What students have learned about themselves living in COVID-19 pandemic: Student Voices winners
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many students have developed new hobbies and strengths, come to appreciate family and friends, and face a wide variety of emotions.
In the first of 2021 Asbury Park Press Student Voices Essay contest, we posed the question: What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
Our students have shared with us the transformation and growth they have achieved during the pandemic. Below are the winning essays for December, as judged by the Press editorial staff.
First place winner: Grades 7-8
It’s okay to feel worried
The year of 2020 has been interesting, to say the least. I have learned many things about myself during the course of the pandemic. Let’s just say that I am not known to be the most optimistic person; I am a bit of a pessimist and an overthinker. It suddenly occurred to me one day, when I had been in a particularly nasty mood: I was always a fairly reasonable child. I managed emotions well. I wouldn’t cry when I didn’t receive a toy that I wanted. It was not typical of me to perform nonsensical actions- temper tantrums, unreasonable decisions, and fits of anger were not a typical trait of mine. I was entertained easily. I was creative. I had never really dealt with true stress, real stress, until this year. Or real boredom.
I am an artist; I almost never run out of ideas. I perceive light and color and shapes in many different ways. I paint. I draw. But dealing with quarantine was a whole different obstacle to deal with together. Stress saps away my creativity- and I can get pretty cranky if I feel like I am not doing anything productive. It was not until this year that I realized how adaptable I am. Or how simple it is to deal with stress. I could have saved so much time and energy if I had realized that it’s okay to feel worried, that I shouldn’t panic over new situations too much.
I don’t like change; I generally dislike travelling and other things in that category. When New Jersey had to go into quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t very happy, but as an introvert, I figured that it would be nice to have two weeks to recharge my energy. Well, two weeks turned into a month. A month turned into two months. At the two-month mark, I began to become extremely bored. I had nothing to do in my free time besides sit at a computer screen. I was dissatisfied with my work.
I felt like the once creative and sunny part of my mind was engulfed in mist. I didn’t know how to get out of it. At around three months of quarantine, I realized that the reason why I was struggling so much with work and school was because of stress. I realized I needed to calm down. When I was a child, I did yoga and stretching exercises. I decided to start that again. Immediately following the start of this I felt so much better. It was like magic. I began having confidence in my work again; I began rapidly improving. So great was the feeling of happiness that I never wanted to utter a pessimist word again in my life (sadly, this didn’t happen, I can still be a bit negative sometimes).
One day, you may be overwhelmed by something or someone in your life. Do not give in. Keep yourself afloat. Don’t let yourself be swallowed up by the vast and dark waters of sorrow. If you persist for long enough, you will get through any difficult situation that challenges you. And most of all, remember this: there is always someone who cares about you. You matter. Stay strong.
Teacher: Melinda Willems
Ocean Township Intermediate School
First place winner: Grades 9-12
Overcoming obstacles is part of life
A whirlwind of negativity surrounds 2020. When things do not go as planned we as humans tend to immediately panic, throwing blame and projecting our own guilt onto others. But personally I find that change, while difficult, is just a test that I have to strive to overcome on my own. Growing up is all about self discovery through unexpected ways, of course, a global pandemic is not something I planned on experiencing, but two words come to mind when I look back on this year and my journey through it: acceptance and growth.
I try to remember my life before everything shut down. I was free to go wherever, be as close to others as I wanted, and invest too much into everything happening around me. I thought that I was a social butterfly, that being in a group was where I was meant to be. But while home with just my family, I quickly learned that using other people as a distraction was just a way for me to avoid looking into who I really was. Whether it was to validate my feelings or just entertain me with useless drama, I realized that relying on others so much was an unhealthy way to live. So while the world hid, I found myself. I accepted that this was how it was going to be for now, and that I was given this time as an opportunity to rest, and heal, and break myself down and start from scratch. Grieve for everything that was gone, but also find new things everyday that made this kind of lonely life worth living. Filling my days with my family and activities like long nature walks, music, and art helped me grow into a strong, independent, and stable young woman during a time filled with such instability.
No, this was not easy. Yes, there were a lot of hard days and tears shed...and I’m not even done yet! This year is not over, this pandemic is not over, my life is not over. I have so much more change to grow through and so much more to discover about myself. Overcoming obstacles is part of life, so all I can ask is; what next?
Teacher: Melissa Pitman
Academy of Allied Health and Science
Second place winner: Grades 7-8
Are you really ok?
Emotions are confusing, they're unpredictable and hard to control. During quarantine, I was focusing more on myself and found I was emotionally unstable. I found it hard to be happy when things were going right, and I found it difficult to be sad when things weren’t working out. I found myself crying at random times when my day was going well or if it was complete haywire. I was aware that something didn’t feel right, but I shrugged it off and told myself it was normal. I was lying to myself, but the more I did, the harder it got to tell the difference between a lie and a truth.
As time went by, I started to distance myself from my parents. I started refusing hugs and I stopped telling them I love them. Of course I cared about them, but the idea of getting a hug or saying “I love you” was uncomfortable to me. That’s when I started to feel alone and less energetic than usual. This caused me to procrastinate with school and I felt overwhelmed. I spent the majority of my time in my bedroom on my bed doing schoolwork or using my phone. There was a time where I forgot the last time I stepped outside. Everything felt boring to the point where even eating was boring.
One day, my friend Dania introduced Japanese cartoons called Anime. I was captivated by them and used them as a way to escape reality. Running away from your problems isn’t a way to solve them. I knew that, but I just enjoyed myself because at least I was happy. I watched them almost everyday, and one day I came across an anime where the protagonist was trying to get control of her feelings and trying to understand them. Along the way she realized that her problem was that she was hiding her emotions because she thought that if she showed them, she would be a problem. That’s when it clicked.
It was like I found the last piece to an unsolved puzzle. My problem was that I was hiding and holding in my emotions, and it resulted in me losing control. It made me forget when to cry, laugh, and yell. From that day on I started to express my emotions. I felt free like a bird soaring through the sky. I started to hug and tell my parents I loved them. I could finally control the steering wheel of my emotions. I was no longer being devoured by them. I was eating well and getting the proper amount of sunlight. I was happy that I no longer needed to escape reality.
Emotions are confusing, they're unpredictable and hard to control. At times you feel that showing your emotions makes you a problem and annoying. You feel like reality is not worth a shot and try to escape it, but you're wrong. Emotions are a way of defining who you are as a person. Your emotions will not make you a problem or annoying. Telling someone how your feeling is only gonna help you. This quarantine I learned that you should never try to hide or hold in your feelings.
Teacher: Melinda Willems
Ocean Township Intermediate School
Second place winner: Grades 9-12
Personal Renaissance of self-discovery
I spend most of my time alone. And I’m fine with it because I’ve always been good at keeping myself occupied; I’ve always known that. But when the world closed and locked it’s doors for the past ten months I’ve realized how much I rely on seeing people in-person and going places to see or talk to others at all. I don’t get many calls or texts from friends and I’m usually fine with that because we pick up right where we left off whenever we see each other in person.
But now we can’t see each other in person.
Quarantining was fine, I guess. You know, as fine as it can be. Most of my hobbies I can do on my own anyway: reading, writing, art, anything to do with music, cooking, and playing video games (most of which are single player anyway). I bet a lot of people would complain about having to stay in their houses 24/7, but I’m not one of them. Really. I’m not. Being completely honest, my schedule hadn’t really been affected all that much, besides school and stuff. But why, all of a sudden, do I have the urge to get out of the house and do something? I’m sure plenty of people have been feeling this recently, but I’ve never really felt like this before. I guess now that I can’t, it makes me want to do it more.
When school started again, I joined every club or activity that caught my eye. Even though I still sometimes complain about my extracurriculars, I’ve been meeting people, and talking to them, and becoming friends with them; I’m exhausted between schoolwork and after-school activities, but I’m happy.
