I originally wrote this as a reflective essay for my International Relations class at the University of Utah.
I’ve always kind of had a hard time finding my place socially. I skipped two grades and then began taking part-time college classes on campus at a local university alongside my half-day of high school classes during my junior year and senior year of high school before I graduated, so I have been two to four years younger than my academic cohorts for much of my time in school. Don’t get me wrong, I am infinitely grateful for these opportunities, and I’ve enjoyed my academic experiences. But, inevitably, it has made it really difficult for me to feel like I fully, for lack of a better phrase, “fit in” anywhere despite my relatively extroverted personality, being in a different place in my life than most people my age and being so much younger than those around me.
Unexpectedly, I finally found my place working as a server and host in restaurants first in a dying bakery-and-restaurant that eventually shut down, and then in a small but popular local family-owned restaurant. Working in restaurants, for anyone who hasn’t ever done so, is a unique experience you won’t get anywhere else. It’s a constantly social job. You get to know and become friends with your coworkers pretty quickly. This was great for me because my work life was completely separate from my accelerated, but ostracizing, school life. Furthermore, you also come to know and love regulars of the restaurant, and even end up looking forward to seeing them and other members of the community that might visit for a meal.
I began working at this local family-owned restaurant about four weeks before the coronavirus shutdowns and isolation practices began. But I, alongside the other newest hires, was cut from the staff until the restaurant can fully reopen. I am very thankful and fortunate to be in a financially stable position. But, frankly, the loneliness I’ve experienced since quarantine has begun has been like none I’ve experienced before. FaceTime calls with my best friend and spending time with my immediate family has been invaluable, but the tolls on my mental health have nevertheless been strong.
In an attempt to mitigate these tolls, I’ve created routines for myself that include my indoor hobbies such as practicing yoga, playing the piano, baking, and reading. Normally, I spend the majority of my free time in the outdoors rock climbing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, or doing just about any other outdoor activity you can think of with my dad, with whom I share a passion for the outdoors, or with my friends. But, with crowded trails and crags it’s risky to spend time outdoors. It’s especially of high consequence since I also work once a week as a caretaker for the elderly parents of a family friend who are both considered high-risk, which makes it all the more imperative that I don’t become an unwilling carrier of coronavirus. So, I’ve had to find ways to be active indoors.
As comparatively short as my seventeen years on this planet have been, this is the first global event which I’ve experienced that has changed my perspective and daily life so drastically. While I believe this pandemic has and will continue to permanently change my perspective, I anxiously await the day that life returns to normal, or at least as close as it will get, and I can see those around me feeling the same. Not to state the obvious, but it seems we’re all pretty sick of self-isolation and ready for the day we can safely reopen society.