It’s been quite some time since I last wrote here. I’m sitting down on my chair writing here today because I needed to intentionally make a space for me to reflect on the changes that occurred since the past 2 months.
When COVID-19 first started spreading across the United States, colleges and universities begin taking initiatives to transition into remote learning. Every college in the NESCAC followed suit except Bates because of our unique academic calendar where we do not have a spring break. There was a divide between those who supports remote learning and those who wanted to finish the semester on campus among the students. That week happened so fast, suddenly, all large gatherings were cancelled, all tableware were changed to disposable ones, all food were served by dining staff only. March 12, the day the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Auburn, Maine was announced. Everyone predicted what would happen, but instead of acting like a grown adult and adjust to the situation, a bunch of kids from my college acted irrationally and held a large party on the football field that night, but that’s a story for another day.
I knew what was coming. The next day I wore my favourite sweater, went to class with my head held high, and to my dismay, at 10 am when the college-wide email asking us to pack our items and leave college in 4 days was sent out by the president, I broke down. My anxiety was at its peak on this very day. People who knows me well enough, knows that home to me is a feeling and not a physical place, and that I don’t feel at home when I’m back at my house. Being asked to leave my college and the people I feel supported and loved by is the most hurtful thing one can do to me.
But I wasn’t raised to be weak. At least that’s what my dad told me. After that broke down, I stood back up. I’m already 2/3 into my semester and because I started out strong, I’m going to end it strong.
After my last online class for winter semester of my sophomore year, I tried to continue being that productive and organized student that I always was—made my own schedule after finals, signed up for online classes, picked up new skills…. It only lasted for a couple of days. One day, I just woke up and felt like laying there in bed until the sky gets dark. I’m no more that girl who used to wake up as early as 7 am on a weekend to get a yummy breakfast with a nice cup of coffee to kickoff my day. I’ve always been an optimistic person, finding altruism in every little thing, but now there’s a voice in me saying, “What’s the point of working so hard? Look at all the tears and sweat you put in the past 3 months. They are gone.”
My one-month trip to Alaska as a research assistant that I have waited for 2 years was cancelled.
My two-month summer research in a neuroscience lab at my college was cancelled.
My study abroad semester at Geneva, Switzerland in a neuroscience lab? Uncertain.
Going back home to Malaysia? Uncertain.
I tried holding back any emotions I had every time I received an unfortunate news. I told myself that what I’m currently experiencing is nothing compared to those suffering right now due to the pandemic. I am privileged enough to have a bed to sleep on, a kitchen to express my creativity. Be grateful.
This did more harm than good on my mental state. How can one be grateful without validating one’s own feelings and emotions? This was never a competition on who has it worse. Feelings and emotions are inevitable and what I needed was a space for me to express how I feel. And for now, this is the space I’ve got. The walls in the house I live in are too thin for me to be fully vulnerable with myself.
One step at a time, I told myself.