Although the lesson I’ve learned appears to be relating to the importance of interpersonal relationships, what I’ve really learned was confidence. I, like a majority of people around the world, have had a surplus of free time on my hands to spend by myself and I’ve used that time to discover new things about myself, new passions, and new ways to creatively express myself. My becoming more comfortable with myself has allowed me to do things I never thought I could and show the world a better version of myself. I’m in the middle of a personal Renaissance of self-discovery, self-expression, and self-love.
Teacher: Susan Kuper
Point Pleasant Borough High School
Third place winner: Grades 7-8
Normal people would think that a messy, hard working, and dirty stable could never seem like home to someone. I am not a normal person. I see a filthy barn as the ideal place to spend my summer. Over the course of the pandemic, everything normal faded, disappeared, and crumpled into what is now our ¨new normal.¨ My original lifelines have begun to fade. Ice Hockey was postponed and I couldn't see my friends and family as much as I would like. But even in the worst of times, something good can come out of it. That is how I found my new lifeline.
It may seem weird or different to other people that I ride horses, but just like any other
lovable animal, horses both give unconditional love and are great companions. As the pandemic shut down events, I was becoming both lazy and unmotivated. The only thing that kept me from these threats was the most unlikely animal, my horse, Max. He is the most amazing horse I have ever met, he has the most loving and caring personality. He's coat is a mix of black, and a gold- tinted bay(light and dark browns), with a pure white star marking on his forehead. His mane and tail are ebony black, and his light bay is offset by his black marking scattered all along his body.
He provided me with an outlet, a way to deal with the restrictions, loneliness, and the lack of motivation. Horses are animals that people don't expect to be a girl's best friend and treasured companion.
Teacher: Mrs. Orosz
Memorial Middle School
Third place winner: Grades 9-12
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, my life has turned into a living oxymoron. The dismay hindered my natural routine of living. It is as if the spark of optimism within me has been shut off. Albeit the conspicuous negatives, I attempted to find the “light in the darkness.” Although the beginning of the pandemic brought a depletion to my mental health, steady progression is oncoming.
Each of my hobbies and exercises represents a light in a room. The lights turned off progressively until I was left alone with the darkness and the enigma of my inner thoughts. Singing, off. Theatre, Off. Piano, Off. Hanging out with friends? Off. The overwhelming amalgamation of emotions as my mind attempted to process the sudden change became unbearable.
Normative living? Off. The abrupt collapse of enterprises and businesses flipped an off-switch on regular daily practices. This was the moment of realization that I had taken many aspects of life for granted. As an extroverted person, I thrive off of the happiness and joy of others. I needed a human connection. I needed a conversation, not muffled volume. I needed to see eyes, nose, and mouth. It was different behind a screen. The light switch in my mind was not off. The power went out, and it refused to turn back on.
My depression and anxiety depleted progressively. I did not want this. To be fair, no one wants the emotions of emptiness and dread. I so longed for change and the dissipation of my uncertainty and loneliness. However, one thing was for sure, I was not alone. I began consulting a therapist and began conversing with my friends and family. I started adapting to the abrupt adjustments. Life began writing a new variation of normalcy.
I am delighted with my leisurely and steady progression. I am enthusiastic about the pursuit of new hobbies and interests. I now appreciate and relish the little things in life more. My family being loud, the smell of home-cooked meals, and even the faint sunlight beaming through my window make waking up worth it. The aid of my friends and family is the generator that powers my light within. My light switch is on, and I want to keep it on.
Teacher: Donna Mulvaney
Donovan Catholic High School
Honorable Mention Winners
Sara Cook, Grade 7, Point Pleasant Borough School, Teacher: Shannon Orosz
Leah Gerdes, Grade 7, Point Pleasant Borough School, Teacher: Melissa Hans
Miriam Priborkina, Grade 7, Manalapan Englishtown Regional School, Teacher: Cassie Capadona
Emma Conroy, Grade 10, Donovan Catholic, Teacher: Donna Mulvaney
Samantha Keller, Grade 10, Donovan Catholic, Teacher: Donna Mulvaney
Marlee Card, Grade 11, Point Pleasant Borough High, Teacher: Susan Kuper
My Life During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Written by Paige Dodd
Though certain things in my life have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I would say I have so far been one of the lucky people who has not been too negatively affected.
Currently, no one dear to me has been infected and hopefully that does not change in the days following this publication. Those in my life who are especially at risk have been practicing social distancing and staying in their homes, as everyone should continue to do.
I have been fortunate enough to still be able to make an income. My two campus jobs moved online, and though I’m grateful to still be able to earn money through them, my hours have suffered. Luckily, I work for a veterinary clinic, which is an essential business, and with the cancellation of on-campus classes and sports, I have been able to work more shifts there.
However, as it is with everyone, I still have been impacted by the measurements we all have had to take to avoid spreading this virus.
As a student-athlete, the sport of track and field has been a huge part of my everyday life for the past several years. COVID-19 took away my senior outdoor track and field season. Though the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has given all seniors another season of eligibility, I’m still unsure as to whether I will be able to take advantage of that since I’m set to graduate this spring.
Though running is still an available form of exercise, recent injuries have prevented me from being able to run too much or too hard. The closure of weight rooms prevents me from being able to lift, which is one of my favorite activities to do. I have often used lifting as an outlet for any built-up frustration, but now I’m unable to do that even though I could certainly use it.
I have applied for an EOU Master’s degree, but unless I get a graduate assistant (GA) position, I might not be able to go through with the program due to costs. As of right now, I have no idea what will happen. If I am unable to join the Master’s program, then I won’t be able to compete in uniform. I may never get the chance to achieve and surpass the goals I had for myself.
The pandemic has also prevented me from being able to travel. It has always been my dream to visit other countries. My parents and I were going to take a trip to Europe this summer. I was extremely excited and having to postpone the trip was quite devastating for me. I’m grateful that it was only postponed until next year and not cancelled entirely.
Even through all the negative things that have happened, there has been a silver lining. With the cancellation of sports and a light class load, I have gotten to spend more time with my dog. I was even able to bring home a foster dog that I have been working with. Either my roommate or I will adopt her, though we have yet to talk that out. Though it may be difficult at times, it’s important to keep your head up and remember that this won’t go on forever. Make the best of it in any way that you can
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What I’ve learned about myself during the COVID-19 pandemic
Written by adam lambe, voices - experience.
Young people share their personal experiences.
The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has put a lot of strain on everyone. The pandemic has affected me in a lot of ways, mostly my productivity, motivation and my mental and physical health . However, during this time I have learned more about myself and my habits than I have in a very long time. In spite of the trouble these past few weeks have caused me, I have found some solutions that have made my life easier.
Being productive each day
The first thing that left me when we got off school was my productivity. I lost all motivation to do any schoolwork and spent most of my day in bed. I could hardly find the willpower to get up before noon. This took a while to change and it was hard to see the point in getting up to do schoolwork when you could just pretend your internet was down! After a few days of not doing work, it was beginning to pile up and was becoming more daunting.
To start to change my bad habit I first had to figure out what I need to do in order to motivate myself. After a bit of thinking, I figured that I would eventually have to face some sort of assessment and I wanted to do well. I want to get into a college course I will enjoy. This was a big stride in motivating me to be productive and do my school work. After this, I decided I needed to prioritise my schoolwork and break it into smaller sections so it wouldn’t feel as daunting.
I have discovered that rest is key for me to have a fun and productive day so finding a good balance between work and play was very important to me. I decided to work early in the day as I am most focused, calm, and I can get most of my work done. I always put my phone on silent so as not to distract me, but I also make sure I take a break from schoolwork every 45 minutes as I find I start to lose focus after that.
