My mother kicked me out of the house in one fell swoop, and then the world shut down.
And that was just March 2020.
Honestly, so many things have happened since then — many I never thought possible — that it feels like a lifetime ago.
When I think about it, memories seem to come back in bits and pieces, like I’m in some sort of movie or fever dream about the “next plague.”
Be honest: How many times in the past year have you pictured yourself telling your grandchildren about what the COVID-19 pandemic was like? For me, it’s too many to count.
It’ll become the new “where were you during the San Francisco fires? The day Kennedy was shot?” It’ll be the question our generation will be asked for the rest of our lives: “Where were you during the COVID-19 pandemic?”
I wasn’t even a UC Berkeley student, which is unfathomable to me now as I sit here writing for the actual newspaper for the city of Berkeley.
The events of the last year and a half have challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged before, launching me into an extremely necessary trajectory of self-growth.
When my mother, in a blind fit of fear for her family in the wake of a global pandemic, kicked me out of the house, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.
As I sobbed to my boyfriend on the phone, packing as many things as I could while I waited for him to pick me up, I was not aware of the impending world shutdown.
After I had stayed a week with my boyfriend and his family who had generously opened their home to me, I got a text message from my dad that read: “Shelter in place. Come home.”
At that moment, I made a brave decision that I felt I had the agency to do.
“No,” I said. “I’m staying here.”
And so, from that moment, my life in Napa took shape.
This was the first time in my life being away from my family for longer than a week — a huge step for any college student, but one I was forced to take abruptly. As a person with a disability and chronic illness, though, who had been dependent on my parents until just recently, this was even more of an anxiety-inducing risk.
All at once, I was thrust into the daunting task of learning to take care of my disabled body and establish medical care in Napa, on top of all of those other adult responsibilities.
A vital part of this transition was advocating for my port placement, something that, since March 2020, has greatly improved my quality of life as a patient with chronic illness. I’m now able to deliver necessary hydration and other medication into my bloodstream on a daily basis entirely without the assistance of a medical professional.
As a result, 2020 was the first year in my entire life that I never once had to go to the emergency room for dehydration.
Unsurprisingly, 2021 has brought completely new sets of challenges, and they are already starting to weigh on me.
This year, my boyfriend and I made the decision to move into our own apartment together in Napa.
A few months later, he was hospitalized for mental health reasons and had to leave his job.
Consequently, I had to start a job at a local restaurant to keep us afloat.
I’m about to begin my senior year of college, and I can’t even find my classes without having a mental or physical breakdown.
What I’ve learned in this past year is that life gets tough, but I’m tougher — a lot tougher than I thought I was.
Unexpected times will do that to you. They demand you to dig deep into places you never knew you had so that you can get through the challenges alive — almost like a survival instinct.
With every catastrophe, it felt as if the world was stopping to test me. Though sometimes it felt like things could not possibly get any worse, there were also times that brought me more happiness than I had ever felt before.
That said, if the COVID-19 pandemic had not happened, I cannot honestly tell you I would have chosen to attend UC Berkeley. The assurance that my first year of classes would be taught remotely gave me the confidence that I would not have had to uproot my life again, diving once again into a world of uncertainty.
Thankful. That’s what I feel the most in this moment.
Every day, I stop to take a deep breath. “It could be worse,” I tell myself. “It has been worse. You can get through this. You’ve gotten through worse.”
I’m very fortunate that neither myself nor anyone close to me has been directly affected by COVID-19. I’m fortunate that I even had a place to go when my mother looked at me and told me to leave — and that I still have my boyfriend, access to health care, a job, even, when many others do not. For all of this, every blessing that this past year has afforded me, I am extremely thankful.
And this thankfulness is what gets me out of bed in the morning.