The New Normal for Students Like Me

As a senior in college, I had a lot of plans and expectations for this spring semester. Plans for movie dates and bowling nights with friends. Going dress shopping for our senior formal. Leaving the dining hall to go pick up our caps and gowns for graduation from the campus store. Unfortunately, those plans changed due to the global pandemic brought on by the COVID-19 virus.

Those plans have now become dreams. The reality we are all living in consists of stay-at-home orders, staying six feet apart if you do go outside or going to work if you are considered essential. Schools and businesses are closed and the streets are often quite empty compared to a month and a half ago.

When I watch the news or articles online, the headlines are almost always related to COVID-19 or the many executive orders being signed across the country. Social media platforms are filled with celebrities trying to entertain fans or people posting what their new normal is. For someone who has anxiety or is a hypochondriac, the continual waves of fear and uncertainty are a lot to handle.

I am one such person. In the fall of 2019, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Barely five months later, a global pandemic starts and turns my life upside down. My friends left in a rush, with only a few days’ notice of the school shutting down. When your friends are your lifeline and spending time with them helps reduce your anxiety, this type of situation is anything but easy.

I work at a hospital, meaning I am an essential worker. While it’s nice to be able to leave my house and see other people, I am risking my health every day just by going to work. My job is to screen people as they enter the hospital. While we do our best to stay six feet apart, I am still exposed to a number of illnesses beyond COVID-19. As I am writing this, I begin a streak of working five days in a row.

Since I work at a hospital during a pandemic and don’t have friends nearby to ease my worry, my mental health has suffered greatly. Almost every day I get a headache that lasts for hours and trying to do homework on a computer does not help at all. Often, the best relief is to sleep it off, but then that affects my sleep schedule. I then find myself wide awake at 1 a.m. and sleeping in until 9 or 10 a.m. Having poor sleep results in more headaches and the cycle restarts.

Due to all of the worries and struggles with coping students like me are facing, some of our professors are taking extra steps to help us however they can. They change the assignments that are due, or cancel assignments altogether. They change their grading rubrics, making it easier for students to still succeed. Some have said there will be no final at all for their classes.

In the end, all people everywhere are having some of the hardest times of their lives. With applications such as Zoom, some are able to find comfort in seeing their loved ones, even if it is through a screen. For those of us whose comfort lies in personal connections and contact, there is no real comfort to be found. I crave a hug from my mom or my best friend. I crave sitting in uncomfortable chairs while at the movies and throwing popcorn at my friends during it.

In the words of Ellen DeGeneres, “Be kind to one another” and make sure to check in with your loved ones as often as you can. Whether that be through Zoom or Skype or pulling into their driveways to share a lunch from six feet away. Now, more than ever, you never know what someone is going through.