Dealing with loneliness
Although we may live with our family or in the company of other people this can still feel like a lonely time and maybe even an unsafe time. I feel this is a very important time for us to look after ourselves. The most important way to do this for me was to reach out to my friends and keep in touch with them, calling sometimes daily to check up on them. I use my usual apps like Snapchat and Instagram to keep in touch, as well as Zoom, Google Duo and Hangouts.
For many reasons, some people may feel like they can’t reach out to friends. Thankfully there are many amazing people that are on hand to chat with when we are feeling lonely , sad or anxious during this time. People working with SpunOut.ie, Jigsaw, Samaritans and Childline are all there to talk.
Exercise, sleep and healthy food
Apart from feeling lonely this time can also bring days where I just feel shit and I have found that exercise , sleep and a good diet has dramatically improved this. Anytime I heard that trio of suggestions I felt they were cliché and wouldn’t actually help, but they do! Recently I have decided to structure my days very rigidly. In this schedule, I include my meal and exercise plan for the day as well as periods to relax and watch TV and most importantly, time in the evenings to wind down so I can have a good night’s sleep. Each day I plan time to have a walk and a cycle, within 2km of my house to stick to HSE guidelines ! The extra bit of exercise along with eating healthier has greatly increased my mood, my energy and my productivity each day. While this approach definitely does not suit everyone, I would suggest to anyone, give it a go!
Focusing on the positives
To help me from feeling too worried or anxious, I try to see the bright side to this situation and to keep an optimistic view of the future. For me, one of the positive aspects of this situation is the extra free time I have! This is an opportunity to learn new skills, adopt new hobbies and even a time to work on self-improvement! During my free time, I have done small but exciting things such as rearranging my room, working on my writing skills and working on projects with my local Comhairle Na nÓg. I have also used some of my newfound time to learn new delicious recipes for my dinner and have improved my cooking. Since I value my rest and relaxation a great deal, I always set aside time every evening to watch a new movie and I have begun many new series on Netflix and Disney+.
The pandemic likely won’t end tomorrow, so it is really important that we adapt our lifestyles to this new environment so we do not lose track of our schoolwork nor ourselves. Finding a balance that suits you and a structure that allows you to be productive and have fun makes this time a lot easier to deal with. If you were to walk away from this with anything, make time in your day to do the things you enjoy, stay in contact with your friends and explore different ways that you work best.
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Your Say: What lessons have you learned during the pandemic?
We asked: What have you learned about yourself, your family and your community after one year of the pandemic?
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Anger lingers, along with hope for future
I have learned from this pandemic the sad results of an overly contagious disease. Each night our news has the latest totals of illnesses and deaths. These totals flash me back to the days of the Vietnam War when the numbers of dead and wounded soldiers were announced. It sickened us each dinner hour. The horror is even greater now, for our numbers are staggering.
I learned that personal contact and socialization play a bigger part in all our lives than I ever understood. As a lucky senior with a loving supportive husband, not alone in isolation, and encouraging, friendly neighbors, friends and family, I’ve suffered. The distancing, the lack of activities in groups, all dimmed my spirit. As an upbeat, laughing sort, surprisingly I was hit in spite of being blessed.
I think of family — our grandkids struggling with school, their adolescence stifling in confinement, missing senior school year activities, experiencing college online. They have lost learning opportunities and personal growth from interactions with others. Their lives have forever changed. Sadly, this happened at the beginning of their life’s journey. Their loss is infinitely greater than mine. So, too, those without loving support and jobs have suffered immeasurably.
My sadness is lifting with the promise of tomorrow, thanks to vaccinations. Concerns are letting up due to a stable federal-state response to this disease. Anger lingers over the past president’s uncaring, negligent response. But I am hopeful for our future. We are a resilient people.
Sharon Smith, La Mesa
Next week: After the vaccine
What is the first thing you did or will do after being fully vaccinated and feeling safe to live the way you did before the pandemic hit? Please email your 500-word essay to us at [email protected] by Wednesday and we may publish it in the newspaper and online. Please include your name, community and a phone number we won’t publish. More on today’s Your Say topic at sandiegouniontribune.com/lessons.
Crisis may floor us but we can rise again
What have I learned about myself, my family and my community after one year of the pandemic?
I have learned a huge amount about myself. I come from a sports background and that results in a cannot-be-defeated attitude. I love tennis and when the pandemic struck, our leaders thought it would be beneficial to lock tennis courts so no one could play tennis. I found places to play, thanks to my wonderful tennis partners, and I continued to play at beautiful places like a private court in Rancho Bernardo and courts near Sunset Cliffs, which gave me the opportunity to discover the beautiful cliffs again even though I’ve lived here 64 years of my 65 on Earth. Because of this never-say-die attitude I was able to stay in contact with my son’s beautiful family after tennis on Saturdays. I guess the saying is, where there is a will, there is a way, or from one of our greatest poets, “All limitations are self-imposed.”
I love my family; however, we are just returning to the point where I feel I can call any one of my siblings to safely visit and hug them all much more often than I have during the past year. My wife, Kim, my shorty Jack Russell Terrier Stella and I have not missed a beat at home; in fact, we may be closer as a result of the pandemic.
As for my community, I honestly feel we have been dealt a huge straight right that has knocked us down for the count. With the resilience I know we have, though, all our businesses and high school sports will bounce back to deliver blows of our own until we become the victors in the last round of this most important fight of our lives.
Jim Valenzuela, Poway
The value of a loving pet became apparent
What I have learned after one year of the pandemic is a lot about cats.
We acquired a cat in our household last July. I have learned a lot about how humans can relate to cats that I was not aware of growing up with these lovely animals. I also learned that you can connect with such an animal at a level I never thought possible or perhaps never really explored.
This cat, during this pandemic, has served as our therapist, yoga instructor, meditation guide and fellow afternoon nap enthusiast. I know there are other animals that have served as pets to help people with the stress of the pandemic. I would expect people in my community to have had a similar experience with their pets and the bonds they have made with them.
David Terry, Lakeside
We have all shared an historic experience
This past year I’ve learned that I took many things for granted and expected that life wouldn’t change that much in my day-to-day routine. I think most of us did.
I was really looking forward to seeing The Rolling Stones at SDCCU Stadium last May, but the concert was canceled and now the stadium has been demolished. Weekends I would have spent looking forward to seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster like “Top Gun: Maverick” or “No Time to Die” became weekends learning about the infamous rivalry of big cat enthusiasts Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin on Netflix.
Going out to a restaurant on a Friday night to start off the weekend became downloading the DoorDash app and bringing that food home. Those nights out became nights in. I’ve learned that as much as it’s nice to stay home in my pajamas, I really miss going out to social events and seeing people’s smiling faces.
I always look forward to seeing my family during the holidays and months when I can take time off of work, but this year, like many of us, I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on Zoom. I learned, and knew all along, that I have a strong family. We have come together well during a global pandemic. My mom even asked if she needed to mail me toilet paper. As fun as it was seeing everyone on my computer screen, in 2021 I will not take for granted that something as terrible as this pandemic couldn’t happen again, and I will make it a priority to see my family as soon as I can.
I’ve learned the community of San Diego comes together very well during a crisis. We’re all human, and no one wants to see their business or the livelihood they worked so hard for destroyed. I saw organizations, restaurants and animal shelters come together to feed families and the pets of those who lost their jobs.
People were shopping local more to support locally owned businesses. When we started to have to wear masks in public, I saw that people were nicer to each other, but now I see mask fatigue and people just wanting to get on with their lives. I hope as the year goes on and we slowly get back to normal with vaccines getting out into the community that we maintain that positive energy and remain a strong, friendly community.
We don’t always know what’s going on in the lives of those we pass every day at the store, but we have all gone through something unprecedented in our generation together and should never forget how it made us feel.
