As I write this, it’s day nine of spring break, one day until online classes begin and more days than I feel like counting until I return to Baltimore and the life I love there. I’m sitting on my couch at home in Brooklyn, wondering how the hell I got here and have been forced to stay here. I think it’s safe to say this wasn’t what anyone expected, even just two weeks ago.
To state the obvious, this sucks. We’re in the midst of a global health crisis, and once that’s over, we’ll be left with an economic crisis — things to look forward to, right...? Seriously, there’s a lot to lose.
And we Hopkins students, and millions of other students, have already lost part of our college experience. Others may dismiss that loss, and it is unfortunately necessary, but it’s still significant, and we’re allowed to grieve it. We’re losing time and memories with our friends. We won’t be able to complete research, or projects for extracurriculars and jobs. Our education probably won’t be as in-depth or rigorous as it is normally. Streams of income have dried up or trickled thinner. There could be permanent repercussions on our loved ones’ or our own health, or worse.
These problems all manifest in a uniquely difficult way for each of us. I’ve been planning to study abroad next semester, so that could be cancelled, which sucks, or if it isn’t, I won’t see my friends until January, 10 months away. I have no more crazy Wednesday nights at the Gatehouse with my News-Letter coworkers, nor can I pick up a freshly printed copy of the paper every Thursday, because this has forced us to go online-only. Despite Hopkins promising to pay student workers through April 12, I may not make as much money or put in as many hours remotely for my campus job, which I only started this semester and really enjoy. One of my parents is effectively jobless until this ends, and the other is much more vulnerable than the average person to the coronavirus. Both of those things concern me.
These are just my small or not-so-small things that pile up on top of the greater societal impact to make this even harder. We all have them. We can’t control or fix them right now. But we can only accept that lack of control if we let ourselves mourn this loss first and then deal with worse things as they come, rather than anticipating them too much.
I’ve had a lot of other recalibrating to do for this semester now that I’m no longer in Baltimore, just like many of us have had. My goal for this semester, and this column, was to recover and grow from a rough last semester, and also to tie up some loose ends before going away next semester. I wanted to enjoy myself, start taking pride in myself and what I do again and be more present with my friends and in classes.
I put in a lot of work to do that: finding a job, starting to work out, fine-tuning my class and extracurricular schedule, practicing more gratitude and self-care, checking on my friends more and doing more fun things with them. Right before spring break, I felt like that was starting to really pay off, so I was excited to come back from break and just... thrive.
But now we’re not coming back, even though classes will resume (sort of...). I’ve had to reconsider what’s still important and feasible and what my new priorities are. Honestly, my academics don’t matter to me as much now. I’ll do my work as much and as well as I feel able, but remote learning isn’t ideal and I’m concerned about other things — like, you know, the pandemic — so I’m not going to overexert myself doing it, and I’m going to pray to God that the University listens to my plea for S/U grading. I can’t be physically present with my friends, but I know they’re also struggling, and I miss them, so thankfully we have a plethora of digital platforms to use so we can still be there for one another.
I can also value this time at home (though cabin fever is imminent). Home and family can be frustrating, but I often feel like I haven’t had enough of them since coming to college. I love Brooklyn and my family and our Flatbush rowhome. I’ve missed them. Though I still have to spend a lot of time in college mode, I want to take this extra opportunity to be in home mode, too. I want to enjoy sleeping in my own bed. I want to get to know my neighborhood even better while I take long, “socially distant” walks every day. I want to yell answers at the TV while watching Jeopardy! with my dad and Google the historical accuracy of The Crown with my mom. I want them to teach me family recipes. I want to support them as they deal with this crisis too.
So that’s how I’m beginning to make peace with this radical change to daily life, though I’m sure it will be hard and will only get harder at some points.
Dealing with the threat of the virus in and of itself, though, is more overwhelming to me. The number of cases refuses to stay put. More towns are locking down and tightening their rules. The world feels like it’s turned upside down then right side up again a dozen times in the past few weeks. Death, though kind of incomprehensible to me, is an inevitable outcome for many. My hometown, New York City, is currently the heart of the pandemic in the U.S., which terrifies me. I don’t want to get sick, particularly after spending so much time injured and out of commission last semester. I especially don’t want my more vulnerable family members to get sick.
And I’ve been having a hard time figuring out my feelings about the media in this. They obviously have a huge role, since they’re the ones relaying all the important but overwhelming information and suggestions and predictions. My father always likes to say they sensationalize things, right now the coronavirus. Sometimes I agree with him; sometimes I don’t. Now I just want to turn it off a lot, but I think that comes more from a place of wanting this to be over rather than being unable to handle an influx of news.
But I have to acknowledge my own role in the media too, although it may seem negligible to some. I am a student journalist, right here at The News-Letter. I put a lot of love into this job, as do my coworkers. But we contribute to the influx too, in our own small way. Are we handling this properly? Are we just a meaningless speck compared to mass media? Does my individual work matter?
I ask myself those questions all the time, but since March 10, I’ve been asking them more than ever and thinking about what our — specifically my — role is now that we’re online-only, no longer on campus and dealing with a global crisis. But I’m glad to still have this connection to Baltimore, to Hopkins, to some slight feeling of control as I continue to write and edit articles that try to make sense of it all. This column, specifically, has been cathartic for me this semester, and I had it all kind of planned out: the knot of thoughts and feelings from last semester that I would try to untangle in each article. But now this semester has its own knot — a much bigger and more communal one, and going forward, I think I’m going to pick at this one instead.
So, even though nothing about this column or this semester or this world right now is what I (or anyone, probably, for the latter two) expected, they’re still gonna keep on going, and we just gotta hang tight with them.