Isolation Thoughts

I was very lucky to be able to be home schooled from the time that I would normally have started school until I started going to BYU. It was a great experience for me, because I had the chance to learn at my own speed and adjust my curriculum or learning method whenever necessary.

I never thought I’d be forced back into home schooling because of a global pandemic.

To be fair, this online school thing that’s happening now is not at all the same thing as home school was for me growing up. When I was a kid, my parents basically gave me some books and a list of things to study, and my siblings and I were on our own, unless we needed help. That method certainly wouldn’t work for everyone and every subject, but it worked pretty well for us. Our schoolwork usually only took two or three hours, and the rest of the day we were free to do whatever we wanted to (except TV and video games). We spent a lot of time building Legos, playing with toys, and playing in our yard.

Now, I’m back in my childhood home in Idaho homeschooling again(sort of). And although it’s different, I do feel very lucky for my homeschooling upbringing now more than ever, and for a different reason than normal. Usually, I’m just grateful for the flexibility and freedom that home school gave me, but now I’m grateful for another aspect of it: I’m used to being at home all day.

Yes, I did go to church growing up, and I had other activities like dance classes, and later seminary and dual enrollment electives at the local high school. But I was still at home far more than most of my peers throughout my childhood. So I’m actually pretty used to this whole “quarantine” thing.

The transition was still super hard though. Over the past few years, I had gotten really comfortable with being really busy. During the semester, I would take a full class load and be working, and during the summers, I would work as close to 40 hours a week as I could. I’d gotten really comfortable with having a strict schedule that ruled my life and mandated when I had to be productive. So going from that kind of schedule into basically no schedule was hard. But now that it’s been a few weeks, it actually feels kind of similar to the way I grew up. Except I still have responsibilities and due dates.

It’s still hard though. I miss my friends and classmates, coworkers, and professors. I miss going to Taste in downtown Provo by myself every Saturday. I miss studying on campus, and meeting up with friends for lunch. But I am also very aware of how lucky I am. I’m living with my parents, so I don’t have to pay for rent or food. I still have my job. I and my family are all still healthy, and none of us work essential jobs that put us at high risk of infection.

I may be struggling, but I am so very lucky in so many ways, and I’m trying to keep that in mind as we do what we can to slow the spread of this disease.

Stay safe, folks.

Rapid Goodbyes

Last Thursday everything changed.

Okay, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic, but it’s also kind of true.

I had just finished competing in a dance competition with my brother as a part of our Latin ballroom dance class. I was already aware of COVID-19, and some of the threats it posed to society. I had heard of other universities closing down and switching to online classes, but I hadn’t given it too much thought in terms of BYU closing down. However, right as I was leaving the competition, I opened my email on my phone and saw it. BYU was cancelling school for the next three days, and then switching to online classes. And they encouraged students to return home to finish the semester.

I was shaken. But I was 35 minutes late for a class, so I speed-walked there, and for the next 25 minutes, I was at least a little bit distracted from what this announcement meant for me and my friends in Provo. Then, I went to my prep class for my Jordan study abroad that is supposed to happen this fall. And there, I couldn’t distract myself anymore. Every other question was about COVID-19, online instruction, and contingency plans in case the study abroad is no longer possible.

All this talk made me very anxious, and what didn’t help was that my family group chat was going crazy with my parents and siblings asking what our plans were. I was panicking. All my friends were in Provo, my job was in Provo. I didn’t know how to deal with this. And I didn’t have time to think about it. My parents offered to come pick me and my brother up that same weekend. Two days. That’s how much time I had. To figure out whether I was staying or going, and whether or not I could even go home since my job was on campus. Right after my class, I ran into my brother, Jacob, on campus and we talked briefly about our plans. Jacob is married, so he and his wife planned to stay in Provo. When I left him, I called my dad, and we talked about the situation.

On the bus on the way home from campus, I talked with a couple of my roommates about it more, and then at my Arabic house dinner, we all talked about it again. Every time I talked about it, I got more and more sad. Everything was so uncertain and scary. That night, I watched Strictly Ballroom to take my mind off the craziness.

The next morning I woke up and checked my email. My boss had emailed saying that I could work remotely. I called my parents and told them I was coming home. The rest of the day I spent packing, and hanging out with my roommates and friends, trying to get the most out of the last 24 hours that we would be in the same city.

I had a ton of fun with my friends. We went and got Indian food and joked and laughed. But every time we had any quiet moments, tears would well up in my eyes. I always knew I would have to say goodbye to these people, but I thought I had five more weeks. I was not prepared to say goodbye to them in under 48 hours.

It was really hard to say goodbye to these people. They have become some of my closest friends in the world. We’ve been through so much good, so much bad, and so much ridiculousness. I love my family, and it’s nice to be home in so many ways, but I miss my friends so much. They were my support when I was struggling, they were my study buddies, my meme suppliers, and my second family.

COVID-19 has wreaked so much havoc on all of our lives. My situation is far from the worst I’ve heard of. In fact, it’s one of the best ones. But it still sucks. So bad. No one wants to deal with this. My only hope is that we will all take this seriously so that life can go back to normal as soon as possible.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay at least six feet away from each other. Avoid large gatherings. And try to stay hopeful and grateful for what we do have.