Megan DePalo, Oceanside
Hope for the best but prepare for the worst
After a year of the coronavirus pandemic, I learned that I had better be prepared for the worst at any time. After seeing lines of people at the grocery stores, loading up with groceries and toilet paper overflowing from their carts, I realized that many people are out for themselves without a care for anyone else. I didn’t understand the reason why so many people stocked up on toilet paper, as the coronavirus was not going to cause a bad case of diarrhea for those infected. Going to stores to find empty shelves where toilet paper once was only made me shake my head in wonder. Hoarding took place at every level and made me think of countries where things like that are familiar.
With bare shelves and some money in my pocket, things became disheartening. I decided I needed to eat less so that my stomach could shrink and I wouldn’t be as hungry. It worked. I lost more than 20 pounds, and I am now feeling better when I have to bend down to pick something up. I no longer just keep eating because it’s there and it tastes good. I eat half a sandwich and get up to do something and I’ve been drinking more liquids. Even if some of those liquids are beer, I’m still down over 20 pounds and continue to lose a little more as the days pass.
It is nice that businesses are starting to open and things are slowly getting back to the way they were, and I hope this pandemic has taught everybody some good lessons.
Allen Stanko, Alpine
Glad this challenging time may soon end
Regarding the one-year lockdown anniversary: The last year has been without a doubt one of the most trying and difficult of my life. I work in senior long-term care, and I have seen fear and illness and loneliness and death. I have seen healthy people become deathly ill and pass away without family to comfort.
I have seen people trying to express love through glass windows with masks on. The loneliness and isolation is as detrimental as the virus. Holidays and birthdays pass in this odd world.
And I have seen courage and strength and resiliency. I feel I have been scarred on my heart but have learned patience and trust.
I am glad the vaccines are here and maybe we can turn the corner and hug each other again.
Angela Reynolds, Boulevard
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Aug. 17, 2023
Opinion: La Jolla’s sea lions must be protected amid pupping season. Close the beach immediately.
There is no reason that it should take the (unelected) California Coastal Commission until October to address this issue.
Aug. 16, 2023
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Essays reveal experiences during pandemic, unrest.
Field study students share their thoughts
Members of Advanced Field Study, a select group of Social Ecology students who are chosen from a pool of applicants to participate in a year-long field study experience and course, had their internships and traditional college experience cut short this year. During our final quarter of the year together, during which we met weekly for two hours via Zoom, we discussed their reactions as the world fell apart around them. First came the pandemic and social distancing, then came the death of George Floyd and the response of the Black Lives Matter movement, both of which were imprinted on the lives of these students. This year was anything but dull, instead full of raw emotion and painful realizations of the fragility of the human condition and the extent to which we need one another. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for our students to chronicle their experiences — the good and the bad, the lessons learned, and ways in which they were forever changed by the events of the past four months. I invited all of my students to write an essay describing the ways in which these times had impacted their learning and their lives during or after their time at UCI. These are their voices. — Jessica Borelli , associate professor of psychological science
Becoming Socially Distant Through Technology: The Tech Contagion
The current state of affairs put the world on pause, but this pause gave me time to reflect on troubling matters. Time that so many others like me probably also desperately needed to heal without even knowing it. Sometimes it takes one’s world falling apart for the most beautiful mosaic to be built up from the broken pieces of wreckage.
As the school year was coming to a close and summer was edging around the corner, I began reflecting on how people will spend their summer breaks if the country remains in its current state throughout the sunny season. Aside from living in the sunny beach state of California where people love their vitamin D and social festivities, I think some of the most damaging effects Covid-19 will have on us all has more to do with social distancing policies than with any inconveniences we now face due to the added precautions, despite how devastating it may feel that Disneyland is closed to all the local annual passholders or that the beaches may not be filled with sun-kissed California girls this summer. During this unprecedented time, I don’t think we should allow the rare opportunity we now have to be able to watch in real time how the effects of social distancing can impact our mental health. Before the pandemic, many of us were already engaging in a form of social distancing. Perhaps not the exact same way we are now practicing, but the technology that we have developed over recent years has led to a dramatic decline in our social contact and skills in general.
The debate over whether we should remain quarantined during this time is not an argument I am trying to pursue. Instead, I am trying to encourage us to view this event as a unique time to study how social distancing can affect people’s mental health over a long period of time and with dramatic results due to the magnitude of the current issue. Although Covid-19 is new and unfamiliar to everyone, the isolation and separation we now face is not. For many, this type of behavior has already been a lifestyle choice for a long time. However, the current situation we all now face has allowed us to gain a more personal insight on how that experience feels due to the current circumstances. Mental illness continues to remain a prevalent problem throughout the world and for that reason could be considered a pandemic of a sort in and of itself long before the Covid-19 outbreak.
One parallel that can be made between our current restrictions and mental illness reminds me in particular of hikikomori culture. Hikikomori is a phenomenon that originated in Japan but that has since spread internationally, now prevalent in many parts of the world, including the United States. Hikikomori is not a mental disorder but rather can appear as a symptom of a disorder. People engaging in hikikomori remain confined in their houses and often their rooms for an extended period of time, often over the course of many years. This action of voluntary confinement is an extreme form of withdrawal from society and self-isolation. Hikikomori affects a large percent of people in Japan yearly and the problem continues to become more widespread with increasing occurrences being reported around the world each year. While we know this problem has continued to increase, the exact number of people practicing hikikomori is unknown because there is a large amount of stigma surrounding the phenomenon that inhibits people from seeking help. This phenomenon cannot be written off as culturally defined because it is spreading to many parts of the world. With the technology we now have, and mental health issues on the rise and expected to increase even more so after feeling the effects of the current pandemic, I think we will definitely see a rise in the number of people engaging in this social isolation, especially with the increase in legitimate fears we now face that appear to justify the previously considered irrational fears many have associated with social gatherings. We now have the perfect sample of people to provide answers about how this form of isolation can affect people over time.
Likewise, with the advancements we have made to technology not only is it now possible to survive without ever leaving the confines of your own home, but it also makes it possible for us to “fulfill” many of our social interaction needs. It’s very unfortunate, but in addition to the success we have gained through our advancements we have also experienced a great loss. With new technology, I am afraid that we no longer engage with others the way we once did. Although some may say the advancements are for the best, I wonder, at what cost? It is now commonplace to see a phone on the table during a business meeting or first date. Even worse is how many will feel inclined to check their phone during important or meaningful interactions they are having with people face to face. While our technology has become smarter, we have become dumber when it comes to social etiquette. As we all now constantly carry a mini computer with us everywhere we go, we have in essence replaced our best friends. We push others away subconsciously as we reach for our phones during conversations. We no longer remember phone numbers because we have them all saved in our phones. We find comfort in looking down at our phones during those moments of free time we have in public places before our meetings begin. These same moments were once the perfect time to make friends, filled with interactive banter. We now prefer to stare at other people on our phones for hours on end, and often live a sedentary lifestyle instead of going out and interacting with others ourselves.
These are just a few among many issues the advances to technology led to long ago. We have forgotten how to practice proper tech-etiquette and we have been inadvertently practicing social distancing long before it was ever required. Now is a perfect time for us to look at the society we have become and how we incurred a different kind of pandemic long before the one we currently face. With time, as the social distancing regulations begin to lift, people may possibly begin to appreciate life and connecting with others more than they did before as a result of the unique experience we have shared in together while apart.
Maybe the world needed a time-out to remember how to appreciate what it had but forgot to experience. Life is to be lived through experience, not to be used as a pastime to observe and compare oneself with others. I’ll leave you with a simple reminder: never forget to take care and love more because in a world where life is often unpredictable and ever changing, one cannot risk taking time or loved ones for granted. With that, I bid you farewell, fellow comrades, like all else, this too shall pass, now go live your best life!
