Social Distancing Part One: In the Beginning

The long-suffering cat in question

My spring break started out so normal. I hung out with my friends, took a million selfies with my cat, and dedicated a few days to working on my study abroad applications and planning out my workshop for the upcoming Community Day of Learning. There was a lot I needed to accomplish for school that week, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get it all done. Sure, I was a little concerned about the Coronavirus, but I didn’t really think it would affect my life that much.

Then within 24 hours, everything fell apart. The virus was spreading, and we were not to return to campus.

Like many other Bryn Mawr students I found myself stranded halfway across the country with barely any clothes, no school supplies, and no idea what would happen next. I’ve lived through my share of crises, but nothing on this scale. At times I was so anxious I could hardly breathe, and I had a tension headache for three full days. I’m wasn’t afraid of getting sick, I just hated the uncertainty. My entire life for the next six months could change on a dime.

I spent that weekend alternating between moping and researching how to best work from home. The general consensus was to follow a set schedule and have separate areas for work and leisure. So on Sunday night I wrote myself a to-do list for the week, set my alarm for 7:30 am, and went to bed ready for my new life as a very productive hermit.

The next morning, I hit snooze 4 times and slept for an extra hour and a half.
Failed step one.

Soon after, another roadblock to productivity arose: my sister’s college had also cancelled classes. My mom needed to drive 6 hours to New Orleans to pick her up and didn’t want to make the trip alone. I didn’t actually mind going along, since I was sure the first few days of online classes would be a disaster.

You know how when you pack for a road trip, you pack a lot of extra things “just in case”? This was the first time I thought any of the things I packed would actually come in handy.

“We need some first aid supplies, because we won’t want to go to a hospital. Better pack some extra food in case we can’t find anywhere to stop and eat. What if they close state borders and we can’t get back?”

My mom and I on the banks of the Mississippi

Of course, none of that actually happened, and my mom and I had a lovely time exploring the French quarter while my sister packed up the last of her belongings.

Ironically, that was probably the best time to photograph all the beautiful houses in the French Quarter. We were able to go out, since at the time there were relatively few cases in New Orleans. However, there were still no other tourists, so the French Quarter was deserted.

The French Quarter

The rest of the week was fairly low-key, mostly filled with assignments and home projects. Since I have to spend so much time in my room, I’ve been using this as an opportunity to rearrange and redecorate. These kinds of projects aren’t nearly enough to cure my cabin fever, though, and when I went for a run on Friday I ran twice as far as usual, then did a yoga routine to boot.

Now that the biggest changes are over, my life has taken on a weird feeling of unreality. On one hand, I know there’s a terrible crisis going on. The media is howling over grocery shortages, the tanking stock market, and political corruption. Some of my friends are afraid for their lives or their livelihoods, and I share their unease. On the other hand the sun is still shining, and in my neighborhood children play in the street. My daily life is so peaceful that days slip by without me realizing it. It’s a strange sort of cognitive dissonance.

I know this is not a cheerful blog post, but these are not cheerful times. Every day I count myself lucky that I have a home to return to, no bills to pay, and a quiet, walkable neighborhood so that I can still go out even when all public spaces are closed. I also got to watch as the entire BMC community — students, alums, parents, and professors — pulled together to try and ensure that every student had housing, travel funds, and someone to mail them their essential belongings when the college closed. It was amazing to see, and reminded me that even though we are not physically at school, Bryn Mawr is still an incredibly strong community that I am proud to be a part of.