I went back to school in January and rode that wave of unpredictability week after week. And now here I am in the middle of March mostly stuck at home; precisely the very thing I was trying to work my way out of for the sake of my own mental health. Thanks, coronavirus.
The last day I attended class was last Wednesday, March 11th. I knew remote classes were a probable possibility given that the president of my college already gave permission for professors to do so. And I had been somewhat following the news and watching the number of positive cases spiking in other U.S. states and international countries. Slowly but surely the trepidation within me grew with each passing day. Usually, I took the bus to school and arrived on campus in about 30 minutes. On days I only had class in the afternoon instead of the morning, I would walk at my own leisure for the whole 3.4 miles to school (which typically took an hour at most).
As the days went on, the choice of walking became more about avoiding public transportation. I have always had mild anxiety about being on a crowded bus but that had more to do with the socially uncomfortable aspects of it, like how the bus driver sometimes watches as I pay for my fare or the way some passengers glance at me as I make my way down the row of seats. I’ve been through that enough times to be able to keep my face neutral. I don’t exactly block out the anxiety but take an almost banal perspective to it because it’s the same old stuff happening again and again and do I really care if that random person sitting at the back of the bus is sizing me up with their eyes because chances are I won’t see that person again, anyway.
Never before have I been a germaphobe. I doubt the coronavirus has made me phobic of germs though it has raised my awareness about sanitizing after touching things or if I happened to sneeze or cough on my hand. My little bottle of hand sanitizer went with me everywhere and I blotted a dollop of it into my hands after every time I touched something, whether it was the stop button on the bus or a door handle I pulled on to get to my next class.
I had no idea Governor Cuomo (of New York) would announce on the 11th that all SUNY (State University of New York) and CUNY (City University of New York) colleges would be switching to remote classes by March 19th. From what I heard later, the schools didn’t know about his plans beforehand so they were unprepared. In-person classes were then cancelled from the 12th till today (the 18th). I left campus that day while the news was still breaking and caught pockets of conversations as students were discussing it. It felt unreal, as cliched as it sounds, because I didn’t think this was how my first semester back in college was gonna go. It just seemed so crazy. This, in New York? The day after, my school announced it had a positive covid-19 case and just this week another email came from them stating they have another. Mine is not the only CUNY school to have a covid-19 case. It’s not surprising since students come from all over NYC (and other countries) to attend classes.
Now hardly anything is open. It’s not shocking that restaurants are take-out and delivery only, or that my local library branches are all closed. It’s that now there is a reason to actually be afraid of people and give a person a wide berth when passing someone on the street. “Social distancing”, they call it. The irony is a little funny, I admit, seeing as I’ve spent almost my whole life having different anxieties around people and avoiding people and now the whole world is too.
Mostly, I am paranoid but also feel a little removed from the panic. I live in the southern part of Brooklyn where there hasn’t been a cluster of positive cases (yet?), except there was one case in a nursing home where a health care worker from New Jersey (who was employed there) tested positive. I have no clue what happened to the elderly residents that resided in that home. I sure hope none of them got infected. The place is within walking distance to me and just a few days ago I passed by to see everything was boarded up from the outside.
I am not entirely unhappy about some circumstances that resulted from the coronavirus situation…. Though my pluses will seem like typical millennial bulls**t.
*Tomorrow is the first official day of remote learning for my college classes, though I already had some assignments in progress at the time I stopped attending in-person classes. So I got time to slow down and work on my upcoming school assignments at my own pace, without the burgeoning terror of that, plus getting to class, plus keeping up with my on-campus appointments, plus my midterms. It was nice to get a break of sorts, and let’s be honest, I am a little excited at the idea of online classes and having more free-range with learning without having to be in a physical classroom.
*When I was still attending class last week, I had only just started teaching myself how to curl my hair with a flat iron. With help from some Youtube videos, I tested out the technique on some evenings before I felt confident enough to do it at a faster pace during mornings before class. My natural hair is very straight and flat with hardly any bounce to it, so it was a big deal that I finally got around to experimenting. For a long time I was afraid to try; thinking that I would burn my hair, lol. And now that I am technically out of school, I’ve had even more time to practice.