Privilege in a Pandemic
Covid-19 has impacted millions of Americans who have been out of work for weeks, thus creating a financial burden. Without a job and the certainty of knowing when one will return to work, paying rent and utilities has been a problem for many. With unemployment on the rise, relying on unemployment benefits has become a necessity for millions of people. According to the Washington Post , unemployment rose to 14.7% in April which is considered to be the worst since the Great Depression.
Those who are not worried about the financial aspect or the thought never crossed their minds have privilege. Merriam Webster defines privilege as “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” Privilege can have a negative connotation. What you choose to do with your privilege is what matters. Talking about privilege can bring discomfort, but the discomfort it brings can also carry the benefit of drawing awareness to one’s privilege, which can lead the person to take steps to help others.
I am a first-generation college student who recently transferred to a four-year university. When schools began to close, and students had to leave their on-campus housing, many lost their jobs.I was able to stay on campus because I live in an apartment. I am fortunate to still have a job, although the hours are minimal. My parents help pay for school expenses, including housing, tuition, and food. I do not have to worry about paying rent or how to pay for food because my parents are financially stable to help me. However, there are millions of college students who are not financially stable or do not have the support system I have. Here, I have the privilege and, thus, I am the one who can offer help to others. I may not have millions in funding, but volunteering for centers who need help is where I am able to help. Those who live in California can volunteer through Californians For All or at food banks, shelter facilities, making calls to seniors, etc.
I was not aware of my privilege during these times until I started reading more articles about how millions of people cannot afford to pay their rent, and landlords are starting to send notices of violations. Rather than feel guilty and be passive about it, I chose to put my privilege into a sense of purpose: Donating to nonprofits helping those affected by COVID-19, continuing to support local businesses, and supporting businesses who are donating profits to those affected by COVID-19.
My World is Burning
As I write this, my friends are double checking our medical supplies and making plans to buy water and snacks to pass out at the next protest we are attending. We write down the number for the local bailout fund on our arms and pray that we’re lucky enough not to have to use it should things get ugly. We are part of a pivotal event, the kind of movement that will forever have a place in history. Yet, during this revolution, I have papers to write and grades to worry about, as I’m in the midst of finals.
My professors have offered empty platitudes. They condemn the violence and acknowledge the stress and pain that so many of us are feeling, especially the additional weight that this carries for students of color. I appreciate their show of solidarity, but it feels meaningless when it is accompanied by requests to complete research reports and finalize presentations. Our world is on fire. Literally. On my social media feeds, I scroll through image after image of burning buildings and police cars in flames. How can I be asked to focus on school when my community is under siege? When police are continuing to murder black people, adding additional names to the ever growing list of their victims. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. David Mcatee. And, now, Rayshard Brooks.
It already felt like the world was being asked of us when the pandemic started and classes continued. High academic expectations were maintained even when students now faced the challenges of being locked down, often trapped in small spaces with family or roommates. Now we are faced with another public health crisis in the form of police violence and once again it seems like educational faculty are turning a blind eye to the impact that this has on the students. I cannot study for exams when I am busy brushing up on my basic first-aid training, taking notes on the best techniques to stop heavy bleeding and treat chemical burns because at the end of the day, if these protests turn south, I will be entering a warzone. Even when things remain peaceful, there is an ugliness that bubbles just below the surface. When beginning the trek home, I have had armed members of the National Guard follow me and my friends. While kneeling in silence, I have watched police officers cock their weapons and laugh, pointing out targets in the crowd. I have been emailing my professors asking for extensions, trying to explain that if something is turned in late, it could be the result of me being detained or injured. I don’t want to be penalized for trying to do what I wholeheartedly believe is right.
I have spent my life studying and will continue to study these institutions that have been so instrumental in the oppression and marginalization of black and indigenous communities. Yet, now that I have the opportunity to be on the frontlines actively fighting for the change our country so desperately needs, I feel that this study is more of a hindrance than a help to the cause. Writing papers and reading books can only take me so far and I implore that professors everywhere recognize that requesting their students split their time and energy between finals and justice is an impossible ask.
Opportunity to Serve
Since the start of the most drastic change of our lives, I have had the privilege of helping feed more than 200 different families in the Santa Ana area and even some neighboring cities. It has been an immense pleasure seeing the sheer joy and happiness of families as they come to pick up their box of food from our site, as well as a $50 gift card to Northgate, a grocery store in Santa Ana. Along with donating food and helping feed families, the team at the office, including myself, have dedicated this time to offering psychosocial and mental health check-ups for the families we serve.
Every day I go into the office I start my day by gathering files of our families we served between the months of January, February, and March and calling them to check on how they are doing financially, mentally, and how they have been affected by COVID-19. As a side project, I have been putting together Excel spreadsheets of all these families’ struggles and finding a way to turn their situation into a success story to share with our board at PY-OCBF and to the community partners who make all of our efforts possible. One of the things that has really touched me while working with these families is how much of an impact this nonprofit organization truly has on family’s lives. I have spoken with many families who I just call to check up on and it turns into an hour call sharing about how much of a change they have seen in their child who went through our program. Further, they go on to discuss that because of our program, their children have a different perspective on the drugs they were using before and the group of friends they were hanging out with. Of course, the situation is different right now as everyone is being told to stay at home; however, there are those handful of kids who still go out without asking for permission, increasing the likelihood they might contract this disease and pass it to the rest of the family. We are working diligently to provide support for these parents and offering advice to talk to their kids in order to have a serious conversation with their kids so that they feel heard and validated.
Although the novel Coronavirus has impacted the lives of millions of people not just on a national level, but on a global level, I feel that in my current position, it has opened doors for me that would have otherwise not presented themselves. Fortunately, I have been offered a full-time position at the Project Youth Orange County Bar Foundation post-graduation that I have committed to already. This invitation came to me because the organization received a huge grant for COVID-19 relief to offer to their staff and since I was already part-time, they thought I would be a good fit to join the team once mid-June comes around. I was very excited and pleased to be recognized for the work I have done at the office in front of all staff. I am immensely grateful for this opportunity. I will work even harder to provide for the community and to continue changing the lives of adolescents, who have steered off the path of success. I will use my time as a full-time employee to polish my resume, not forgetting that the main purpose of my moving to Irvine was to become a scholar and continue the education that my parents couldn’t attain. I will still be looking for ways to get internships with other fields within criminology. One specific interest that I have had since being an intern and a part-time employee in this organization is the work of the Orange County Coroner’s Office. I don’t exactly know what enticed me to find it appealing as many would say that it is an awful job in nature since it relates to death and seeing people in their worst state possible. However, I feel that the only way for me to truly know if I want to pursue such a career in forensic science will be to just dive into it and see where it takes me.
I can, without a doubt, say that the Coronavirus has impacted me in a way unlike many others, and for that I am extremely grateful. As I continue working, I can also state that many people are becoming more and more hopeful as time progresses. With people now beginning to say Stage Two of this stay-at-home order is about to allow retailers and other companies to begin doing curbside delivery, many families can now see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s Do Better
This time of the year is meant to be a time of celebration; however, it has been difficult to feel proud or excited for many of us when it has become a time of collective mourning and sorrow, especially for the Black community. There has been an endless amount of pain, rage, and helplessness that has been felt throughout our nation because of the growing list of Black lives we have lost to violence and brutality.
To honor the lives that we have lost, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Trayon Martin, and all of the other Black lives that have been taken away, may they Rest in Power.
