I never imagined we would be stuck in our homes for months as a global pandemic uprooted our lives and damaged so much of the world we know. And now what? We adjust to Zoom classes because we have to. We accept that the only way to socialize is virtually, because we have to. Each day we look at the news and feel the weight of this crisis, because we have to. Each day I miss Hopkins more and more.
In the weeks before spring break, the Hopkins campus was abuzz with rumors and arguments about COVID-19. Every day I discussed the crisis with my friends and classmates. Everyone was anxious and uncertain about the possibility of school shutting down. My Spanish teacher, Señora Sue Bennitt, however, told my class to think of this as a new opportunity. She argued that taking classes online is just a different experience and it can be exciting if you want it to be. At the time I rolled my eyes, not wanting to believe school would actually close. But now that we are going to be isolated until June, if not later, I need to hold on to that positivity — quarantine can get depressing really quickly without it. It’s much easier to focus on the loneliness and uncertainty of the whole situation, and following the ever growing numbers of cases and deaths only worsens that feeling.
Meanwhile, with the new online class schedule and the loss of extracurriculars, Hopkins students are finding themselves with more free time. Yet, it feels like the homework load is already sucking up that time. We’re bored, yet busy. I don’t have the motivation to start my homework, so instead I sit and scroll aimlessly through news and social media. If I could motivate myself, there could be time to try a new hobby, catch up on sleep, binge watch a new show, declutter my room, exercise, or do something creative. But it’s hard to be motivated when the days feel so monotonous. I have to keep myself busy and not stop to think about my lack of motivation or what we’re all missing this spring. Sometimes that means homework, sometimes that means baking or doing art or exercising, and sometimes that means watching shows or taking naps.
We’re all bored of Zoom and FaceTime at this point too, and we’re aching to see our friends in person. As humans, we naturally need that connection and the more we live without it, the harder it gets. Many psychiatrists and neuroscientists worry about the mental health effects of social distancing. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s poll, almost half of people in the United States said that the virus is affecting their mental health right now. But we are also lucky enough to live in an age where communication during quarantine is fast, easy, and accessible. While technology isn’t a perfect substitute for a hug or face to face conversation, we are still managing to compensate for the loss of in person contact. My family had a virtual happy hour with old friends and also drove by my little cousins’ house with posters and cupcakes to sing happy birthday from a distance. While it can’t replace the joy of really being together, it helps to feel connected to others in whatever way possible. At some point this will end and we will have adapted and changed, but for now, all we can do is focus on what we can control and what we can do to make ourselves feel okay.
So yes, there’s a strong sense of loneliness, helplessness, and panic. But there is still a chance to focus on positivity. The sun is coming up each day and the temperatures are rising which brings natural brightness, something we all need right now. Although the weather makes me nostalgic for my old springtime memories and sad about what I could be doing, all I can do is focus on what I am able to do this spring, strange as it may be. Maybe my Spanish teacher is right; this can be an opportunity for something new.