*My meals have more variety to them now only because I have the convenience of eating from home, hence more selections. Honestly, being busy at school made it harder for me to enjoy my food and my appetite sucked if I had to eat right after I woke up. Most mornings I ate the standard toasted bread with cheese or ham and a banana with black coffee. I packed lunch; usually a box of a mixed salad of greens, fruits like strawberries and blueberries, a few slices of ham or a whole boiled egg accompanied by a banana/apple or a peanut butter sandwich. Sometimes this along with a few biscuits and my 16 oz. tumbler of water was enough to satiate me. Other times whether due to lack of sleep (increase of the hunger hormone?) or fatigue (drop in my blood sugar level? not eating enough protein?), I would feel hunger pangs about 3-4 hours after lunch. I never bought food from my school cafe or any nearby food places out of sheer laziness over spending money. There were always a number of Halal food trucks parked around campus to service hungry students, though the type of food being offered didn’t interest me either. I think a good lesson might be I could incorporate more protein-dense things into my packed lunch so what I eat is more filling.
And now for the negatives. 😦
*My mobility has become very limited. I avoid walking down streets with heavy pedestrian congestion, like the local supermarkets. If I do head outdoors, it’s to go along this long waterfront walkway strip where it’s easy to practice social distancing and exercise at the same time. I guess that would count as a half-plus but also a half-negative? I notice even with the coronavirus outbreak, this place still attracts a reasonable amount of people (although everyone keeps away from each other lol). If the shelter in place order does go into effect in New York, I would hope that I could still venture outdoors for exercise at the very least…
*Worrying over exactly how long the virus will go on. I am particularly concerned the danger will extend into my summer semester in college, as I do intend to register for one or two classes. I can’t imagine those courses will be online too. It would be a shame to have to stay indoors in such nice weather.
*Cancellations/Postponements. Obviously it’s not possible for me to have group therapy on campus for the foreseeable future, and the same can be said for any future appointments I have at the health clinic. I really would have preferred both to be in-person. The alternative is a once a week phone check-in with one of the therapists. And my health clinic appointment has become a phone call that will take place tomorrow at noon. I don’t know how it’ll go. I dislike the sound of my own voice and I hope the call doesn’t have an echo where I can hear myself. I also had a volunteer gig in a urban garden near my neighborhood that was set to start on the 27th but they’ve postponed. Sigh. I was so looking forward to being around nature again, but it makes sense they are taking everyone’s personal safety seriously.
*Personal space and tensions. This has been a recurring issue for me. I already live with my parents and sometimes my brother and his girlfriend drop by to stay for the weekend, but now they are actually living HERE all the time as they work from home. I feel bothered in the sense it’s more people under the same roof for what might be an unmeasurable extended period of time and it’s more underlying tension; both because of the housing arrangements and other people’s paranoia about the coronavirus affecting other people. My mother, for example. Today she snapped at me for making a suggestion and raised her voice at me. She is my mother, yes, but I am not going to make excuses for her behavior when she is known to have a habit of speaking to people in her own household like this just to get her way, while she would never verbally assault one of her friends or other relatives like that. The dumbest part is what she actually yelled at me for. I can only speculate since I can’t read her mind, but what happened was I picked up a plastic sleeve that was left outside the house. It’s the kind of sleeve that newspapers and ads are placed into and typically a delivery man tosses it on the porch. This one was the local advertisement for Kohl’s (a retail clothing store). I was going to put the sleeve into a trash bag and take out the papers inside to separate it for recycling. My mother ordered me to just dump the whole thing into the trash bag. When I hesitated, she raised her voice and said the same thing. I pointed out that there was paper that needed separating and then she sharply retorted at me that it didn’t matter and to just do it. Her attitude pissed me off, but first and foremost, her tone hurt me and that’s what made me so angry. The fact she belittled me and felt it necessary to treat me like dirt, even if she had her reasons for it. Thinking back on the situation, it appears she didn’t want me touching the sleeve because it was something I picked off the ground. This is what I meant by paranoia about the coronavirus. She has become a total germaphobe and even taken to spraying the soles of everyone’s shoes with rubbing alcohol, all because her friends (who are just as paranoid as her) told her to. What gets on my nerves is instead of her just directly telling me, “I don’t want you touching something that is dirty and possibly unclean”, she just goes straight for ripping my head off as if the only logical way of communicating with someone is to scream at them until they comply.