Throughout my college experience, I have become more exposed to the various identities and the upbringings of others, which led to my own self-reflection on my own privileged and marginalized identities. I identify as Colombian, German, and Mexican; however navigating life as a mixed race, I have never been able to identify or have one culture more salient than the other. I am visibly white-passing and do not hold any strong ties with any of my ethnic identities, which used to bring me feelings of guilt and frustration, for I would question whether or not I could be an advocate for certain communities, and whether or not I could claim the identity of a woman of color. In the process of understanding my positionality, I began to wonder what space I belonged in, where I could speak up, and where I should take a step back for others to speak. I found myself in a constant theme of questioning what is my narrative and slowly began to realize that I could not base it off lone identities and that I have had the privilege to move through life without my identities defining who I am. Those initial feelings of guilt and confusion transformed into growth, acceptance, and empowerment.
This journey has driven me to educate myself more about the social inequalities and injustices that people face and to focus on what I can do for those around me. It has motivated me to be more culturally responsive and competent, so that I am able to best advocate for those around me. Through the various roles I have worked in, I have been able to listen to a variety of communities’ narratives and experiences, which has allowed me to extend my empathy to these communities while also pushing me to continue educating myself on how I can best serve and empower them. By immersing myself amongst different communities, I have been given the honor of hearing others’ stories and experiences, which has inspired me to commit myself to support and empower others.
I share my story of navigating through my privileged and marginalized identities in hopes that it encourages others to explore their own identities. This journey is not an easy one, and it is an ongoing learning process that will come with various mistakes. I have learned that with facing our privileges comes feelings of guilt, discomfort, and at times, complacency. It is very easy to become ignorant when we are not affected by different issues, but I challenge those who read this to embrace the discomfort. With these emotions, I have found it important to reflect on the source of discomfort and guilt, for although they are a part of the process, in taking the steps to become more aware of the systemic inequalities around us, understanding the source of discomfort can better inform us on how we perpetuate these systemic inequalities. If we choose to embrace ignorance, we refuse to acknowledge the systems that impact marginalized communities and refuse to honestly and openly hear cries for help. If we choose our own comfort over the lives of those being affected every day, we can never truly honor, serve, or support these communities.
I challenge any non-Black person, including myself, to stop remaining complacent when injustices are committed. We need to consistently recognize and acknowledge how the Black community is disproportionately affected in every injustice experienced and call out anti-Blackness in every role, community, and space we share. We need to keep ourselves and others accountable when we make mistakes or fall back into patterns of complacency or ignorance. We need to continue educating ourselves instead of relying on the emotional labor of the Black community to continuously educate us on the history of their oppressions. We need to collectively uplift and empower one another to heal and rise against injustice. We need to remember that allyship ends when action ends.
To the Black community, you are strong. You deserve to be here. The recent events are emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting, and the need for rest to take care of your mental, physical, and emotional well-being are at an all time high. If you are able, take the time to regain your energy, feel every emotion, and remind yourself of the power you have inside of you. You are not alone.
The Virus That Makes You Forget
Following Jan. 1 of 2020 many of my classmates and I continued to like, share, and forward the same meme. The meme included any image but held the same phrase: I can see 2020. For many of us, 2020 was a beacon of hope. For the Class of 2020, this meant walking on stage in front of our families. Graduation meant becoming an adult, finding a job, or going to graduate school. No matter what we were doing in our post-grad life, we were the new rising stars ready to take on the world with a positive outlook no matter what the future held. We felt that we had a deal with the universe that we were about to be noticed for our hard work, our hardships, and our perseverance.
Then March 17 of 2020 came to pass with California Gov. Newman ordering us to stay at home, which we all did. However, little did we all know that the world we once had open to us would only be forgotten when we closed our front doors.
Life became immediately uncertain and for many of us, that meant graduation and our post-graduation plans including housing, careers, education, food, and basic standards of living were revoked! We became the forgotten — a place from which many of us had attempted to rise by attending university. The goals that we were told we could set and the plans that we were allowed to make — these were crushed before our eyes.
Eighty days before graduation, in the first several weeks of quarantine, I fell extremely ill; both unfortunately and luckily, I was isolated. All of my roommates had moved out of the student apartments leaving me with limited resources, unable to go to the stores to pick up medicine or food, and with insufficient health coverage to afford a doctor until my throat was too swollen to drink water. For nearly three weeks, I was stuck in bed, I was unable to apply to job deadlines, reach out to family, and have contact with the outside world. I was forgotten.
Forty-five days before graduation, I had clawed my way out of illness and was catching up on an honors thesis about media depictions of sexual exploitation within the American political system, when I was relayed the news that democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was accused of sexual assault. However, when reporting this news to close friends who had been devastated and upset by similar claims against past politicians, they all were too tired and numb from the quarantine to care. Just as I had written hours before reading the initial story, history was repeating, and it was not only I who COVID-19 had forgotten, but now survivors of violence.
After this revelation, I realize the silencing factor that COVID-19 has. Not only does it have the power to terminate the voices of our older generations, but it has the power to silence and make us forget the voices of every generation. Maybe this is why social media usage has gone up, why we see people creating new social media accounts, posting more, attempting to reach out to long lost friends. We do not want to be silenced, moreover, we cannot be silenced. Silence means that we have been forgotten and being forgotten is where injustice and uncertainty occurs. By using social media, pressing like on a post, or even sending a hate message, means that someone cares and is watching what you are doing. If there is no interaction, I am stuck in the land of indifference.
This is a place that I, and many others, now reside, captured and uncertain. In 2020, my plan was to graduate Cum Laude, dean's honor list, with three honors programs, three majors, and with research and job experience that stretched over six years. I would then go into my first year of graduate school, attempting a dual Juris Doctorate. I would be spending my time experimenting with new concepts, new experiences, and new relationships. My life would then be spent giving a microphone to survivors of domestic violence and sex crimes. However, now the plan is wiped clean, instead I sit still bound to graduate in 30 days with no home to stay, no place to work, and no future education to come back to. I would say I am overly qualified, but pandemic makes me lost in a series of names and masked faces.
Welcome to My Cage: The Pandemic and PTSD
When I read the campuswide email notifying students of the World Health Organization’s declaration of the coronavirus pandemic, I was sitting on my couch practicing a research presentation I was going to give a few hours later. For a few minutes, I sat there motionless, trying to digest the meaning of the words as though they were from a language other than my own, familiar sounds strung together in way that was wholly unintelligible to me. I tried but failed to make sense of how this could affect my life. After the initial shock had worn off, I mobilized quickly, snapping into an autopilot mode of being I knew all too well. I began making mental checklists, sharing the email with my friends and family, half of my brain wondering if I should make a trip to the grocery store to stockpile supplies and the other half wondering how I was supposed take final exams in the midst of so much uncertainty. The most chilling realization was knowing I had to wait powerlessly as the fate of the world unfolded, frozen with anxiety as I figured out my place in it all.
These feelings of powerlessness and isolation are familiar bedfellows for me. Early October of 2015, shortly after beginning my first year at UCI, I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Despite having had years of psychological treatment for my condition, including Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Retraining, the flashbacks, paranoia, and nightmares still emerge unwarranted. People have referred to the pandemic as a collective trauma. For me, the pandemic has not only been a collective trauma, it has also been the reemergence of a personal trauma. The news of the pandemic and the implications it has for daily life triggered a reemergence of symptoms that were ultimately ignited by the overwhelming sense of helplessness that lies in waiting, as I suddenly find myself navigating yet another situation beyond my control. Food security, safety, and my sense of self have all been shaken by COVID-19.
