The Collegian asked several students to reflect on their experiences at home during the coronavirus outbreak. Their responses are recorded below.
Benjamin Wilson, Class of 2022
I’m a type seven on the Enneagram Test — the new trendy personality quiz — and we’re described as fun, spontaneous, and fearful of losing freedom. I am considering calling the Enneagram Institute to add a new characteristic to the list, “Doesn’t quarantine well.”
While it’s been a challenge, the time spent in lockdown has given me an opportunity to ponder the lessons I can learn from this pandemic.
First, I will strive to be present with people while we’re together. As my roommate David and I shut the door of Room 113 in March, we had no idea our last day as roommates was behind us.
Along the same lines, I’m discovering how to take advantage of the time each day offers. This is an unexpected time to do well academically and pursue projects that I have previously neglected.
A project I’ve taken on in addition to my studies is writing my grandmother’s life story. A thought gave me immense guilt a few weeks ago: if she dies, I won’t be able to tell my kids much about her life. I can do better than that. I’ve since recorded about eight hours of audio and a notebook full of notes about her time on Earth. This story is going to make an impact in my family’s life now and in the future. This is only possible because I’m taking advantage of this time I’ve been gifted.
While I won’t see my college friends for nearly a year, the coronavirus lockdown has given me time to reflect on the fragility of relationships and the importance of using time well.
Ryan Goff, Class of 2021
The world has changed, but we can’t know exactly how just yet. Though there is uncertainty everywhere in markets, governments, and schools, there is also opportunity. It’s an exciting time.
And at first, it was really fun. With all this time, I fell into the habit of cooking and decided to be ambitious about the food I chose to prepare over quarantine. I started a 30-day free trial of NYTimes Cooking and began to save recipes. I bought one of its cookbooks, “The New Essentials of French Cooking,” which served as my main textbook for this new class I fit into my schedule.
After daily Zoom classes, I would sit on my front porch in Florida with iced tea and a book. It’s not just how I’m passing the time, though. It’s also how I’ve tried to gain a wider perspective when we’ve all been forced to narrow our focus. In some ways, this is the best way to quarantine. There’s no more appropriate time to engage with eternal questions or explore far-away cultures and places than when one is physically constrained to one space.
Regardless of whether I reach my goals each day, I’ll know I’ve done my best when this is all over. I’ll come out of quarantine able to prepare coq au vin and with a few great books crossed off my reading list. Maybe it’s not enough. Maybe it is.
Abby Liebing, Class of 2020
At the beginning of April, my older brother and I went camping. After being trapped inside the house with bad weather and online classes, I was getting stir crazy.
Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia was one of the few state and national parks still open. The elevation is 4,862 feet and there was still plenty of snow on the ground, but we decided to tough it, backpacking into the spruce forest and camping on Spruce Knob.
After sticking out the night, it struck me that I hadn’t thought about the coronavirus for hours. We had been too busy gathering firewood, setting up camp, and trying to stay warm.
It was a relief to get away from focusing on the virus and it changed how I thought about it. I had spent the last three weeks complaining and wallowing because the pandemic had ruined my last semester at Hillsdale and I couldn’t go to coffee shops anymore. Now, we had spent 24 hours battling the wind and cold, things over which we had absolutely no control. And we embraced the challenge and stayed the night.
I told myself to toughen up. Even though there is plenty wrong with the response to the pandemic, nearly everything is out of my control. But I do have control over my response.
It was time to start embracing the challenge of living and working in the weird reality that the pandemic created. With a little toughness and determination, we’ll stick it out.
Alex Nester, Class of 2020
Being home and trying to focus feels like being in high school again. Not in the sense that my parents give me a curfew or tell me to clean my room before I can go to my friends’ house (there’s none of that these days anyway). Rather, it’s because I spend most of my days within the same lime-green walls of my childhood room. Though painted in bright colors, it feels dark. Feelings I thought I had overcome creep out from the cobwebbed corners of my closet.
But I deal with it, day by day, and for the most part, it’s okay. That’s really what I’ve been up to, most days of quarantine. Thinking. Dealing with my head. Being okay.
Besides that, being home isn’t so bad. When the weather is nice, I like to sit on our back porch and do some work and listen to the birds chirping and neighborhood dogs barking. I love my parents and my brother, and we’ve had fun playing euchre and watching Netflix. My mom and I especially love watching movies with the devilishly-handsome Matthew McConaughey. Of course, we watch his movies not for his looks, but for his truly incredible acting skills. It’s nice to have mom’s cooking, too.
Nolan Ryan, Class of 2020
While stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve realized the importance of practicing patience — especially for an impatient person like myself.
At college, I had grown accustomed to the order of my daily routine: hurry to get ready in the morning, rush up the hill to classes (clutching my mug of coffee), study and hang out with friends, then repeat. I thought my life was balanced and ordered. But now that my family and I are stuck at home, the days have become more of a confused blur. The days, for many of us, begin to feel like a waiting room, hoping we are getting closer to normal life, or a semblance of it, resuming.
Life becoming disordered, however, has been an unexpected blessing. It has challenged me to confront the ways I might have become too comfortable in what I thought were my perfectly scheduled routines.
With six people cloistered inside every day, tensions can rise and communication can break down. This presents a greater challenge to practice patience.
Patience requires being content, even in the unexpected disruption of normal life. This reminds me of a passage from C.S. Lewis’s “Prince Caspian.” At one point when some Narnians despair about waiting for help, the badger Trufflehunter speaks up: “Have patience, like us beasts. The help will come. It may be even now at the door.”
Whether the end of quarantine is upon us, now is the time to follow the badger’s counsel to be patient. Waiting patiently requires us to focus on the good things which come from bad situations. Or, as Trufflehunter puts it, “We don’t change. We hold on. I say good will come of it.”
Madeleine Miller, Class of 2020
Back home in northern Idaho, keeping your distance is easy.
One weekend in late March, I kayaked with my family to a forested island in a remote lake. A couple miles from shore, we were the only people on the 264-acre island.
I have always loved camping on the island, but on that day, I particularly cherished its seclusion. While millions of people fought to gain a few extra feet of sidewalk in cities around the world, I was secluded on a wild island, with miles of deep, frigid water between me and the possibility of encountering a stranger.
Last month it was my birthday, and the best one of my life. Even Hillsdale friendships can’t compare with the love of those who have known you since childhood.
What’s more, I got a job: a reporting position in Texas. More people will not recover from this economic debacle than ever contracted the coronavirus, and I had feared for the last few weeks that my employment prospects were null.
My future won’t be what I expected, but today and always, I have many things to be grateful for — including a new graduation date.
Ashley Kaitz, Class of 2022
Across the free world, COVID-19 has exposed the weakness in our so-called democracies. When all of this is over, and the initial relief of normalcy has worn away, the divisions between groups will be deeper than ever. We took for granted the right to assemble, until we couldn’t. British sunbathers took the right to sit in the park for granted, until the police deemed that a “non-essential” activity. These abuses didn’t come out of nowhere — they are the result of a slow and subtle erosion of our rights over time.
How will future generations regard our handling of this crisis? Mired in the thick of it as we are, not even our generation can say for sure. What I do know is that this crisis has clarified what really matters. For me, that’s family. All that matters now, and all that has ever really mattered, is within these four walls that I can’t escape. COVID-19 showed me that everything that seemed certain — college classes, internships, future plans — can vanish in an instant, and when they’re gone, family remains. The happiness of these five people is more important to me than anything else. I only regret that it took a world-wide pandemic for me to realize it.