Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Column: Quarantine gave me time to think. Here are my thoughts.

September 15, 2020
Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

For the past 10 years, I've been living in a bedroom with walls covered in a “rise and shine” paint color. If you don’t know what that color looks like, Google it. Let’s just say after experiencing it, I never really woke up rising and shining. So, with how the world is these days, I thought what's a better way to stay at home than to give my room a makeover.

 But, of course, I procrastinated it until the week before I was supposed to move into my East Lansing apartment. I thought I’d only get to enjoy my new color — a lovely “chalky blue” — for a week before I returned to campus. Then plans changed. 

The past two weeks I’ve been quarantining at my house after having been possibly exposed secondarily to COVID-19. Those two weeks not only gave me time to admire my new paint job, but they gave me time to think … a lot. 

My first thought — which was more of a realization than anything — was how contagious this thing is. Don’t get me wrong, I was well aware of how contagious it was before this encounter. Seeing it first-hand, seeing it personally infect almost everyone it came in contact with, how it didn’t get to me — I don’t know. I guess I got lucky. 

I can definitely tell you I got angry; not at a person, not at a place or a thing, not even at the situation.

Instead, I got angry at the inconsistencies that were continuing to be fed to me. During the first week of my quarantine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC,  modified their testing guidelines by saying that if you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, “You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or State or local public health officials recommend you take one.” 

Before August 24’s update, the CDC said, “testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection.  Because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, it is important that contacts of individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection be quickly identified and tested.” 

I wanted, and still want, to feel safe. That’s a statement I believe most people would also agree with, regardless of any contrasting beliefs. Unfortunately, I can’t say I entirely feel that way right now when I can see plain as day that politics and science are clashing. 

But I can’t control that (at least not until Nov. 3). I've found that continuously reading about these political cat-and-mouse games by "doomscrolling" on Twitter and Facebook exacerbates my anger and worsens my headspace, for I can't do anything about them. That's why I've begun to focus on myself and the actions I can control. 

When I was younger, my dad gave me a coin with a prayer on it — something I still have to this day. It reads, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Whether you're religious or not, being able to hone in on the decisions you actually do have jurisdiction over helps you to find peace and tranquility. 

As a college student myself, I wasn’t sure how to address MSU’s party culture during this time. With thousands of students still living in and around East Lansing, parties remain inevitable. And while I have enjoyed the occasional party my freshman and sophomore year, this year has become a time to put the safety of others (and myself) before my own personal amusement. Yet, many other students have not come to terms with this necessary sacrifice. In seeing parties unfold for the last two weeks, I didn’t know whether to scold or to forgive, to speak out or to ignore. So, I’ll say this: 

Don't be a part of the problem. There are still ways to see each other, but partying isn't one of them.

We’re still in a global pandemic where a virus is continuing to infect people at an alarmingly high rate while also taking lives. Doing keg stands — like the ones I saw posted over social media last weekend — isn’t the smartest thing to be doing right now. In fact, it's dumb.

Call me a killjoy. Call me a grinch. Call me what you want. 

But don’t call me a kid. And don’t call yourself a kid expecting to get the “let kids be kids” treatment. We’re all 18 or older; we’re adults. We can vote. We can buy lottery tickets. Hell, we can get a Costco membership (probably the most adult thing we'll ever do). 

Even though we're old enough to be renting our own living space, that doesn't mean we can just do whatever we please. If you're still here it's because you chose to be ... be responsible. We need to do our civic duty to limit gatherings to 10 people inside and 25 people outside. 

I want people to see each other. Community is important. Just do it safely. We’re adults, but we’re also human, and it’s in our psychological being to want to be connected to other humans (even, in this case, if it’s just a couple at a time). 

I don’t want to come across as divisive — that’s the last thing this world needs right now. But I understand how my cautious approach will probably differ from that of at least one person who reads this. To that, I say, let there be grace, patience and understanding. 

I can’t control what the person next to me does. All I can control is myself. Every decision, whether it be responsible or reckless, has a consequence that could potentially impact the greater community. Remember that, and remember personal accountability saves us all from having to play the blame game. 

Upon returning to campus this week, I will remember to hold myself accountable, and I hope you do too. I'm a college kid, but I'm a college kid tired of seeing other college kids act like COVID-19 isn't real. It's very real, and it'll continue to be real until we start making mature decisions. 

But that might be out of my control. For things like that, I'll let the late actor Jerry Stiller who played Frank Costanza in “Seinfeld” help me answer my prayer by saying, “Serenity now.” 

This article is part of our Living a Remote Life print edition. View the entire issue here.

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