It’s an unusually nice day for the end of March; the sun is shining, birds are chirping and the world seems content. Except, we are battling a pandemic that has completely flipped our world upside down in a matter of two weeks. The world is covered in what feels like a dome of anxiety, brought on by the uncertainty of the future.
It’s been three weeks since West Chester University moved the remaining nine weeks of the spring semester to remote, online instruction. When I first heard about WCU’s decision, I was frustrated. No other university had yet made such a drastic decision. I refused to believe that COVID-19was that big of a deal. I thought to myself, “It’s the beginning of March, why would they make such an abrupt decision for the next three months when, by April, things will be normal again?” I was incredibly naive, blissfully unaware of how much of an impact coronavirus would have on my life. It has been the strangest and longest three weeks I’ve ever experienced, and I’m finally accepting that these strange and long weeks are going to continue for some time.
Now, when I think back to when I heard WCU was moving to online instruction for the remainder of spring semester, I laugh at how certain I was of their overreaction. I’ve finally accepted the severity of the situation, not that I ever doubted COVID-19 was going to impact my life, but I was afraid to fully accept the situation for what it is, and the disruption it would cause to myself, and every other person in the world’s life.
In the past two weeks as I began to accept the pandemic, I found myself more anxious than usual. COVID-19 was a gray cloud, following my every move. However, today, about three weeks in,was a turning point for me. I decided to think about the future, the light at the end of the tunnel that we will eventually meet, despite the gloomy present day. I get by with the hope that once we leave the tunnel COVID-19 has us under, that light at the end of the tunnel will be brighter than it ever has been before.
I believe that society will come out of this more empathetic, and will value some of the smaller scale things in life that we commonly take for granted. Activities that used to seem menial; going out to eat with friends, sitting in the library to do homework, hugging those you care about, are no longer accessible, and that is not an easy concept to grasp. It’s funny, I find myself missing the most random people, those who I barely know beyond walking past them on campus or those I only see when I’m out on the weekends. I even miss my professors. I relied on them as reminders of my routine, of the normalcy of what my life used to be. This situation was the eye-opener I needed to stop taking people for granted.
I’ve heard people say that maybe this whole thing is what society never knew it needed; a pause, a reminder of the small things that give life the most value, I agree. Not one person can deny this pandemic will change society in one way or another, and I’d like to think it will change society for the better – a change we never knew we needed until we were forced to experience it.
I’m aware that this time brings pain to many people, that the present day is scary and the future is eerily uncertain. That lives are at risk, and no one has the answers we are all desperately looking for. However, I am also aware of positive things, like how I’ve never seen so many people out and about in my neighborhood, how I haven’t spent this much time with my family in years, and how much my friends have been expressing their appreciation for one another. There are several small beams of light amid the dark days we are all experiencing; I urge everyone to look for those small beams, and imagine how much brighter they will be when we can resume our normal lives, and move past COVID-19. I predict that society will come out of this pandemic full of gratitude for things we used to take granted and more connected than ever.
Emily O’Brien is a third year media and culture major, with a minor in communication studies. EO897835@wcupa.edu