chaos and with the children who did not know how to read. I think mostly of the nervous breakdown she suffered during the 1960s; I think of how her nervous breakdown wasn’t just a sign of her deteriorating mental health, but a sign of the deteriorating times.
Like Didion, I, too, suffered a nervous breakdown. Not during the 1960s, but during a time of chaos in our own generation: quarantine. Suddenly, everything that I had worked so hard for seemed to dissipate: my job, certain relationships — some relationships can’t stand the test of solitary confinement — and my own sense of sanity. Like Didion, I began to question who I was amidst the chaos; who I was without the trappings of stability.
I talked with my therapist about this sense of chaos and impending doom and she told me that it might be good to have a mantra. Something grounding, something to say repeatedly when the sense that the world was ending became too much. She said it would help with my mental health. However, the only thing I could think was the infamous quote from “The White Album:” “The center will not hold.”
The center would not hold in the 1960s. The center will not hold in the 2020s. And maybe, just maybe, that’s a good thing.
When the center cannot hold, and there is complete and utter chaos, it means that the future is about to be radically restructured for better or for worse. In these cases, the center collapses, ushering in an era of something new. I think we have already seen the beginnings of that radical restructuring, especially with the election results, the growing awareness of police brutality and the availability of the coronavirus vaccine. Similarly, I believe in the radical restructuring of my own future. The center will not hold, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I meant that. I really do.
As I stood in the hallway of Russell E on what I thought was going to be a normal Wednesday, I couldn’t help but burst into tears. The university had just announced that they would be closing for the semester and we would have to be out of the dorms within the next few days. Just like that, my freshman year of college was ripped from underneath me. Two days prior, my friend and I were planning trips to Europe for my birthday in April because flights were so cheap. As I alternated between laying on my dorm floor crying and packing all of my belongings, I felt like I was living in a distant reality, one that did not belong to me. I still get a sense of that feeling sometimes, a year later. I took my last shower in Russell Hall E (the one part of freshman year that I do not actively miss) and cried to Kesha and Macklemore’s “Good Old Days” with a friend singing along in the shower stall next to me, and although it may have been dramatic at the time, I often find myself longing for pre-COVID-19 days. As I hugged my friends goodbye incredibly tightly, I had no idea the year that was in store for us.
In quarantine, I celebrated a birthday (thank goodness it was only my 19th, a rather irrelevant age), attempted a 1000 piece puzzle, and became very close with Aaron Hotchner and Spencer Reid of “Criminal Minds”. Although this time was hard and potentially isolating, I do cherish the unforeseen time I was able to spend with my family before I eventually tackle the real world and move out (Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” has become an anthem for me after the months of quality time.)
The other day I saw a tweet that made me realize something: the last time I stepped foot into a college classroom, I was a freshman and the next time I do so, I will be a junior, at least. I understand that I didn’t miss out on a graduation, prom, or any other major event and for that, I am thankful. But when you have already lost a year of your college experience, it is hard to not feel cheated and bitter. After this incredibly long and tumultuous year, I crave normalcy with every waking moment. (Also cross your fingers that normalcy comes soon, because I have tickets to see Harry Styles in October.)
Thinking back to a year ago today brings back a feeling of nostalgia and yearning for when we were all naive to what was to come. I remember getting the notification that classes were being cancelled and we were being sent home. My first thought was, does this mean I still have to do my English presentation? Looking back now, my presentation for English 110 should have been the least of my worries. But, at the time, I had no idea what was to come. From the moment I got the notification to the moment I left campus, it felt almost apocalyptic. I clearly remember racing to the POD to try and use all my points to get a ridiculous amount of snacks. Everyone else had the same idea because it was one of the longest lines I’ve ever been in. It makes me cringe thinking about it now considering there were no masks in sight at that time. In that moment, the POD was a mixture of laughs, adrenaline and an overwhelming feeling of, what is happening right now? After buying as many bags of Lays Cheddar and Sour Cream and Onion chips that I could fit in my arms, I went outside and called my dad to tell him the news. That moment was the closest I will ever be to being the main character of a young adult dystopian novel. The wind was blowing, people were running, people were crying and the threat of “some strange virus” was now uprooting our lives. When the realization settled in that I wouldn’t be coming back for the rest of the semester, I realized how upset I actually was. I spent my fall freshman year abroad, so spring 2020 was my first real semester on campus. I felt like I was missing out on something huge, and I’m sure most of us still feel like that. I eventually returned home for lockdown where I became a professional Netflix binge watcher and I inevitably succumbed to learning Tik Tok dances for entertainment. Everything has changed so much throughout this year, thinking about when life was “normal” makes me eager for the end of the pandemic. To help us all return to normalcy and how life was before a year ago, wear a mask and follow guidelines. I’m begging you.
The shutdown of campus was pretty relaxed for me, all things considered. I called my mom to discuss my options, packed my things up and left a couple of days later to move back to my house just an hour away. I was fortunate to not have to worry about where I’d be or how I’d get there; I had a car and a family ready to get me back home. Early quarantine was remarkably okay. Looking back on it I realize it was probably the most free time I’d had during the spring in years, especially as my professors struggled to provide equally challenging courses while pivoting to a brand new format (a blessing in disguise, though not for my ability to actually retain what I was learning during the Lost Semester). Instead I figured out what I wanted to do with myself. I started walking every day, noticing more of the things in my suburban neighborhood as I walked block after block and all throughout places I hadn’t spent so much time around since I was young. I started cooking more, using fresh ingredients from the local farmers market that managed to create a COVID-19-safe method of operation. And I watched a truly insane amount of movies, clocking in at 275 before the year ended, a good three-quarters of those coming from that March to August period.
