The New Normal
Senior year was supposed to be the last hoorah of my college experience. I was at the end of an extremely exciting chapter of my life with graduation soon arriving, a celebratory trip to Florida with friends, and a promising future ahead. This all came to a halt, however, when COVID-19 abruptly hit the Greater New Orleans area and beyond. My eagerness for what was to come now seems a bit confusing and even scary.
The coronavirus has undeniably impacted individuals from all walks of life. Medical professionals and retail workers are on the front lines of this pandemic. Older generations are the most at risk. College students, a regularly forgotten group, have to continue their studies remotely. Not only are classes now conducted online, but many college students – including myself and my roommates – are filing for unemployment. According to the Washington Post, 6.6 million Americans have taken this step to ensure financial stability in the wake of a potential economic depression.
This reality is not easy to sugarcoat and will remain an integral moment in history. As a soon-to-be graduate, my entry into the workforce seems even more daunting. How will this pandemic affect my generation in the years to come? Will the economy be stable enough to fulfill a new wave of professionals? Although we don’t currently have the answers to these questions, the only known “cure” for COVID-19 is social distancing. If all people make the conscious decision to stay home, our anxieties for the future could significantly lessen.
On March 16, when the University of New Orleans announced that students would be temporarily out of school, almost everyone believed we would be coming back. Little did we know that this virus would diminish regular university affairs. Adjusting to life at home has been a challenge, but social distancing is becoming a normal part of our daily lives; it has impacted previous routines, sleep schedules, and even how we eat. I’ve slept in longer than usual, and often take the whole day to complete homework assignments. My roommates and I have also ordered a record-breaking number of takeout meals via Uber Eats.
Staying motivated with school has been especially difficult during this process. The thought of having to write a paper and partake in an online Zoom lecture seems trivial amid the chaos occurring in the outside world. Despite the disappointment I feel with graduation being postponed, I try to remind myself that school is one of the few things I do have. Without the stimulation I get from reading Shakespeare and drafting essays, I would feel, to put it lightly, rather empty.
Mental health is a significant concern right now as we are in the midst of isolation, financial distress, and general uncertainties pertaining to the future. The ways in which individuals confront their anxieties are different. However, there is a collective feeling of hopelessness experienced by all to some degree. The pitfalls of COVID-19 have prompted me to contact various therapists around the area. I have also tried to take pressure off by relaxing; whether by going on Tik Tok or watching “Love Island” with my roommates.
Camryn Pourciau, a student at UNO, expressed that she copes with the virus in similar ways: “I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out with my roommates and playing Animal Crossing in an attempt to cure the boredom, anxiety, and depression I’m feeling. I’ve [also] maintained close contact with my therapist, which has benefited my mental health more than anything.” Like Camryn, many college students feel the need to combat these problems before they worsen.
With school being closed, workplaces and organizations have additionally experienced the impact of the virus. My last few months of being a Delta Zeta collegiate member has come to an end. One of the greatest aspects of my college career was partaking in the sorority – an organization where I have met lifelong friends and made crucial connections within the professional sphere. While my time in Delta Zeta has ceased, I still feel that I have a duty to be a mentor to underclassmen, and to guide them in any way I can.
One silver lining of the coronavirus is solidarity. As a society, we are all scared for the future, but desire to uplift and help each other during this tumultuous time. Those on the front lines are demonstrating this the most through their extraordinary compassion and strength that normally goes unrecognized. The only way we can combat this virus is by looking out for each other and accepting this new normal for what it is.