The first few weeks after UCI transitioned into remote learning and the governor issued the stay-at-home order, I hardly got any sleep. My body was cycling through hypervigilance and derealization, and my sleep was interrupted by intrusive nightmares oscillating between flashbacks and frightening snippets from current events. Any coping methods I had developed through hard-won efforts over the past few years — leaving my apartment for a change of scenery, hanging out with friends, going to the gym — were suddenly made inaccessible to me due to the stay-at-home orders, closures of non-essential businesses, and many of my friends breaking their campus leases to move back to their family homes. So for me, learning to cope during COVID-19 quarantine means learning to function with my re-emerging PTSD symptoms and without my go-to tools. I must navigate my illness in a rapidly evolving world, one where some of my internalized fears, such as running out of food and living in an unsafe world, are made progressively more external by the minute and broadcasted on every news platform; fears that I could no longer escape, being confined in the tight constraints of my studio apartment’s walls. I cannot shake the devastating effects of sacrifice that I experience as all sense of control has been stripped away from me.
However, amidst my mental anguish, I have realized something important—experiencing these same PTSD symptoms during a global pandemic feels markedly different than it did years ago. Part of it might be the passage of time and the growth in my mindset, but there is something else that feels very different. Currently, there is widespread solidarity and support for all of us facing the chaos of COVID-19, whether they are on the frontlines of the fight against the illness or they are self-isolating due to new rules, restrictions, and risks. This was in stark contrast to what it was like to have a mental disorder. The unity we all experience as a result of COVID-19 is one I could not have predicted. I am not the only student heartbroken over a cancelled graduation, I am not the only student who is struggling to adapt to remote learning, and I am not the only person in this world who has to make sacrifices.
Between observations I’ve made on social media and conversations with my friends and classmates, this time we are all enduring great pain and stress as we attempt to adapt to life’s challenges. As a Peer Assistant for an Education class, I have heard from many students of their heartache over the remote learning model, how difficult it is to study in a non-academic environment, and how unmotivated they have become this quarter. This is definitely something I can relate to; as of late, it has been exceptionally difficult to find motivation and put forth the effort for even simple activities as a lack of energy compounds the issue and hinders basic needs. However, the willingness of people to open up about their distress during the pandemic is unlike the self-imposed social isolation of many people who experience mental illness regularly. Something this pandemic has taught me is that I want to live in a world where mental illness receives more support and isn’t so taboo and controversial. Why is it that we are able to talk about our pain, stress, and mental illness now, but aren’t able to talk about it outside of a global pandemic? People should be able to talk about these hardships and ask for help, much like during these circumstances.
It has been nearly three months since the coronavirus crisis was declared a pandemic. I still have many bad days that I endure where my symptoms can be overwhelming. But somehow, during my good days — and some days, merely good moments — I can appreciate the resilience I have acquired over the years and the common ground I share with others who live through similar circumstances. For veterans of trauma and mental illness, this isn’t the first time we are experiencing pain in an extreme and disastrous way. This is, however, the first time we are experiencing it with the rest of the world. This strange new feeling of solidarity as I read and hear about the experiences of other people provides some small comfort as I fight my way out of bed each day. As we fight to survive this pandemic, I hope to hold onto this feeling of togetherness and acceptance of pain, so that it will always be okay for people to share their struggles. We don’t know what the world will look like days, months, or years from now, but I hope that we can cultivate such a culture to make life much easier for people coping with mental illness.
A Somatic Pandemonium in Quarantine
I remember hearing that our brains create the color magenta all on their own.
When I was younger I used to run out of my third-grade class because my teacher was allergic to the mold and sometimes would vomit in the trash can. My dad used to tell me that I used to always have to have something in my hands, later translating itself into the form of a hair tie around my wrist.
Sometimes, I think about the girl who used to walk on her tippy toes. medial and lateral nerves never planted, never grounded. We were the same in this way. My ability to be firmly planted anywhere was also withered.
Was it from all the times I panicked? Or from the time I ran away and I blistered the soles of my feet 'til they were black from the summer pavement? Emetophobia.
I felt it in the shower, dressing itself from the crown of my head down to the soles of my feet, noting the feeling onto my white board in an attempt to solidify it’s permanence.
As I breathed in the chemical blue transpiring from the Expo marker, everything was more defined. I laid down and when I looked up at the starlet lamp I had finally felt centered. Still. No longer fleeting. The grooves in the lamps glass forming a spiral of what felt to me like an artificial landscape of transcendental sparks.
She’s back now, magenta, though I never knew she left or even ever was. Somehow still subconsciously always known. I had been searching for her in the tremors.
I can see her now in the daphnes, the golden rays from the sun reflecting off of the bark on the trees and the red light that glowed brighter, suddenly the town around me was warmer. A melting of hues and sharpened saturation that was apparent and reminded of the smell of oranges.
I threw up all of the carrots I ate just before. The trauma that my body kept as a memory of things that may or may not go wrong and the times that I couldn't keep my legs from running. Revelations bring memories bringing anxieties from fear and panic released from my body as if to say “NO LONGER!”
I close my eyes now and my mind's eye is, too, more vivid than ever before. My inner eyelids lit up with orange undertones no longer a solid black, neurons firing, fire. Not the kind that burns you but the kind that can light up a dull space. Like the wick of a tea-lit candle. Magenta doesn’t exist. It is perception. A construct made of light waves, blue and red.
Demolition. Reconstruction. I walk down the street into this new world wearing my new mask, somatic senses tingling and I think to myself “Houston, I think we’ve just hit equilibrium.”
How COVID-19 Changed My Senior Year
During the last two weeks of Winter quarter, I watched the emails pour in. Spring quarter would be online, facilities were closing, and everyone was recommended to return home to their families, if possible. I resolved to myself that I would not move back home; I wanted to stay in my apartment, near my boyfriend, near my friends, and in the one place I had my own space. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, things continued to change quickly. Soon I learned my roommate/best friend would be cancelling her lease and moving back up to Northern California. We had made plans for my final quarter at UCI, as I would be graduating in June while she had another year, but all of the sudden, that dream was gone. In one whirlwind of a day, we tried to cram in as much of our plans as we could before she left the next day for good. There are still so many things – like hiking, going to museums, and showing her around my hometown – we never got to cross off our list.
Then, my boyfriend decided he would also be moving home, three hours away. Most of my sorority sisters were moving home, too. I realized if I stayed at school, I would be completely alone. My mom had been encouraging me to move home anyway, but I was reluctant to return to a house I wasn’t completely comfortable in. As the pandemic became more serious, gentle encouragement quickly turned into demands. I had to cancel my lease and move home.
I moved back in with my parents at the end of Spring Break; I never got to say goodbye to most of my friends, many of whom I’ll likely never see again – as long as the virus doesn’t change things, I’m supposed to move to New York over the summer to begin a PhD program in Criminal Justice. Just like that, my time at UCI had come to a close. No lasts to savor; instead I had piles of things to regret. In place of a final quarter filled with memorable lasts, such as the senior banquet or my sorority’s senior preference night, I’m left with a laundry list of things I missed out on. I didn’t get to look around the campus one last time like I had planned; I never got to take my graduation pictures in front of the UC Irvine sign. Commencement had already been cancelled. The lights had turned off in the theatre before the movie was over. I never got to find out how the movie ended.
Transitioning to a remote learning system wasn’t too bad, but I found that some professors weren’t adjusting their courses to the difficulties many students were facing. It turned out to be difficult to stay motivated, especially for classes that are pre-recorded and don’t have any face-to-face interaction. It’s hard to make myself care; I’m in my last few weeks ever at UCI, but it feels like I’m already in summer. School isn’t real, my classes aren’t real. I still put in the effort, but I feel like I’m not getting much out of my classes.
The things I had been looking forward to this quarter are gone; there will be no Undergraduate Research Symposium, where I was supposed to present two projects. My amazing internship with the US Postal Inspection Service is over prematurely and I never got to properly say goodbye to anyone I met there. I won’t receive recognition for the various awards and honors I worked so hard to achieve.
