Thursday, April 2, 2020

Column: The library is empty, but I am full ... of hope

March 20, 2020
<p>The third floor of the MSU Library is clear of people after MSU halted in-person classes due to the coronavirus on March 11, 2020.</p>

The third floor of the MSU Library is clear of people after MSU halted in-person classes due to the coronavirus on March 11, 2020.

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

A library — in nature — is meant to be a communal solitude of silence. Whether as strangers or as friends, students gather here to work quietly on personal matters. 

On Tuesday, March 17, the MSU Library became too quiet. 

Hallways were empty. Doors were closed. Lights were turned off. 

But I was still there. While the library became closed to the public, I still worked as the mail courier, organizing and delivering mail to all of the library’s inner departments. 

Prior to this week, I was surprisingly unnerved about everything that escalated on campus in response to COVID-19

After learning I would be able to remain working at the library while classes shifted to online, my decision to stay at my apartment became easy. Life — to me — would remain the same. 

Or so I thought. 

On Friday, March 13, The State News staff was told to work remotely for the time being.

Being told this was the first of many blows to me. Though only having been a part of The State News since the beginning of this semester, it hurt me to hear that I must withhold from seeing the amazing colleagues (and even better friends) I am so lucky to work with. 

On Monday, March 16, my roommates moved back home. 

The surreal feeling of moving into my first ever apartment in August contrasted with the striking realization that it was suddenly all over left me at a loss for words. It was as if someone fast-forwarded through a movie and neglected to play its ending. 

And as classes began meeting through Zoom on the computer instead of face-to-face in the classroom, the only aspect of my life that seemed “normal” was my job at the library. 

Or, again, so I thought. 

Gone were many of the students whom I talked to in the morning. Closed was the Sparty’s I got breakfast from. Missing were the sports I talked to the delivery person about. 

My daily routine at the library — the thing that I had become accustomed to for over a year — changed instantly with the click of an email.

And although this fracture of monotony has been and will continue to be difficult for us all, I think there’s a lesson to be learned from it.

What happens when we have a routine? 

We become comfortable. We develop a checklist to accomplish, and we stop thinking. 

For me, that looked like:

  • Arriving at the library at 8 a.m. every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday 

  • Sorting through the mail

  • Delivering it

  • Unpacking whatever was left

That, however, is no longer the case. I now remain at my home in Howell, Michigan socially distancing myself from the world in hopes of doing my part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

What the future entails from here, I honestly don’t quite know. But that could be the task we all take up during this time of uncertainty: being comfortably calm in taking a step toward the unknown. 

Think in ways you hadn’t before. Experiment with things you normally wouldn’t. Learn something new about yourself. 

One belief that's been reinforced in me since the beginning of this pandemic is to be thankful for the things I've already experienced. 

In terms of the library, I’m thankful for the delightful spring weather I'd recently gotten to walk in on my way to work. I’m thankful for my incredible two bosses, including one who has offered to get me breakfast on her behalf every single morning. I’m thankful for my paycheck.

So while it can be easy to let the anxiety of the world push you into buying tenfold the amount of toilet paper you actually need, I challenge you not to get to that point. 

Rather, find the silver linings. Find something that renews happiness in you and hold onto it. 

Hold onto it and share it. 

One person’s sanguine psyche can be another person’s saving grace.

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