California, United States
This ‘break’ was never expected nor called for. I was busy with my schoolwork – graduate school has been nothing but all work – when we got an email that there was a suspected case on campus and students would be taking their classes online until further notice. Until then I had only read the name COVID19 in reference to China or maybe Italy, but the unrealistic tale, as I called it, had travelled all the way here. There were rumors that airports might be shut down soon and I had made plans to travel to California the following week to meet my husband for spring break.
I changed my flight to the next day leaving as early as I could, deciding it was better to be stuck with someone rather than being alone and isolated. There were many people hustling at the airports. I was still in denial and imagined myself as one of the characters in a science fiction movie; this was all unreal. As the days passed by, the phone would buzz with alerts saying that shelter-in place had been announced for most states and California was one of them. The number of deaths was increasing exponentially – with New York being the epicenter.
The panic and chaos did not end here. Superstores like Target, Walmart and Costco were all short on staple foods. People were stockpiling for the future (if there would be one), emptying shelves of pasta, rice, flour. This whole apocalyptic scenario had never been witnessed by me before. I tried not to let it lead to panic. My husband and I did our groceries from various places to gather enough food for a week. We go out at least once a week to get stuff to make sure there is enough left for others to consume as well. Although the empty racks of tissue rolls have been providing us with a lot meme material, it was a disappointment to see the selfishness of humans. Alongside this are the people – all the doctors and nurses – who were willingly putting themselves in danger for their patients. I find it amusing that all of this is real and while we are supposedly preparing for the future, no one still knows what unpredictability lies ahead.
The highways of the Bay Area are now mostly empty, and people are all wearing masks of different kinds to protect themselves from this ferocious virus that has instilled fear, chaos, and hopelessness in their worlds. The same places that would be bustling with people and their laughter are now barren and abandoned. I am grateful that I have someone to share this experience with and I have been trying to be a constant support to all my friends who are stuck in places that they had not planned to be in or with people they do not know. Amidst all this, I just hope people do not fade out, they do not forget what they had because all of this is temporary, and it will be over soon.
On the bright side, I have had enough time to waste and reboot my system internally and externally. I have started organizing myself to be more productive after procrastinating for three weeks in every possible way (my roommates even got a pet), but that said every day is different. Feeling anchored and centered has been my main struggle with all the randomness we have all been experiencing. To try and achieve that, I have kept myself away from the numbers being calculated everyday by different universities and research facilities predicting the future of the virus. The world outside seems very quiet now, and I am curious to see how we will all go back to the normal world, or if there would ever be one?