Editor’s note: This week’s Future View asks students what they learned from living amid the Covid-19 pandemic. For the next installment we’ll ask, “The 1918 flu pandemic precipitated the roaring ’20s. Do you anticipate the end of Covid-19 having a similar effect?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Jan. 12. The best responses will be published that night.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was concerned that my elderly mother, a hairdresser, continued seeing clients at their homes despite San Francisco’s shelter-in-place orders. After all, we should have been performing our new American duty—staying at home. I pleaded with my mother to close her business, citing the grim data emphasizing increased mortality among elderly populations plastered on every front page. Reluctantly, she sheltered for a week, but soon the income loss became too much.
Untimely car and dental troubles depleted the savings we hoped to ration throughout the pandemic. Local and federal aid barely covered three months of living and business expenses. Every $20 haircut quickly became more valuable than our health. The irony was not lost: To survive the pandemic, we had to risk infection.
Meanwhile, a supposedly united America preened over its noble self-isolation—even celebrities shared the quarantine struggle, tweeting and streaming from their lavish homes. In actuality, the images populating social media were only half the story. The U.S. experience was divided: Those that possessed adequate financial capital could freely perform their civic duty while working-America compromised their safety for necessities. My low-income family was excluded from visions of a safe, socially distant society, sparking endless debates over stimulus packages that, if substantive, could allow us to shelter.
Adequate relief has yet to come, forcing my mother covertly to resume her close-contact profession to pay her rent. Obeying distancing guidelines was a luxury we could not afford. An internal debate ensues in the back of our minds daily—is a future in the intensive-care unit grimmer than one on the streets?
—Danny Nguyen, Vanderbilt University, molecular and cellular biology
The Virtues of Introspection
Introspection and self-growth defined my experience of the pandemic. With schoolwork piling high, the world in disarray, and uncertainty growing on all fronts, I found it easy to neglect my own health during quarantine. Merging the classroom with my bedroom for remote learning didn’t help. Awake or sleeping, I was always in the classroom. However, when I realized how much everything was getting to me, I decided to turn inward and reflect—something I wouldn’t have normally done in the hustle and bustle of campus.
Isolation from the rest of the world allowed me to gain an appreciation for the calming nature of introspective sessions as, just for a moment, I could focus solely on what was going in my own life and shut out all of the negative externalities. I had the opportunity to evaluate my relationships with others: Which are genuine and who can I depend on when I need help? The solitude also allowed me to reflect on how I handle stress, evaluating what things set me off.
During this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime experience, I found time amid all the chaos to reflect on what really is important in my own life.
—Alex Chau, Bentley University, data analytics
Lockdowns Divided America
To me, this year demonstrated the stark economic divisions in our country. While the likes of Amazon and
have pulled in tens of billions of dollars, small bookshops and family-owned restaurants all over Boston have shuttered their windows. At first glance, 2020 may seem like the culprit. But this year only made pre-existing divisions more obvious.
I believe that the U.S. is a land of opportunity, but for many small-business owners that opportunity is far out of reach. Americans deserve a federal response that supports the everyday family and helps people keep their lights on. Until then, I’m shopping small.
—Jack MacDonald, Boston College, international studies
Family Should be Cherished
The pandemic showed me that time spent with family is a gift, and one I need to cherish more. From quiet evening walks to playing badminton in the driveway, my sister and parents gave me invaluable emotional support and continual hope. Thanksgiving may have involved a smaller table, but the bonds between those gathered around it were stronger. If my family endured this trial, then we can survive anything together.
—Andrew Song, Yale University, global affairs
Click here to submit a response to next week’s Future View.
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