Imagine a world where everything that you thought was permanent got taken away. Imagine being a senior and having your graduation taken away. Imagine being a professor and having your physical classroom taken away. Imagine being a son and having your father stranded in a different country because the airports are shut down. That’s this world.
In this world, a college senior sits at her dining room table at home. She’s been talking to her mother and brother, who come and go from the house, armed with hand sanitizer. Her runs have turned into escapes, where she can remember what it feels like to go somewhere, to do something. Her dinner times have turned into events, where she can remember what it feels like to go out. Her bedtimes have turned into a time of dread, where she can’t remember what a restful night feels like.
Some evenings, the senior Zooms with her friends, and she can hardly believe that all they are separated by is one screen. In reality, though, they are separated by thousands of miles. She misses them more than she ever thought she would, and she tries to remember what it feels like to sit next to them, but she can’t. All she can remember is that the only reason she’s sitting here is because of a virus and the only reason she can talk to her friends in the first place is because of Zoom. Other evenings, the senior watches the news with her mother, as they both sip wine and comment on what’s occurring in the world—most of it about the virus. Sometimes the senior forgets to listen, and she stares at her phone instead, but her social media is focused on the virus, too. Instagram stories that try to remind everyone of what once was ironically maintain the world’s focus on the virus, and Facebook statuses list what mothers have accomplished in homeschooling their children for the day (most of it involves crying—from both parties involved).
Sometimes the senior takes her dog for a walk around her neighborhood. It’s her one time for privacy, where she can get out of the house and remember the kind of freedom she once had. It’s also her one time to see what the rest of the world is up to, to remind herself that there are other lives besides the one she is living in her house with her mother and brother. She sees more people outside than she ever has before. She sees groups of boys biking as fast as they can down the streets. She sees parents sipping drinks, sitting in lawn chairs on their driveways. And she sees other people like her, walking their dogs alone, looking out of place in this neighborhood with young blooming families. They are obviously also college students, forced back into their childhood homes indefinitely, separated from their friends and in confinement with their family.
Now imagine a different world, where everything that you thought was permanent, is. Imagine being a senior, and having a date set for you to cross the stage to graduate. Imagine being a professor and seeing your students every day in your classroom. Imagine being a son and having your dad come home on time. That’s this world. In this world, the senior does her homework at the library with her friends, and they go out to dinner at their favorite restaurants. They go out to bars when they want, and they go to the mall and they go shopping. The senior misses her family and her dog, but she knows that she can go visit them at her convenience because the airports are open and flights are full. She goes to her professor’s office hours and talks to him in person. All this she has taken for granted. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors get to go back to that world and remind themselves never to take it for granted again. This senior has taken it all for granted, and no matter how much she reminds herself, it won’t make up for the lost time. And that is the most painful part of this world—that it will never be a reality.