But no matter how I occupied myself, I still felt weird being at home. Especially since before returning to campus in February (such an innocent time), I had spent a month in Italy for study abroad (staying just ahead of COVID-19 the entire time we were there). Being thrown from a place I felt more purposeful and new to somewhere I had to be independent and back to where I spent 18 years of my life was a whiplash unlike any other I’ve felt. Quarantine consisted of a lot of getting comfortable with that “being home” while being stuck at home.
I have spent a lot of this year relatively isolated and extremely frustrated. And really, so angry at times — an emotion I genuinely did not have a lot of experience with prior to this pandemic. One year ago, I was living in Newark with three of my closest friends, still in my “2020 will be a good year!” phase, and seeing people I cared about on a daily basis. I had a job that I despised, but I felt supported in a variety of other ways.
Once I moved back home to Brooklyn and my mom was finally calmed and happy I was safe, the stress became really obvious. I was too scared to spend too much time outside. My mom had not one but two COVID-19 scares that left her terrified for her life as her hospital filled with the dead and their ICU stayed at full capacity. She was floated from her normal position to a high-contact position with COVID patients — something that was absolutely necessary, but terrifying to watch. Seeing my mom in full-PPE made me oddly proud that she was trying her best to save lives and provide care while the City of New York was setting up a literal hospital ship due to the lack of available beds, but we were really scared. To be frank, she was scared she was going to die — and she absolutely could have. It was really bad.
I’m glad we’re past a lot of it, and I’m glad we can say it’s been a year. It was honestly not the best year — I’m sure many, many people will agree with me. I found myself losing respect for a lot of people. But tomorrow morning, I will be lucky enough to receive my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, all because I have weak lungs. It’s a good sign; it’s really the most hopeful sign I’ve gotten in a year.
And wow, have I baked a lot.
I’m gonna be honest, I kinda saw the writing on the wall and it being Friday the 13th made it even more evident that life was never gonna be the same. I am not a superstitious person mind you, but this was the closest I became to believing superstitions.
I was really excited at first because I was like “no in-person classes and an early spring break? Hell yeah!” Oh how naive I was. I remember being excited and sharing this sentiment with a good friend of mine who was in the same class as me when the announcement came that we were going home early. We went to the school store and stocked on hand sanitizer, hand wipes and an assortment of snacks! We talked about how we were gonna be able to talk to our group chat on Discord everyday, me releasing music and expanding my discography and doing whatever I wanted. I really didn’t think about how bad things would become, much on a national level.
With the amount of disinformation, misinformation and the downright apathy that the government and even people would portray. Of course, corporations would do anything to not pay their employees their fair share of work, but the audacity of the house and senate not providing a recurring stimulus and bickering about the littlest things were agitating to watch. Additionally, watching the former president tweeting about “Sleepy Joe” instead of doing his job made me lose my hope everyday. 2020 was a very hard year and many lost their livelihoods, which could’ve been entirely prevented had the government and people had been more empathetic and actually cared, but no, people were saying how the coronavirus was caused by 5G towers or how it was maliciously spread by China. It was heartbreaking and infuriating.
Recently, it has been getting better, but it’s far from over. We’re in the clearing, but we’re not out of the woods yet.
I know this is super cliche but I will never forget when we got the news about evacuating campus due to COVID-19. I found out during my public policy class when we all got an email and that’s when the chatter started. March 11th is my best friend’s (of 11 years) birthday and we all met up at Grotto’s that night talking about the crazy news we had received earlier that day. Literally all of us thought it would be a short term thing, just an extended spring break or something. My mom had actually called a couple days before saying “hey there’s this virus going around on college campuses just stay safe and all” and I had literally just been to a party like that past weekend, not thinking much of anything from her remarks; just usual mom things. Turns out she was so very right.
For me it has been difficult considering the fact that I’m in the World Scholars program, so I was abroad, in Rome, Italy, fall 2019 and after coming back was immediately sent home within a month, without having any time on campus. I felt like it was no big deal at the time because I figured I’d be coming back soon. I still did fully move out all my stuff the following day or two because I live close by so I knew it’d be fine if I had to come back. A lot of my friends decided to stay until the university officially sent everyone home. I just remember chaos and confusion, but there was definitely still hope.
Through this time in quarantine since March 2020 to now May 2021 I have to say I was in some dark places and also some places of light as well. As an only child being sent home to just be in my room living with my parents has been very difficult. Of course I love my family, but I spent a lot of my time in my thoughts, which can be a very dangerous place at times.
I have been able to be more intentional with my relationships with people and take more of an effort. I’ve recognized a lot about mental health and my favorite hobbies. I feel like I reconnected with myself. As someone who used to have every little detail of my entire life figured out, a pandemic was never in the schedule. This was quite a setback for me, but what I’ve realized is that I need to take things as they come because not everything can be planned to the T. I’ve used my time during this pandemic to get ahead of the curve in terms of taking remote opportunities and growing myself as a person. For example, I started a podcast over the summer last year during some of my free time. I feel more than ready to take on the world post-pandemic, whenever that is.
This goes without saying, but my positivity in this situation does not in any way mean I have been happy this whole time. It has been awfully tough and especially this semester, being one of my hardest, and all online living at home has been tough as hell. I’ve simply learned that since I can’t control some things, like the handling of a pandemic, all I can do is take things one day at a time and be content with that.