It was March 11 – a Wednesday the week before Spring Break at Stevenson University – when classes for remote instruction were announced for the remainder of the week and the week following Spring Break. At the time, Covid-19 was not being taken as seriously as it currently is (although it should have been), so the severity of not abiding by social distancing didn’t seem like much of a threat. To a naïve college student like myself, I felt invincible and this was the perfect opportunity for me to score brownie points with my long-distance girlfriend. I would travel a few days early to New York City, surprise her, spend a long weekend with her, and then head home to spend the remainder of Spring Break with my family in West Virginia. Little did I know that I would be heading to the Covid-19 epicenter of the United States.
By Saturday, March 14, news of the Covid-19 pandemic and outbreak had become much more significant as it pertained to Americans, and especially New Yorkers. According to The New York Times, in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, many states issued statewide stay-at-home orders. New York placed one in effect on March 22. My social media had made it clear that I was in New York at the time and that sparked a lot of opinions. My family was adamant that my girlfriend and I leave New York and come spend the oncoming quarantine in West Virginia. The youth in me tried my hardest to reassure my parents that I would be fine and as a 22-year-old, I could handle decisions like this on my own.
A walk down First Avenue later that Saturday evening raised my concerns – if you have ever seen “I Am Legend” with Will Smith, you know the setting: apocalyptic. The eerily quiet New York streets, coupled with my parent’s persistence, made the decision to come home pretty certain. They were doing the polite thing: inviting their oldest and his girlfriend home to avoid contracting the virus and to spend the few weeks of stay-at-home orders surrounded by loved ones. We all thought this quarantine would only last a few weeks.
It’s now been over a month since I’ve returned to my childhood home in Morgantown, West Virginia, a house at full capacity with five now holding six. My parents’ bedroom is in the back of the house; adjacent to my parents’ room sits my younger sister’s bedroom; down the hallway facing out the front of the house, my bedroom shelters my girlfriend and me; and to the left of my room sits the bedroom of my youngest sibling, my younger brother, Carter. The rest of the house boasts a modest kitchen, three baths, a living room, a family room, a playroom, and a deck to admire the hills of West Virginia. This is the first time we have all been in the same house for a month straight in nearly three years, let alone having a sixth member bunking with us too: let me tell you how it’s been.
Since being quarantined in West Virginia with my flavorful family and my amazing girlfriend, I’ve learned a few things: cherish the time with your loved ones and alone time is incredibly important.
When you are living with five other people in a house, space is limited. When you are essentially confined to your house due to a stay-at-home order, things can begin to feel even tighter. My dad has made the dining room his office, my mom claimed the kitchen, and my girlfriend declared my room her workspace, which leaves my brother, sister, and me to fight for the next quietest common room. You can imagine how difficult it is to concentrate when the entire house is doing some form of a Zoom call. I can’t even watch a Netflix show without having to rewind it five times after being interrupted by one of my loving family members asking me to get off the WiFi because their internet was slow.
So how do you make alone time for yourself when it almost seems impossible? Take a walk. I’m fortunate enough to have the cutest curly-haired goldendoodle who needs endless attention, so we walk quite frequently. Whether you have a companion or not, taking walks can get you out of the house, clear your mind and help you click the reset button when things become too much at the house. It’s spring now – with warm weather on the horizon. Take a drive and appreciate your hometown or wherever you’re spending these unprecedented times. Roll the windows down, play some music, and you can escape into your own little world.
More important than alone time is family, and for many of us, the quarantine has brought a sort of silver lining: the opportunity to be surrounded by those closest to us. If you are in a scenario where you can’t be with loved ones, all the down time offers a great opportunity to connect virtually too. Either way you spin it, take this time to cherish and appreciate the people most important to you. I’ve been away from home for nearly eight years now, and up until this point, I’d forgotten what truly makes us family. It’s the idiosyncrasies we forget about – in my family it’s the competitive edge in us all or the stories from our childhood that make us who we are today. Over the past month we’ve had themed dinners, started a board game competition (I’m tied for first), and celebrated birthdays. In some respects, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while – that’s not to diminish the severity of Covid-19 – but I’ve gotten back in touch with my roots, taken a step back from the high-pace life we call reality. If we look at our world through a positive lens, maybe the pandemic will be a humbling experience for us all.