Trying to adjust to the new norm

How Echo writer Olivia Munson's life has changed since March 11

I stared at the email while sitting in my dorm. 

"All in-person classes wherever possible will transition to online instruction," a correspondence from the University sent out over spring break said.

I contemplated what I should do for the time being. My hometown is over 2,000 miles away from ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus, so I couldn’t just get in a car and drive away — escaping from the chaos simply waiting to burst. 

As I mulled it over, the remaining days of spring break dwindled down. 

My roommate left. My high school best friend had to cancel her trip to visit me. 

Watching the news or staying updated on social media didn’t make things any better. If anything, staying informed meant being even more aware of how quickly the situation was changing — stores were selling out of food and paper goods, confirmed COVID-19 cases were rising in my home state, and I was reminded that this was only to get worse. 

I remember crying for a week straight, and my head felt like an immense weight on my shoulders. These thoughts danced around, and the uncertainty began to take effect. 

What if air travel was shut down? What if I got stuck in Arizona? 

My mind kept racing, and the thoughts made my tears fall faster. 

I called my parents immediately after students received the official announcement of full online instruction for the rest of the semester. We had to make a plan of action and figure out what I was to do now. 

I had two days to move out of my dorm. My dad would fly in and within a few hours, we would fly back out. 

So, I went to pack up all my things – every piece of clothing and decor that I had accumulated over these last two years. I sat in the same chair that I did a week prior when reading that first email. But this time, I was vigorously throwing items in suitcases I borrowed from my boyfriend. 

I tore down the posters and pictures from my wall, along with all the memories I made in Taylor Place. I remembered the sleepless nights when I was tirelessly finishing up a story or studying for economics, and I reminisced on the moments my friends would simply walk into my room unannounced but always welcome. I thought of the times I would collapse on my bed after long days and melt into my mattress. 

I wondered what else could have been if this never happened. 

I threw away things I wanted to keep but had no space for, shoving the boxes and bins into the backseat of my boyfriend’s car. 

The commotion of it all held me captive, leaving me not wanting to do anything but move out. School did not matter at that moment. Sure, I attended my Zoom lectures, but I was numb to the lessons and words that went in through one ear and out the other. 

And when my dad finally arrived, I grabbed the last from my room, handed in my key and waved goodbye to the building I thought I hated but actually grew to love. 

Stepping onto the plane, I looked out the window, staring out and wondering when I would see this city again. 

Hopefully soon, I thought. 

I couldn’t sleep at all, though my dad snored beside me. I was too anxious about everything. There was not a single moment I did not overthink trying to remember the last time I had washed my hands. 

It's been nearly three weeks, and the clock seems like it barely ticks by. I feel like I have lost the concept of time, but I do find myself adjusting and adapting, little by little. 

My schedule is emptier than before, but I’ve caught up on lost sleep. The time zones are a challenge I still have yet to overcome, staying up past 10 p.m. just to attend one of my classes. When I talk to my boyfriend, the three-hour time difference is illuminated by the moon through my window and my loud yawns. 

My workload is not terrible or heavy, but I miss having things to do. I've redecorated my room at least three times already and am planning for the fourth in due time. I am trying to occupy my boredom and free time through crafts and other activities.

I took full advantage of my free Adobe Creative Cloud access by making stickers on Photoshop. I sewed masks for my parents to use whenever they have to leave the house. I have browsed Pinterest for hours on end, trying to inspire my creativity with DIY projects. And I become engrossed in the craze of Animal Crossing – the Pocket Camp edition of the game since I don’t have a Nintendo Switch

Though the New Jersey weather has brought wind, rain and chill, I ache to go outside. I miss the sun and the daily walks I would take around campus, to the grocery store, to my yoga studio or the gym. Whenever it’s nice, I go outside for a bit but feel as if I am in a broken simulation rather than actual reality. 

I never thought I would say it, but I miss going to the gym. The instant I actually started to enjoy working out, I was no longer able to lift weights or run on the treadmill. I started to do virtual yoga to keep up with my practice, finding times to stretch and meditate for my sanity. 

Most of the time, I don't even know what day it is – I thought today was April 11. But I try to keep a positive outlook. I know if I begin to let doubt creep in, my mind will surely be lost. 

So, I take things one day at a time. I get up, eat breakfast and take on the day, every day.


Reach the reporter at omunson@asu.edu and follow @munson_olivia on Twitter. 

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