Woodward: Social distancing in suburbia

Learning to make connections and find purpose in an isolated time, from a first-year student whose first year of college was cut off early.

Woodward: Social distancing in suburbia

Samantha Woodward

This past Thursday, President Joan Gabel sent out an email informing the University that it would be in the best interest of everyone’s safety to stay home off-campus due to the alarming acceleration of cases of coronavirus across the United States. As a result of Gabel’s suggestion and President Trump’s many press conferences, my family has decided to put the F.U.N. in soft-quarantine. And yes, I know that it doesn’t work like that. 

The abundance of anxiety and unanswered questions that comes with the first pandemic to sweep the nation in 100 years should surprise no one. Scrolling through my feed, I’ve seen everything from spring break raving to pre-quarantine stockpiling at Walmart’s toilet paper aisle. 

Heading back home for me was bittersweet. I am constantly reminded of how grateful I should be for my ability to even have a safe place to go back to during this apprehensive time. On the other hand, my freshman year of college and my first taste of freedom coming to an end in March was not something I was expecting, nor looking forward to. The drive home from packing up what felt like my entire life from my dorm, in teenage melodramatic fashion, I cried the whole way home like the ending of a coming-of-age movie. 

My new lack of duties to complete for school has left me struggling to find a new routine that keeps me motivated and entertained, and without the ability to spend time with people other than our immediate family, my siblings and I have been running around in our house like chickens with our heads cut off. My family came to the conclusion that living like things couldn’t get worse was really only going to make things worse. My parents have implemented a strict social distancing rule for my three siblings and me. They’ve tried their best to make spending 24/7 with one another normal in what seems like a real-life remake of the movie “Contagion.”

It’s easy to say when you’re busy that you’ll get to your miscellaneous projects when you get time to yourself, and now that some of us have the time, it seems like there’s every excuse not to do those things. I want to simultaneously do nothing and everything at the exact same time. I feel guilty sleeping in but also constantly exhausted by trying to find something to do. Thinking about this contradiction is taking up a lot of time that fortunately enough, I do have.

To fill up our days of confinement to our suburban household of six people and one beagle, going our separate ways to spend our time has been necessary to maintain sanity. Trying to steer clear of the inevitable whirlpool that is social media isolation and relying on our phones to feel connected, board games have become our post-dinner way to get out our aggression for the day. My mom has used accusing Miss Peacock of killing in the kitchen with a knife as a passive-aggressive way of saying clean your rooms and stop asking to hang out with friends because the answer is no. She has made it everyone’s duty to take our puppy to the park at least once a day and gone to the liberty of buying adult coloring books and a 1,500-piece puzzle, which my sister has already almost assembled. 

As an extrovert, it’s in my nature to want to be around other people when I’m bored. To cope, if you can even call it that, I’ve changed my Bitmoji’s outfit five times within the past 72 hours. Now I’m not going to criticize my coping methods, but that cannot be healthy. However, I’m tapping into my subpar 9-year-old talent to relearn the piano, something I always said I’d do if I magically was awarded months of free time, so here we are. I’m starting to hold myself to learning one new thing per day, whether that be finding a new artist, a word in a different language or baking something new for dessert. My mirror is covered in ideas for things to do when I think I’m losing it: “Organize Spotify playlists, journal, clean out SOMETHING, reach out to someone you miss, give clothes away, become a quarantine vlogger?” 

I know that I am lucky to have access to a lot of things that allow me to remain distracted, and that is something I will never take for granted. Coming from a family that clutters our walls with “Live, Laugh, Love” signs like moths to a flame, I’ve been trying to find meaning in this time more than I’d care to admit. Like an episode of “Gossip Girl,” I’m still trying to search for a revelation that will make my time spent away from society a purposeful one that I can look back on, a lesson or two learned. But I am human. I cannot find my meaning in a Pinterest quote or an A24 movie. We’re all human. And we should take this time to grow, stall, linger and advance and everything in between if we are able to. There’s still something about this moment that we can hold onto.