And I’m one of the lucky ones! I feel guilty for feeling bad about my situation, when I know there are others who have it much, much worse. I am like that quintessential spoiled child, complaining while there are essential workers working tirelessly, people with health concerns constantly fearing for their safety, and people dying every day. Yet knowing that doesn't help me from feeling I was robbed of my senior experience, something I worked very hard to achieve. I know it’s not nearly as important as what many others are going through. But nevertheless, this is my situation. I was supposed to be enjoying this final quarter with my friends and preparing to move on, not be stuck at home, grappling with my mental health and hiding out in my room to get some alone time from a family I don’t always get along with. And while I know it’s more difficult out there for many others, it’s still difficult for me.
The thing that stresses me out most is the uncertainty. Uncertainty for the future – how long will this pandemic last? How many more people have to suffer before things go back to “normal” – whatever that is? How long until I can see my friends and family again? And what does this mean for my academic future? Who knows what will happen between now and then? All that’s left to do is wait and hope that everything will work out for the best.
Looking back over my last few months at UCI, I wish I knew at the time that I was experiencing my lasts; it feels like I took so much for granted. If there is one thing this has all made me realize, it’s that nothing is certain. Everything we expect, everything we take for granted – none of it is a given. Hold on to what you have while you have it, and take the time to appreciate the wonderful things in life, because you never know when it will be gone.
Thirty days have never felt so long. April has been the longest month of the year. I have been through more in these past three months than in the past three years. The COVID-19 outbreak has had a huge impact on both physical and social well-being of a lot of Americans, including me. Stress has been governing the lives of so many civilians, in particular students and workers. In addition to causing a lack of motivation in my life, quarantine has also brought a wave of anxiety.
My life changed the moment the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the government announced social distancing. My busy daily schedule, running from class to class and meeting to meeting, morphed into identical days, consisting of hour after hour behind a cold computer monitor. Human interaction and touch improve trust, reduce fear and increases physical well-being. Imagine the effects of removing the human touch and interaction from midst of society. Humans are profoundly social creatures. I cannot function without interacting and connecting with other people. Even daily acquaintances have an impact on me that is only noticeable once removed. As a result, the COVID-19 outbreak has had an extreme impact on me beyond direct symptoms and consequences of contracting the virus itself.
It was not until later that month, when out of sheer boredom I was scrolling through my call logs and I realized that I had called my grandmother more than ever. This made me realize that quarantine had created some positive impacts on my social interactions as well. This period of time has created an opportunity to check up on and connect with family and peers more often than we were able to. Even though we might be connecting solely through a screen, we are not missing out on being socially connected. Quarantine has taught me to value and prioritize social connection, and to recognize that we can find this type of connection not only through in-person gatherings, but also through deep heart to heart connections. Right now, my weekly Zoom meetings with my long-time friends are the most important events in my week. In fact, I have taken advantage of the opportunity to reconnect with many of my old friends and have actually had more meaningful conversations with them than before the isolation.
This situation is far from ideal. From my perspective, touch and in-person interaction is essential; however, we must overcome all difficulties that life throws at us with the best we are provided with. Therefore, perhaps we should take this time to re-align our motives by engaging in things that are of importance to us. I learned how to dig deep and find appreciation for all the small talks, gatherings, and face-to-face interactions. I have also realized that friendships are not only built on the foundation of physical presence but rather on meaningful conversations you get to have, even if they are through a cold computer monitor. My realization came from having more time on my hands and noticing the shift in conversations I was having with those around me. After all, maybe this isolation isn’t “social distancing”, but rather “physical distancing” until we meet again.
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One Student's Perspective on Life During a Pandemic
- Markkula Center for Applied Ethics
- Ethics Resources
- Ethics Spotlight
- COVID-19: Ethics, Health and Moving Forward
The pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place restrictions are affecting everyone in different ways. Tiana Nguyen, shares both the pros and cons of her experience as a student at Santa Clara University.
person sitting at table with open laptop, notebook and pen
Tiana Nguyen ‘21 is a Hackworth Fellow at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. She is majoring in Computer Science, and is the vice president of Santa Clara University’s Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) chapter .
The world has slowed down, but stress has begun to ramp up.
In the beginning of quarantine, as the world slowed down, I could finally take some time to relax, watch some shows, learn to be a better cook and baker, and be more active in my extracurriculars. I have a lot of things to be thankful for. I especially appreciate that I’m able to live in a comfortable house and have gotten the opportunity to spend more time with my family. This has actually been the first time in years in which we’re all able to even eat meals together every single day. Even when my brother and I were young, my parents would be at work and sometimes come home late, so we didn’t always eat meals together. In the beginning of the quarantine I remember my family talking about how nice it was to finally have meals together, and my brother joking, “it only took a pandemic to bring us all together,” which I laughed about at the time (but it’s the truth).
Soon enough, we’ll all be back to going to different places and we’ll be separated once again. So I’m thankful for my living situation right now. As for my friends, even though we’re apart, I do still feel like I can be in touch with them through video chat—maybe sometimes even more in touch than before. I think a lot of people just have a little more time for others right now.
Although there are still a lot of things to be thankful for, stress has slowly taken over, and work has been overwhelming. I’ve always been a person who usually enjoys going to classes, taking on more work than I have to, and being active in general. But lately I’ve felt swamped with the amount of work given, to the point that my days have blurred into online assignments, Zoom classes, and countless meetings, with a touch of baking sweets and aimless searching on Youtube.
The pass/no pass option for classes continues to stare at me, but I look past it every time to use this quarter as an opportunity to boost my grades. I've tried to make sense of this type of overwhelming feeling that I’ve never really felt before. Is it because I’m working harder and putting in more effort into my schoolwork with all the spare time I now have? Is it because I’m not having as much interaction with other people as I do at school? Or is it because my classes this quarter are just supposed to be this much harder? I honestly don’t know; it might not even be any of those. What I do know though, is that I have to continue work and push through this feeling.
This quarter I have two synchronous and two asynchronous classes, which each have pros and cons. Originally, I thought I wanted all my classes to be synchronous, since that everyday interaction with my professor and classmates is valuable to me. However, as I experienced these asynchronous classes, I’ve realized that it can be nice to watch a lecture on my own time because it even allows me to pause the video to give me extra time for taking notes. This has made me pay more attention during lectures and take note of small details that I might have missed otherwise. Furthermore, I do realize that synchronous classes can also be a burden for those abroad who have to wake up in the middle of the night just to attend a class. I feel that it’s especially unfortunate when professors want students to attend but don’t make attendance mandatory for this reason; I find that most abroad students attend anyway, driven by the worry they’ll be missing out on something.
I do still find synchronous classes amazing though, especially for discussion-based courses. I feel in touch with other students from my classes whom I wouldn’t otherwise talk to or regularly reach out to. Since Santa Clara University is a small school, it is especially easy to interact with one another during classes on Zoom, and I even sometimes find it less intimidating to participate during class through Zoom than in person. I’m honestly not the type to participate in class, but this quarter I found myself participating in some classes more than usual. The breakout rooms also create more interaction, since we’re assigned to random classmates, instead of whomever we’re sitting closest to in an in-person class—though I admit breakout rooms can sometimes be awkward.
Something that I find beneficial in both synchronous and asynchronous classes is that professors post a lecture recording that I can always refer to whenever I want. I found this especially helpful when I studied for my midterms this quarter; it’s nice to have a recording to look back upon in case I missed something during a lecture.
Overall, life during these times is substantially different from anything most of us have ever experienced, and at times it can be extremely overwhelming and stressful—especially in terms of school for me. Online classes don’t provide the same environment and interactions as in-person classes and are by far not as enjoyable. But at the end of the day, I know that in every circumstance there is always something to be thankful for, and I’m appreciative for my situation right now. While the world has slowed down and my stress has ramped up, I’m slowly beginning to adjust to it.