Coronavirus. You hear it all everywhere, from the conversation happening at the table to the TV playing in the background. It’s almost as if the word is as infectious as the disease itself. Will you catch it? Will you give into the temptation of weighing in your opinion on the epidemic? And when you do, will your opinion even matter?
Fear of catching this virus has driven universities all around the country to close down campuses because as seen in the senior homes in Kirkland, WA, people living in close quarters is the perfect ground for the virus to thrive. In less than a day, six of my friends left for home and suddenly the campus felt unhealthily vacant. Things are changing, and it’s going too fast for me to process. COVID-19 brought upon this community unforeseen circumstances that we did not project before.
I am young and healthy. An 18-year-old Asian American girl studying at Stanford is labeled as having potential to change the world. I will admit that sometimes it feels like I do, given the fact that I have the privilege of studying at a highly regarded institution. I wake up every day extremely thankful for being on campus and for having the opportunity to contribute to a community that I know will support me in any endeavor I choose to take on. It’s almost as if I can see my momentum in front of me, the parallel strings of success blurring my vision as I scramble for every opportunity that floats to the surface.
It’s because I am so acutely aware of this momentum that I can physically feel it in my body when it suddenly stops. It’s like my reality ceases and is suddenly suspended in gray matter. Almost as if a vehicle stopped and I am thrown through the windshield because my mental energy was still going forward. That kind of impact.
When we received the email today from the university saying that spring quarter would be online indefinitely, everything around me collapsed. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know when I would be seeing my friends again. In less than two hours, I would have to say goodbye to the freedom and flexibility of college life and return back to my old life. What can I keep that will allow me to cling to the autonomy of dorm life? The part that pulls me down the most is the uncertainty and the loss of control. I have never felt less control in my life regarding my circumstances, my wellbeing, and my relationships with others.
Winter quarter was undoubtedly going to be ten weeks of struggle. We all knew that. We even laughed about it because it is a stereotype that holds true for good reason. I expected the work. I didn’t expect the inexplicable mountain of emotional and mental struggle that would accompany it without invitation.
My roommate and friend who I trusted the most on campus left for home towards the beginning of the quarter. It was then that I was aware of how pierceable the mental state is. I felt so vulnerable without having someone to come home to, a face to wake up to in the morning and to fall asleep to at night. I miss making her laugh. I miss sharing snacks. I miss hearing the key rattle in the lock and feeling a spark at joy that I would have someone to talk to. I miss caring for someone who I know would care for me just as equally without having to ask because it is the unwritten rule in our relationship. The unspoken language of our dynamic highlighted my happiness at Stanford.
It was her absence that led me to begin to rely on others for support because I felt so vulnerable sitting in the middle of a large dorm room by myself. I made a lot of new friends, which was wonderful, but I fell into the fear of superficial relationships in the wider scope of the university.
As winter quarter went on, I somehow allowed emotions and distrust to cloud and infect a friendship I value so much and wish I could return to despite current hesitations. Many of my memories of acceptance lay with that person. I also met so many other people that I wish I had gotten to know better earlier during the year, but my extracurriculars stole me away from them. I overcommitted myself to theatre in hopes of drowning in the practicality of life rather than the sentimental and now I wish that I had indulged in both.
This indefinite period of not knowing when I will see the people who changed my life is tearing me apart every hour. I try to forget about it, but my journey back home pulls me physically away from them mile by mile. I will learn to live day by day, I know that for sure. I have to. I keep thinking upon the things that I wish I could do or that I hope will come, but I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to rekindle the friendships in the way that I imagine. It’s not like I have a choice. Everyone has scattered. It forces you to reflect upon and look back upon your conversations and realize that despite any tension you currently feel, your friendships are beautiful. There are nuances in every single string of texts that reveal why you want to be near these people. It makes me so happy, and it helps me let go of any negative emotions, hesitations, and fears of judgment. It’s unfortunate that it takes something as large as COVID-19 to get me to reflect upon that.
While I am sad to be absent from my community, I’ve grown to be appreciative of the individuals in my life who gave me happiness and who caused me pain. It’s these highs and lows of life that shape the human experience because it gives you moments to gauge your emotions off of. I choose to look back on these past two quarters with warmth and gratitude because I feel so grateful to even be where I am today. I don’t know what the future will bring, but these feelings will carry me through until COVID-19 has died down and I can return to my other home.