When I look back over the past couple months, it seems almost unbelievable how much has changed so rapidly, and how blind I was to what was clearly coming. In February, I went to an indoor concert in Tampa with at least 20,000 people and did not think twice about it. My boyfriend and I discussed our summers and the weekend trips we would make to see each other while we were interning. He was supposed to be in New York City, and I was going to be living out my dream of interning on Capitol Hill. Obviously, neither of those will be happening. In early March, I went to a meeting in Tampa with people from all over the country, including New York City, and then attended a reception with another large group of people. I remember discussing with one other person that perhaps this was not the most appropriate time to be holding such a reception. As I was greeting people, I tried to initiate fist bumping rather than hand shaking, which was received with humor and then the inevitable handshake. The idea of standing six feet apart or wearing a mask did not even occur to me. In fact, I can remember listening to the New York Times’ Daily Podcast on my drive from Tallahassee to Tampa, and the commentators comforted me with facts stating that the most common way to become infected was to touch a contaminated surface and then to touch your face. I spread that like wildfire, encouraging friends to take their spring break vacations before eventually cancelling my own, too scared to visit my grandparents in Connecticut.
The week after that reception in Tampa was my last time setting foot in a classroom. I packed up my bags with enough for two weeks and drove the six hours to Fort Myers, FL, to be with my family. As soon as Florida State made the call that the entirety of the semester would be online, I drove back up and moved out of apartment. I dined in a restaurant for the very last time (even though many have reopened, I have not dared to venture in). I took two suitcases of clothes to Fort Myers with me this time; one for my summer clothes, the other for my business attire. I had not yet given up hope of moving to Washington D.C.. I then did the unthinkable. I moved back in with my mother, upending her plans to move to Connecticut. We unpacked the one-bedroom apartment, where the living room has been converted into a bedroom. She has been planning the move ever since I graduated from high school, two years ago. With NYC and the surrounding states rapidly becoming ground zero for the virus, it made more sense to stay put in Florida.
As April approached, I sunk into a deep depression, while my anxiety skyrocketed. I think this was a combination of seeing my well laid out plans go up in smoke, being confined to a small area with no space of my own, etc. I couldn’t sleep, and I did not want to be awake. I thought about suicide, first only when I could not sleep at 3 am, and then at all hours of the day. I knew that I needed to reach out to someone but finding mental health resources was difficult, and I felt embarrassed for feeling this way. The more anxious and depressed I was, the more minor (thankfully not COVID related) health issues arose. This just added fuel to the fire, as there was absolutely no way I was setting foot in a doctor’s office. After two weeks of this, I finally went to an urgent care clinic, where after taking inventory of my symptoms while I sat in my car, they labelled me as “sick”, and told me to go to a tent in the back of the parking lot. I almost broke down when I heard this, incorrectly assuming they meant I may have COVID. That was when I realized just how scared I was of becoming infected. Up until then, I had held the belief that if I became sick, I would likely recover without any complications, but I was concerned about the people I may infect while being asymptomatic.
I don’t know when I started to feel better. But I began enjoying the silver linings of the pandemic. Thankfully, no one in my family has been infected by COVID. For the first time, my boyfriend and I are living in the same place. I am able to live with my family dog again. While I may not have the internship I wanted, I was able to extend my already remote internship from spring, and expand it to take on some different roles. I have the free time to read all the books that I collect. With the restaurants closed, I have been cooking more than ever. I’ve perfected my homemade marinera sauce, courtesy of the farm down the street practically throwing produce away due to low demand. Now that we have entered summer, picture memories pop up from the previous summer when I was studying abroad in Spain. Will I ever be as comfortable on an airplane, or in a hostel, as I was that summer? I think that it will take a while to heal from this, but life will go on, whether we like it or not, and that is the lesson I will be taking with me as we move on from this. It sounds unspeakable in my melodramatic moments, but delaying my dream internship to another time will not ruin my career. Maybe it will alter it, but who is to say that it will not be altered for the better? For the time being, I will be trying to take everything one day at a time, mask in hand.
Written May 30th, 2020