Our semesters were cut short almost five weeks ago. Since we received that first email announcing that classes wouldn’t resume until April 12, I had been struggling with the decision to go home to Singapore. The uncertainty surrounding when the University would reopen and the perils of airports and airplanes at a time like this were some of the reasons that this decision was extremely difficult.
I also dreaded the two-week quarantine that now awaits me and the idea of leaving the comfort of my apartment (and my boyfriend) — the two things that have kept me peacefully sane throughout this strange time.
I grew up in a unique household; my parents and I have an equal say in everything I do. They have always given me their opinions but ultimately let me make my own decisions, and so this one was really on me. What it came down to was the thought of being stuck all alone for an indefinite amount of time if this situation fully spiraled out of control. Making the decision to book the flight home was probably the most pressure I have ever felt in my entire life, and admittedly I did not handle it well. Many tears, hair color changes and glasses of wine later, my incredible boyfriend drove me to the airport.
Dulles Airport was completely deserted. It looked almost post-apocalyptic. Three people were checking in, one person was ahead of me at security and no one was on the train to the gate. The cabin was about half full, which added an air of normalcy, but the sealed food, canned drinks, routine restroom cleanings and the flight attendants in masks brought me back to reality. LAX was even worse. Aside from being almost entirely empty, it was dimly lit and full of never-ending tunnels. It was a 45-minute walk to my next gate, and I had a four-hour layover that would conclude at midnight (which was 3 a.m. in my head because of the time difference). I was determined to keep my distance from everyone as much as possible, but I hadn’t eaten in seven hours, so I found the only open restaurant and waited for what felt like an eternity.
Boarding the flight, I was incredibly grateful for the hospitality of the cabin crew, who made me feel like I was home already. For 17 hours, I stressed about overdue assignments, botched sleep patterns, the two-week isolated quarantine I am now in the middle of, my cancelled internships and not seeing my friends and family for an indefinite amount of time. I have practically lived my entire life on planes, so I can safely say that I am comfortable flying. This particular flight, though, was a different kind of hell — one that I concocted entirely in my mind.
After landing, I was directed through temperature screenings, to baggage claim and then on to a bus. The bus went straight to a hotel, where I am now quarantined for two weeks. I understand that this is kind of a wonderful problem to have. I’m stuck in a spacious room in a beautiful hotel with delicious meals brought to my doorstep three times a day. My parents drop off care packages, and I FaceTime every friend I’ve ever had for hours on end. But none of this changes the fact that I am completely alone.
For someone with serious anxiety issues like myself, being left alone with my thoughts is absolutely terrifying. The only way I fall asleep is if the TV is still on. I’ve read two full novels in four days just to keep my mind occupied. It doesn’t help that my classes run until almost 5 a.m.; I truly can’t tell night and day apart. These are certainly unprecedented circumstances, but I could have never in my wildest dreams imagined this.
So, what is the point of this extreme oversharing? Someone told me yesterday that they were impressed at how positive and carefree I am despite everything that’s happening. When I asked them how they came to this (extremely incorrect) conclusion, they cited my chipper responses on group chats, my full face of makeup and my lack of complaints on a Zoom call.
Almost everyone I know is wearing some sort of mask — both literally and figuratively — and putting on a brave face right now. Personally, I can’t even pinpoint how I feel most of the time, and that’s a large part of why I don’t share too much. I am honestly thrilled that my positivity is still convincing; we all need a little break from the heavy.
But please take my happy face with a pinch of salt. I’m so lucky to have an incredible support system getting me through this (I can’t thank my family — both given and chosen — enough). Without them I truly don’t know how I would bear all of this. So take a moment to check in on the people you care about, even if they may seem totally fine. We all need an extra virtual hug right now. Even those of us in full hair and makeup.