Driving away from PLNU with my car stuffed to the brim with my hastily packed suitcases and boxes filled with half empty shampoo bottles was … well, I don’t even have the words for it. Not even after almost three weeks of being back in Colorado do I have the exact emotion for what I am feeling.
Six days was all it took for my world to completely flip upside down. I was sitting on my grandma’s couch in Palm Springs (we were supposed to go on a cruise, and when we saw all of the ships getting quarantined, we decided not to risk it) when the first email popped up on my phone telling us classes would resume after Spring Break, but chapel would be voluntary. It wasn’t a huge surprise since schools like San Diego State University and the University of California San Diego had started moving students off campus by that point.
Then Wednesday hit. I was floating in a pool soaking up the desert sun when the second email came soaring across my phone screen telling us classes would be cancelled the week after break, and professors would begin preparing their classes to transition online. Still, they held onto the hope that classes would resume in-person in a week or two. The online planning was just precautionary.
My plan was to head back to San Diego on Sunday and spend the week on campus and feel out the situation. My mother, who is as tough as a Viking (she is Norwegian after all), was starting to freak out just a little bit, which was very concerning to me coming from the woman who would call me and ask if I was ready to go back to school after waking up with a fever in high school. No, mom. It’s only been three hours — still sick. Anyways, seeing her worried like this made me start to realize how serious this situation actually was. But still, I was going to wait it out.
On Friday, they told us that classes were going to be online for the rest of the semester. They gave us the option to move off campus if we wanted, and if we did, we would receive a partial refund for housing. I decided I would take that option and move back to Colorado since I felt more comfortable being with my family during these uncertain times. Plus, I wouldn’t have to pay for groceries. Score. I wasn’t torn up about it, at least that’s what I thought. I was a strong woman, and I was having a rough year. I thought it would be nice to take a break from the craziness of campus and move back home. Nothing too sentimental about that.
Driving back to San Diego on Sunday was when it hit me. I wasn’t going to finish off my senior year on PLNU’s campus. I had to leave my friends who I considered part of my family. My dream internship was over. I wasn’t ready to leave yet. I wasn’t ready … and with that thought, I broke down in my black Jeep Patriot in the middle of the 10. No, I wasn’t just tearing up. I was full-blown sobbing. Tears were pouring down my face like a faucet being turned on. Snot was being spread across my cheeks and chin by my sweatshirt sleeve, and my whole body heaved with every sob. If you know me at all, I do not cry. Ever. So that was about three years worth of emotions that came spilling out of me on that windy stretch of highway.
I got to campus and thought I had accepted my fate. Then Monday hit, and all hell broke loose. I went to my internship, and it was a ghost town. I was going to say goodbye and thank you to all of the hardworking editors, sales representatives and designers that took me under their wings and taught me everything about the magazine business. But when I got to the office, it was empty because almost everyone was working from home. They told me to not come into the office for the rest of the week. Little did I know that this magazine would cease all operations and lay off 37 employees just a week later.
I came home and was chatting with my roommate who was planning to stay. Our other roommates weren’t coming back until the week after, since classes were cancelled and there was no rush to leave … yet. But at 4:23 p.m. on Monday, an email came in stating, “All PLNU students who live in the residence halls are encouraged to return home as quickly as possible and no later than March 20 at 10 p.m.” So my plan to stay for the week was demolished. And to make matters worse, it was supposed to snow in Colorado on Thursday, the day I was planning to drive back. So I had to frantically pack up everything that night and Tuesday morning in order to leave for Palm Springs on Tuesday night. I had one last Ortiz’s burrito with my freshman year roommate and best friend. We were reminiscing about the last four years and talking about how quickly things changed. She dropped me off back on campus, I got in my car and at 1:13 p.m., I left the place I called home for the last three and a half years. The next morning at 5:32 a.m., I left Palm Springs and began my 13-hour drive home to Colorado.
Just one week after learning classes would be online, I was back in Colorado. I was 16 hours and 900 miles away from the home where I was supposed to live out the next two months. Poof! Just like that, the rest of my senior year was obliterated. All of my plans to go to this restaurant, drive up to this beach town and throw a frisbee over on this lawn were gone. Now instead of looking forward to May 9 when I get to walk in front of my entire family and friends in the Greek Amphitheatre, I have to wait until August for a day where people may or may not show up.
I do have some positives of moving back home. I get to spend time with my mom and dad, who I usually only get to see about three times a year. I have more time to read the books I’ve been putting off. Most importantly, my parents got a golden retriever puppy who I get to play with and cuddle all day. I’ve also picked up knitting again.
I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the news, too. I hear the words “dangerous”, “uncertainty”, and “hope” a lot. Hope can be a dangerous word. They tell us, “Don’t get your hopes up.” Even Stephen King wrote in his novel “Shawshank Redemption”, “Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
Yet, that is all we have left to hold onto nowadays. With a virus confining all of us to our homes, wracking us with fear and completely turning our worlds upside down, where can we find our comfort? Where can we find something to steady us? I know I’m not alone in this feeling, but I can’t help but feel scared for the uncertain future because a month ago, my world, as busy and as stressful as it was, was ripped away from me without any chance of closure. And like a bad breakup, I’m still grieving and still trying to figure out where it all went wrong.
Yes, it’s hard to give up something that was supposed to be part of the “plan,” and moving on from that heartbreak sucks. COVID-19 took that away from me, and it’s something that I’ll never get back. There are times when I want to scream, “You suck big time virus!” There are times when I just break down and cry. And there are times when I smile at the unforgettable memories I am able to hold onto.
So what am I feeling after moving back home? I don’t know, but it feels a lot like hope.