As the state of New York currently leads the U.S. in the number of COVID-19 cases with a confirmed total of over 60,000 confirmed cases and 1,200 deaths, this unexpected, rapidly increasing pandemic has opened a lot of historic changes we did not even know were possible. These changes include: isolating people into their own homes while limiting actual physical person-to-person contact, shutting down schools and college campuses while transitioning to distance-learning, and closing establishments and businesses while terminating various employees who don’t even have a secondary immediate option for employment. These unforeseen policies and procedures as a response to this global public health emergency have made a majority of the population left with no choice but to follow, even to their disadvantage.
Personally, I have never experienced being quarantined for a long period of time, not because I do show symptoms of COVID-19, but due to the fact I have to follow the local, state, and even federal regulations to just stay home to limit my exposure and possible spreading of the disease to other people. I do so with a keen and cautious observance of my duty as a responsible citizen of this nation, but ultimately it has impacted me in a lot of different ways educationally and even more so, physically and mentally.
With the sudden CUNY transition to distance-learning, I was forced to spend almost the entire 24-hours of my day at home, often disregarding my need for a daily physical activity, feeling it has drained me physically already in just a span of a week. Occasionally, I feel heavily fatigued from unknown reasons just by spending most of my time sitting, facing my laptop hopping from one online class or meeting to another, keeping up to date with overloaded Blackboard announcements, reading and responding to numerous emails from professors and classmates, and doing various advanced assignments which did not even exist at the beginning of the semester. What I truly sense is how overwhelming this sudden change has just been, and I can’t imagine its toll on other students who don’t even have remote access to the Internet or even a personal computer, if indeed this takes longer than expected to resolve.
Similarly, I must face the reality that out of this drastic educational scheduling shift, I will have to do most of my work outside of school which in all honesty might not be the most ideal setting for a person like me to study. I am currently living with both my senior parents in Queens, New York and although my Dad, waiting for his retirement in 2 years, still works at the hospital five days a week, I do spend most of my time with my mom who is a diagnosed bipolar with some underlying medical conditions such as Diabetes. While it’s very convenient not to travel back and forth to school every day, I feel this forced-isolation has made me less productive than how I was and how I’m supposed to be, having to juggle both my personal mental health and focusing on my education while at the same time looking over my high-risk parents’ (especially my mom’s) day-to-day needs and actual physical attention. Believe me, it creates a lot of opportunities for familial growth, yet at the same time results in countless unforeseeable drama too!
In closing, this sudden COVID-19 pandemic has made me feel we just boarded on a mandatory one-way flight of uncertainty with lots of hand-carried questions and apprehensions. But one thing to note: as in every flight anyone has been on, what kept us still going all along is that hope to finally reach our “destination.” With that, I’ll be more than willing to go through the discomforts and oftentimes pains of the long hours of travel knowing a safe landing will soon come.
So, as we all are equally in flight now, may we consciously change our perspective from fear, anxiety, and disorder to confidence, peace, and discipline. And as we all try to be joyful amidst this very unchartered territory, may we TAKE HEART and TRUST THE JOURNEY for rest-assured our pilot will soon announce: “Everyone… Prepare for landing!” Until then fasten your seatbelts.
Romy Robielos II is a junior at New York City College of Technology, CUNY, and a member of Young Invincibles’ Young Advocates Program.