Off campus and thinking out loud

A sibling snuggle. (Photo provided by: Abby Aronson)

As I sit here on day 16 of this COVID-19 home quarantine, I find myself becoming increasingly analytical about what lies in front of me. I feel as though a giant wave of uncertainty and fear taints my instinct to think hypothetically. The overbearing number of questions that linger at the forefront of my lens of curiosity has made it difficult to talk. 

I have found myself experiencing an internal battle between what I want to believe, what is the truth and what exists somewhere in the middle. Is this news really true? Should I be constantly listening to the news? Is my mom being paranoid or is she being protective and realistic? How much news is too much news? When do these questions stop? 

Again, “I don’t know” seems to be the answer to all of the above. 

For a person who hates uncertainty and change, I have really been pushed to my limits these past weeks. To say goodbye to my daily routine and try to welcome the limitations and uncertainty in our present day reality is daunting and extremely uncomfortable. 

The past few weeks of family time, and by family time I mean … A LOT of family time…  has recentered me in a way that I never would have told you it would on day 1 or 2 of quarantine. For a family of four, with two kids in college, not a single one of us had anticipated being in the same place for such an extended period of time, especially our dog Olly. 

It is so easy to resort to the grieving aspect of what this pandemic has brought to our everyday life. While, yes, this grieving is important to digest our new lifestyle in this new time, prolonged lingering is not healthy for us; not our minds, not our bodies and most certainly not our connectivity to those around us. 

After talking to my beloved Catie — my pal, my go-to, my savior, but more formally known to be my therapist — I expressed this internal battle and extreme discomfort with what feels to be limited mobility, both physically and mentally, in this new reality. Being someone who often breaks in the face of unexpected change and limited control, I shared the complexity of feelings that come with grieving the “what was” factor and the dark place it has been putting me in. My usual outlets of relief to cope with change and minimal control are no longer viable options within the conditions of home quarantine. 

Soulcycle? Closed.

Whole Foods? Too germy for me to go to, according to mom.

Walking outside? Chicago is freezing, raining one day and snowing the next.

Seeing my boyfriend, Josh? Not allowed to during the quarantine.

Surrounding myself with best friends? We are dispersed across the country again. 

Bringing this internal battle to the forefront of my thinking, after I have worked diligently to suppress it, gave me a sense of relief and allowed me to consider how I can shift my mindset. Granted, this shift doesn’t just happen and the expectation that you’ll have an immediate “aha moment” is unrealistic. 

With great apprehension, fear and looming sadness, I noticed myself subconsciously creating a new routine. Unlike my normal routine, this is one that has been inflicted by external, uncontrolled forces, rather than my personal desires and expectations. As I sleep till 2:00 PM nearly everyday, indulge in carbs as grocery items are limited and bake more than I ever have before, I find myself slowly getting acclimated to this routine, that “everyday Abby” would deem to be miserable, lazy and extremely unproductive. While I don’t entirely disagree with everyday Abby, I have noticed a shift in my perspective from an accumulation of 16 days in the big Q. 

One of MANY home cooked meals; homemade chicken pesto pasta garnished with fresh basil. (Photo by: Abby Aronson)

To leave a place like New Orleans sucks. In fact, it sucks, and it still feels like a punishment. I miss the sun and the humidity that melts your soul and fills you with a feeling of warmth, both inside and out. For me, this meant leaving part of my heart behind, with little to no notice and a really minimal understanding of what was going on and what the abrupt departure was really for. 

I am slowly transcending to the light at the end of the tunnel, despite its unknown form and unconventional manifestation. Instead of relying on the light in front of us, as we don’t know when that will shine, I am choosing to look at the light behind us. 

Olly keeping me company while I have my morning coffee. Our usual morning routine. (Photo by: Abby Aronson)

I am making the decision to reminisce and reflect. I am choosing to be grateful and let our everyday reality that came to an abrupt close to be a framework for hope and appreciation. The easy decision is to let the sadness seep into your veins and let it anger you. It is easy to be angry, and it is easy to let this fear manifest into unpleasant emotions.

With that said, let us take the difficult route. Let us take the route that makes us reflect even when we don’t want to. Let’s help each other (virtually) and share words of encouragement to float, instead of drown, in this new reality. This doesn’t mean being uninformed. This doesn’t mean not watching the news. What this DOES mean is tuning into this new reality, taking a moment to appreciate what we had and letting it be a source of motivation to return to our previous reality. 

I will return to New Orleans. I will see the seniors again, whose last year of college came to an abrupt close and robbed them of traditional senior events. I will see my girls again on  Lowerline, but for now Zoom and Facetime will do the trick. I will return to the fly, White Claw in hand, laying next to my best friends as the sun beams down on us. I will be able to get my nails done, my eyelashes filled, my eyebrow and lip waxed one of these days, but for now I embrace the absence of vanity from my daily routine. I will still turn 21, even if it means a family house party; I am grateful to reach 21. 

While tomorrow brings uncertainty, this everso pertinent and prevalent emotion is the indication of a new day and with a new day comes hope. 

We will be okay. 


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