Like the majority of college students, I had finally reached my breaking point of living at home. I was four months into quarantine and felt like I was losing my mind, so I figured a change of scenery would do the trick.
Our new reality transformed what should have been a simple four-hour car ride from Orlando to Miami into a life-altering decision. Do I leave the comfort of my home and risk infecting myself? The smart answer probably would have been no, but I decided it was time to break out of my Q-induced introverted shell. Leaving Orlando was like being sent off to war: My sisters wrapped me in too-tight hugs while my dad shook his head in disapproval. After all, I suppose they had all the reason to be so worrisome because what was meant to be a 10-day getaway stretched into month-long confinement. It’s easy to feel invincible when you’re with your friends. We were taking caution (I relied heavily on my handy-dandy sanitizer keychain and mask) but also a bit overly naive to think we could spend a week in Earth’s COVID-19 epicenter and not fall ill. For a whole week, we managed to share a living space with four different people, and I was the lone traveler to come home to negative outcomes — a positive COVID-19 test. It’s actually comedic that this is where my luck led to and scary how fast the coronavirus spreads — and how often it flies under the radar.
I decided to get tested before starting to catch symptoms because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t bringing anything back to my family. Getting the test itself was surreal: It was the first time I caught on to how severe the virus really is.
Over the next three days, I aimlessly checked my health portal every hour or so, anxiously awaiting an answer. The doctor noted that due to an outrageous volume of cases, mine could take as long as 10 days to appear. It was on my third and final page refresh that it did.
At first, I thought I must’ve read it wrong, but then I realized there are not many ways you can decipher “RESULTS: POSITIVE FOR COVID-19″ all capitalized in red. Whelp, I guess we are doing this, I thought. I soon embraced the pain of being unable to speak to a single soul for the next 14 days. How fun!
After breaking the news to my loves ones and enduring a stingy “I told you so” from each of them, I plopped on my couch thinking, “what now?” Here began my voyage of self-isolation, divided into four phases:
- PHASE 1: TV. Whenever I’m stressed out, I revert to my beloved rainy-day Netflix comfort show: New Girl. It’s an embarrassment to admit I finished two seasons in about three days.
- PHASE 2: COOKING/BAKING. One might find it ironic to pick up cooking when you lose your sense of taste and smell, but oh well, better late than never. I’m 20 years old and a calamity in the kitchen, so why not make smart use of my empty hours? I wound up serving a Brie that looked and tasted phenomenal … or at least I hoped so.
- PHASE 3: READING/WRITING/MUSIC. Reading, writing and listening to music provide me with a sense of comfort I can’t unearth anywhere else. As I age, life gets busier and leaves less room for me to soak in that comfort, but my ample time in quarantine poised me to enjoy it again. I also found journaling to be quite a therapeutic experience — one I don’t get to do as regularly as I’d like to.
- PHASE 4: APPRECIATION. Long weeks in solitude left me to recognize the quality people and pieces that make up my life. Throughout this experience, I took a step back and expressed gratitude for nature, friends and family. Tons of nonsense conversations over FaceTime made me feel like I had company.
Overall, COVID taught me a lot. It’s key that people to take time to isolate because the virus is unpredictable and impacts us each individually. If you find yourself scared to be alone, value this time to work on yourself and take on activities you don’t usually make time for. Remoteness is a lot less lonely when you set aside something worth looking forward to.
words_mallory garber illustration_abby pak