SARAH SHARPE WRITES – The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed this country into the most chaotic I have ever seen! I have never been more scared and confused, simultaneously. The shutdown of LMU, along with many other college campuses, has dramatically shifted the lives of students and faculty. Places of work have shut down; restaurants, bars, and shops are closed until further notice.
I live off campus in the small community of Playa Vista, and my family lives a few hours north in Ojai. While my parents are generally healthy, my dad is nearing 70. Because of my potential exposure to the virus, I know that for another ten days I cannot be home with them. I am quarantined in my apartment with my best friend. Our online classes begin next week.
I have never seen grocery stores and pharmacies so empty. Due to stocking up last week, though, my fridge is full and I have a Costco size box of water bottles. The Amazon-Primed motion sensor soap dispenser arrived yesterday. I scrub-in every time I return home. Although I am thankful for the resources that I have access to, the feelings that come with being isolated are starting to settle in – after only three days.
As a student who is highly involved in the community, I feel as though my purpose and identity have melted away. I love being a student! I am a social butterfly. With my gym and pool closed, I can only exercise outside of the apartment building and or inside. I cannot go to restaurants, bars, or shops. Even though I know that isolation and social-distancing are necessary, I am beginning to struggle.
I worry about my friends who work in the medical field and who are first responders. I worry about my parents staying healthy. I feel as though my life is dissolving, from complex and fulfilling into nothing more than existence. This situation has forced me to reevaluate both what is most important to me and who is most important to me.
While we do not know how long this will last, it is safe to assume social isolation will be necessary for another few weeks, at least. I know that in order to keep my mental health in check, I need to stay busy. I have planned things to do every day including homework, research, puzzles, cleaning, arts and crafts, and running. If I isolate myself, I will not get sick with COVID-19, but I worry equally about both the psychological and physical effects of this experience.
While these days have been filled with anxiety and frustration, I have learned something: Never to take opportunities and chances for new experiences in life for granted. I am yearning to return to normalcy, and pray that things begin to improve sooner rather than later.
April 3, 2020 Update
CORONAVIRUS CHRONICLES: MY PATH TO SANITY
SARAH SHARPE WRITES-The picture above is from my walk along the bluff of LMU’s campus. I have walked from my apartment in Playa Vista to the west side of this trail and back every day for the past five days. When I get to the highest point, as seen above, I stop and sit on the ground for a few minutes, just breathing in the fresh air. I take a few more minutes to quietly reflect upon my current situation and pray for those who are not as fortunate as I am.
The past couple of days have been the most challenging thus far. Being isolated and missing my family is starting to eat away at my emotional stability. I swing back and forth from feeling down to feeling thankful for my safety and my good health. Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday, and my mom’s is in two weeks. I will not be with them for either.
From trying an array of eclectic, challenging new recipes to working out multiple times a day, I guess you could say that I am taking good care of myself. I am not depressed and I am healthy; but I am not sure how long either of these will remain true. Going to my local grocery store feels haunting; everyone is wearing a mask and gloves, nobody seems to want to make eye contact with me, and the occasional sound from the security guard’s walkie-talkie mixed with the blaring Christmas music-yes, in April!- reminds me of a scene from the TV show Handmaid’s Tale.
I am working through the process of acceptance to welcome in a new normal. While I, like every other person on this planet, am eager for this to end, I also recognize the value in experiencing adversity. I can only hope that this experience changes us all for better, not worse.
April 10th 2020 update
In the past week, local public health policies and social standards in Los Angeles have been dramatically altered. Face masks are now required in public settings, stores are only allowing ten people in at a time, and all open trails and parks have been closed off and covered in caution tape. More of the local restaurants that I frequent have temporarily closed, and fewer and fewer people are walking around my neighborhood.
While these changes are absolutely necessary in regards to slowing the spread of COVID-19, they reinforce the mental struggle that we are all experiencing. My daily walk on a public, and very quiet, trail near my apartment was a compelling force in maintaining my sanity. Because of recent closures, I will have to adapt and figure out a new place to run. I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem; but humans are inherently selfish, and I am upset about my trail closure.
I never could have imagined that things would be where they are today with this crisis. If you told me last month that this is where our lives would be, I would have laughed and assumed you were being dramatic. Like last week, the most challenging mental hurdle for me has been acceptance; I am surprised every day by the news headlines and new regulations. I am simply so in awe of this global transformation, and the radical changes made to our daily lives.
LMU undergraduate Sarah Sharpe is a Contributing Editor to Asia Media International. `