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Pressing pause on my pathway to a stable future

As a young adult who has had their life shifted and uprooted in a number of ways, the last place I expected it to happen again was my educational, and young adult life, during my last semester of college when I finally felt like things were coming together. Things like graduating as a first-generation student, applying for jobs to ensure financial security after I finish my last semester, and overall creating a pathway to a stable future for myself has been put on pause, and as of right now, no one really knows what is going to happen next.

I’ve always been an adaptable person. As someone who lacked stability growing up, I had to be. However, lacking stability as a child, and lacking it as an adult are two completely different playing fields. Now that my university has shut down and commenced online classes, there are a number of resources not only myself, but countless other students, are lacking. Things that seem small to many, but make a world of difference for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to have these things if it weren’t for the university they were attending. Access to printers, to cafeterias, even internet access is put in jeopardy due to the sudden shut down of universities caused by COVID-19.

For some such as myself, my university was an environment where I was able to connect with my peers and professors. In a sense, it was a bit of a getaway from the stressors I dealt with at home trying to support myself, and help my family as much as I could. Although I am grateful that the universities throughout New York are doing what they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I also realize that it adds on another layer of uncertainty and stress that I will have to actively deal with. How will I attend online classes when my internet connection isn’t always stable? What if my already weak immune system fails me and I get sick, keeping me from attending class? The realities of the situation are incredibly stressful. As someone who tends to overthink and worry. I’m taking it in stride, one step at a time.

Ideally, I’d like to contribute and do my part in social distancing, however, being a student who supports themselves I am still forced to go to work in order to make income. As of right now, my job hasn’t shut down, nor do they see themselves shutting down in the near future. This leaves me with a sense of fear that I am contributing to the problem since I am in a place where social distancing is impossible. For most customer service related jobs, especially as a barista, you don’t get the option to stand six feet away from your colleagues. In most cases, you’re always right on top of each other trying to do your jobs. On any normal day, you adapt and accept that you have absolutely no personal space, especially in a place like New York. It’s different this time though. Now there’s the potential to be carriers in this pandemic, and establishments continuing to remain open are putting themselves and their employees at risk.

On top of everything, my biggest concern is the amount of panic buying. With every visit to the grocery store, I feel like there is less and less accessible to us. The consequences of panic buying take a huge toll on lower-income individuals who work, and can’t access their local grocery stores before everything goes out of stock. For me and my family, it has been nearly impossible to get our groceries. We buy what we can in hopes that it will last us. A 15-lb bag of rice will last us about 3 months, but we can’t even find small bags of rice to last us a few weeks due to the number of people who have been contributing to the hysteria. Meals have become harder to make, and I’m worried for my family more than anyone that due to all of this our access to food will be limited.

I sincerely urge not only young adults but everyone to follow CDC protocol and practice social distancing. Times are indescribably hard, but please know you’re not alone. We thankfully have access to connect with each other digitally. Take advantage of that and reach out to your friends and loved ones through calls, video chats, texting, or whatever you can pull off right now. If you’re able to help those around you, please do so. This is a time where we should be working together and helping each other all while being safe.

Make sure you look after yourself and celebrate your little victories. What we’re going through right now is scary and it’s important to acknowledge your hard work when you can. Most importantly, look after yourself, and don’t put yourself at risk to be a carrier to COVID-19. The only way we can put a halt to rising cases is by actively working together.

Lyric Young is a senior at City College of New York and a member of Young Invincibles’ New York Young Advocates Program.