Unique Opportunities – My COVID Experience

If you know anything about my background, you know that I’ve faced a good deal of adversity in my life. My chosen response to this adversity was to use it to my advantage. COVID-19 is no different.

In the midst of my most stable, happy period in my life this last semester at Babson College, everything changed suddenly. All of my plans fell apart. An entire quarter of a year suddenly was on hold and most things I held dear would not exist for the near future. Immediately, I was devastated.

I remember distinctly what I did when I heard the news. I was sitting in my room in eTower, watching a show on Hulu, when I heard a bunch of people in the common room making a commotion. I got up, concerned, and went out to see what everyone was hollering about. One of my fellow residents told me, “we all have to leave. Everything is online for the rest of the semester and we have to be moved out by the end of next week.” My heart sank. My friends surrounding me all had a myriad of reactions: angry, sad, thoughtful, concerned, broken. Me, I felt numb. I felt my anxiety rising from deep in my belly catching up to my throat and racing around my thoughts. I remember, vaguely, uttering the words, “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” and the person nearest me who told me the news gave me a hug. He said, “don’t worry, we’ll figure it out together. You’re not alone.” This was comforting, but didn’t do much to answer the thousand thoughts racing in my head.

I slowly walked back to my room, sat on my bed, and grabbed my laptop. I closed the Hulu tab, opened my Google calendar, and started deleting. I deleted all the recurring events for sleeping, eating, and workflows. Every sense of control that I felt was lost in that moment. My future was uncertain. I couldn’t plan out my next day or week as I had thought. I had to re-evaluate everything.

My actual calendar shift. You can see I labelled the time that everything went down as “the world ends.” A little dramatic, but that’s how it felt. From there, there are only events for places I needed to be. And if you’re wondering why I have naps and extra sleep scheduled, I actually also had strep throat as this was going down. Good times!

If you’re wondering why this hit me so hard, you likely don’t know my background. I was homeless for a total of about two years during high school, and did not have a sufficient place to live directly prior to moving across the country to Babson College. In all senses of the word, Babson became my home. I had no other sufficient, stable place to live. I had no room to go back home to like most of my peers. My plan for the summer was to save up and get a place in Boston and work full-time at my internship. Suddenly, I felt homeless again. This place that I thought was stable and unwavering was now saying I had to leave.

And right away, I gave up on taking control. I felt powerless, and that’s why I deleted all my calendar events. In a way, though, I feel like this step was important to acknowledging my situation.

The next week was filled with a mix of denial, goodbye, and preparation. I was able to make a plan and a backup plan. The plan was to petition to stay on campus due to my extenuating circumstance, and my backup plan was to move with my sister and her family in Virginia, who were so generous in offering their home to me. Ultimately, while I did receive the OK to say on campus, Virginia proved to be a better environment in terms of financial, housing, and food security. So I packed up my bags, put everything I didn’t need into a storage unit, and moved to Stafford, Virginia.

The rainy day as I left was quite fitting.

The transition here has been interesting. I’m living with two small children (my nephew who is 3 and my niece who just turned 1) and suddenly my entire life is online. All-in-all, I am very grateful. Here are the reasons why:

  1. I have a beautiful space to live and work in. I have my own room and bathroom, which I am extremely grateful for.
  2. I was able to continue my Operations Internship with Calyx Containers, which I was extremely afraid of losing if I moved.
  3. I was able to continue my work-study position off-campus.
  4. I get to spend an extended period of time with my niece and nephew, which I don’t know if I’d be able to do again during their childhood.
  5. Babson gave me a refund on my housing and meal plan. This, combined with a nice tax refund and continuing both my jobs, has put me in a more financially secure position than I’ve ever been in.
  6. This experience has shed light on what my support system really looks like. I’m more grateful than ever for those I have in my life right now, even virtually.

Since coming here, I have not felt bored. I have been able to work more than ever, taking on more of a role in my internship, taking more initiative at my work study, doing some deep work for ALT, and, of course, keeping up with my classes. I have days where I have back-to-back calls for hours. My schedule has not changed much. I am simply changing virtual space instead of physical space.

My main challenge has been in creating a balance of work. The first two weeks, I felt extremely burnt out. Not understanding why, I investigated my schedule and talked to my coach about it. There were two main factors that led to my burnout. First, staring at a screen all day is exhausting no matter what you’re doing. Second, I found that I had averaged a 55-hour workweek. That’s purely working. Sit-down, focused workflow. With some help from my life coach, I realized that that is INSANE. So, I set out to find more balance and bring that down to a reasonable 40. It’s so easy for me to work from morning till night when I don’t have the opportunity to hang out with friends, take a break in the campus center, or go out. You can find more information on how I’ve been focusing on my mental health during quarantine here.

As I talk with more students during quarantine about what their schedule is like, I want to urge you to realize how much of an opportunity this is. You have so many less tangible distractions now. Think of how much you can build up your self-discipline during this time. Think about how many less excuses you have to not do things. What would happen if you used this extra time to tap into a passion or pursue a project you didn’t think you had time for before? No excuses. Use this to your advantage.

I know this one was a little long, but I felt it important to document my journey with this crazy shift. I look forward to looking back on this someday and being proud of how I dealt with this bizarre situation we’ve found ourselves in. Will you be able to do the same?

❤ Alicia

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