Written by: Cortney Connolly
When I began my freshman year at NYU, everyone told me that it would be one of the best years of my life. And it was, until March. Then it all ended. I can’t say that I was shocked that the COVID-19 pandemic would hit New York. But when classes were canceled on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, my life seemed to be over.
For a while it was a running joke. New York pretended that Corona wasn’t there. But when the effects of it started to become more serious, I watched a city that persevered through every hard time shut down. First, I wasn’t allowed to take the subway. Then, I was the person on the street with the face mask. I used to make fun of those masks because it really couldn’t get that bad, right?
Then, the Purell disappeared. Initially, it was a fun accessory on a night out, but it soon became a necessity that my peers bartered for. In a matter of days, CVS would be cleared out of all disinfectants and supplies and soon one of my classmates would even steal one of my precious bottles.
On my last day in New York, I walked the streets, remarking the clubs I had visited only a few days prior where the impossible had happened —where for just a moment, I had finally felt that my life in New York was beginning to make sense, that my dreams were coming true. We all strive for that as Nouveau New Yorkers, that weekend where things click into place and life begins to take off. But for me, this feeling came as quick as it went.
I recall my last night in New York as I walked with my friend to the West Side highway in an attempt to chase the last bit of sunset. It was as magical as the first time I had seen it back in September. But now it was over, almost as soon as it started.
The day I fled, all of the grocery stores had been cleaned out, and the streets were empty. New York had become a ghost town. All of my friends who had planned to go home or away for Spring Break had moved up their flights, canceled their trips, and left with a stark look of fear on their face. It was as if they were trying to take their last glimpse of the city that changed their lives, not knowing if or when they would inhabit its glory once again.
In my self-induced quarantine in my dreaded home town, I was faced with the seven stages of grief. First: denial when I called my mom and she told me to prepare for the school closing for the rest of the semester. I remember starting a fight and exclaiming she was overreacting. She was too engrossed in the news, I thought, and the media was brainwashing her. But then she was right. First Fordham closed, then Columbia, until finally NYU extended our remote classes to April 20th. The unimaginable happened.
For my first days, I stayed in bed and slept, trying to pretend that it was just a bad dream that I would eventually wake up from. Then all of my friends from home flew across the country from their scattered universities in refuge of the storm the virus had yet to make.
All of the people who had been posting on their Instagram stories about their coveted spring break getaways would soon be hiding in their homes, urging people to stay clean and healthy. In a time of social media, we can now see everyone go through their own stages of grief as if everyone was mourning the lives that they once had, wondering, ‘will it ever be normal again?’
My coffee dates with friends became Facetime calls, and my study groups were over Zoom, the new normal location for class. The first question ‘how are you’ was no longer a formality, but a serious inquiry. Saying goodbye wasn’t about when I will see them next, but if they will be okay when the doors of society reopen.
Now every day, before or after ‘class,’ I go for my eight-mile hike, because what else is there to do? We can’t go to the movies, or eat at a restaurant, or go shopping. The virus is an anonymous ghost lurking around every corner. Who knows where it will be, and who will be forced to be the next victim?
However, as a spiritual person, I am trying to find the positivity in all of this chaos, because everything seems to happen for a reason. Eventually, one day our lives will resume, and this will clear up, and that building I used to live in will reopen its doors to new students who desire to live that same freshman experience.
On my daily walk, I realized that as we are all bound to the confines of our home, we are forced to pause and reflect. One normally finds the years subconsciously flying away, as if we are in the back seat of our future. However, as we are given the gift of time to think about our lives, are we happy with our habits, and the jobs we attend, is it all worth it? Are we living true to the person we aspire to be?
Instead of succumbing to fear, use this time as motivation to reflect on the subconscious actions we make on a day-to-day basis. Think about who you are, who you want to become, and who you could be. One day life will resume, and the streets of New York will reopen and all will be as it was when we left it. However, in the time we are locked in our homes, time is not paused, the sun still rises and sets, another day is still tacked onto our lives, we can still do or change something. Write that book you have always wanted to work on, learn the hobby you have always taken interest in, and find the person that stares back at you in the mirror to be someone you can identify with. Because if not now, when will you?
I am happy to say that I am now finally in the stage of acceptance. This is an experience that just doesn’t make sense, and never will (at least in this lifetime). Try not to take it too seriously, do what it’s all meant for: live happily and authentically.
Thumbnail Photo Credit: Taidgh Barron/NY Post
Cortney Connolly is passionate about learning, experiencing, and creating stories through writing to internally enlighten herself and potentially others. Her interests lie in discovering new methods of art and ultimately in the translation of new ideas and how they impact the world.