Can you remember being put into time-out as a child? My first week here, at Fort Lewis College, took me back to that nostalgic and harrowing feeling.
I was figuring out life on my own, far away from anyone familiar. Two days into this journey my roommate came into our place and shook things up a little more. I was in the kitchen when she answered the dreaded call alerting her of the COVID detection in her test results.
I remember sitting in the dark living room that night. We were three strangers bonding over our shared predicament. We didn’t really know what the test results meant, but we all had that feeling you get when you’d walk slowly down the hall to the principal’s office.
The next day we awaited instructions. My roommate with the positive test results was moved into a separate apartment by herself. She had no one to talk to and just a few personal items to keep her company during her hellacious week.
Our third roommate, Kalani Larry, and I had to leave our apartment while it was sanitized, then come back to stay in our bare and alien space. We were told very little after that. A few emails informed us that we were to stay in our apartment. We needed to take another test and await results, and, like time-out, we had no estimated release time and no visitors. Our meals were delivered outside the apartment door--but even my mom didn’t go THAT far.
Let me officially introduce you to my Anxiety and Kalani--my only companions during this week-long, lockdown nightmare. Anxiety’s hobbies included bouncing up and down on my chest, making scrambled eggs with my brain and logging onto my laptop every five minutes to check for any unrealistic exposure updates.
Kalani was a complete stranger, and suddenly the only other person allowed near me. As you can imagine, this only made Anxiety’s presence grow larger, so large that mental breakdowns came easier than any simple conversation. The vulnerable state Kalani and I were in, created a gap between us, but also bonded us together. I was not nearly at my best, Kalani either, but we were dealing with the same problem, and in very close quarters.
The enclosed environment was stifling. I found myself plastering pictures on the walls to hide the stark, white paint I spent quite a lot of time staring at.
Kalani and I were on the phone a lot trying to get more answers about our situation and feel more at ease. I wanted to know when my test results would be available, but it seemed that I was never given the same answer. I understood that COVID-19 handling was brand new for everyone, but I still felt like we were being locked away and forgotten about.
For the first three days we didn’t have meals at all and couldn’t leave our apartment, so I’m glad I decided to get groceries before we were put under lockdown. After Kalani called to make them aware of our situation, we got meals regularly until the fifth day, when I was told I could leave the apartment to get food as long as I practiced social distancing.
I was still not released to go to classes. I was finally cleared on Wednesday, after getting back negative test results a second time, ten days since the start of school.
Literal isolation, on top of being within a currently isolated world, is not ideal. It’s hard. When our quarantine was finally uplifted, my problems did not disappear. While being locked up in my room, I had manifested a fear of leaving it. I felt so behind in school because of the time I missed, that the thought of tackling life outside my small space was overbearing.
Thoughts filled my head; “what emails did my teachers forget to send me? How would I be accepted when everyone else had already met? What do the other students think when I was surely outed for being COVID-19 tainted?” haunted me.
The phrase, “silence is deafening” began to make way more sense to me. During that week, often my only company was my mind, which was crammed with worries. Kalani said she felt comforted by homework, that it put her mind somewhere else. However, I obsessed over the classes I was missing.
I could have done a lot more to cope, but now I know what I should have done by what I didn’t do. Here’s what I learned. Maybe it will help save somebody from what I put myself through.
First of all, I lacked patience. If I had just sat down and focused on one class at a time, then one book at a time, then one word, I would have felt clear-headed and at peace.
In hindsight, I should have taken time to be gentle with myself before jumping into my new, scary, adult life. Instead, I expected to understand all my class work, learn how to cook for myself every day and find a best friend forever on my way to British Literature class, which wasn’t realistic.
Then I realized our minds may try to wear us out like a hyperactive little kid that has to know the answers to life’s greatest questions- stat. But if we try hard enough, we can take on the role of the calm, understanding adult and ease the stir-crazy toddler that is our brains.
Unknowns are what life consists of, and I had forgotten that. In this crazy world of maybes and what-ifs, it’s easy to feel doubtful. Remember, you are valid, and you’re also capable of caring for yourself. It’s not likely you’re going to know for sure what yoga poses to do each morning, and you can only watch so many episodes of Bob Ross, so give yourself time to figure out what you need. You know yourself better than anyone, and what you need to do to stay afloat.
If anyone finds themself in a situation like mine, I hope my words can keep you company, and even if you don’t have to go through this, we’re still all living in a whacked-out world right now. Remember that the most important person in your life is you.