• February 11, 2021 |

    remote reflections

    what i realized from my semester at home

    article by , illustrated by

    After an abrupt flight back home involving my dad armed with a tub of Clorox wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer in the two side pockets of his backpack, I arrived in the sweltering heat of Houston, Texas, and shed all of my winter layers. If you had told me I would wind up back in my childhood bedroom in early March 2020, I would probably have laughed in the zero-decibel section of the SciLi. Now, looking back at this year of COVID-19, I find my daily life having taken some unpredictable twists. The memories of sitting with my friends in the V-Dub during Chicken Finger Friday and waking up in time to walk across the Main Green to a 9 a.m. lecture my freshman year now seem like distant dreams. In the meantime, I have renewed my appreciation for living at home, all while finding new ways to connect to my friends and classes online. I would be the first, though, to admit it was easier said than done. Here are some emotional pitfalls and lessons from my experiences studying remotely for a year. 


    Routine, Routine, Routine! 

    As classes returned virtually, I—like many of us—could no longer find the motivation to change out of my baggy t-shirts and pajama pants while readjusting to living around my family’s schedule. Worse yet, my regularly energetic self started feeling absolutely drained after just a single online class. I have never yearned more to sit in a lecture hall with three hundred people or to put on shoes that were not slippers. Now, at the very least, I make sure to look somewhat presentable by throwing on some comfortable, color-coordinated sweatpants and a top. If I’m feeling a little rowdier, my neglected makeup bag gets some long overdue attention. It truly amazes me that such little actions could bring up my mood while sitting in front of my computer screen each day. 



    About a year ago, I had never heard of the now ubiquitous video-call platform Zoom. With Zoom taking up a substantial portion of our days, I found my social anxiety skyrocketing as a response. First, finding the most ideal place to sit proved to be a frequent battle, given the variables of how loudly my dogs were barking versus which wall seemed the most unrevealing of any particular personality traits. One might argue this extra step seems somewhat counterproductive toward attempting to meet new people, and after this past fall, I would agree. When someone in my art history class private messaged me in our section about how much they liked the Van Gogh sunflower print hanging on the wall behind me, I first saw the little black box notification pop up and worried my TA was messaging about not participating enough. But when one of the people in my section sent a cute message about how much they liked Van Gogh, it jolted me out of lethargy. We started messaging occasionally during section about questions over the readings or paintings we liked. Meeting new people over Zoom seemed strange at first, but now I think it’s one of the best ways to survive Zoom University. 



    Seeing Snapchat stories of my friends in their pods felt like I was missing out on joint experiences and quality time to strengthen our relationships. Luckily, I formed a decently solid friend group freshman year, but sometimes I worry about our closeness since we had only known each other for a short time. This is when Facetime, iMessage, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Netflix Party, and any other messaging platform saved my mental health and craving for contact. Having the opportunity to scream at and bash the secondhand embarrassment of The Kissing Booth 2 with friends on Netflix Party gave me a much-needed recess from reality as the pandemic raged on during the summer. Even though I am miles away from my friends at Brown, it still feels refreshing when my parents ask if I want to go to dinner or take a walk with them. Some of my friends wonder how I’m secure about living at home far away from everyone else at Brown, and I tell them about how spending time with my family makes me feel happier and satisfies those social cravings. 


    Deep in the Heart of Texas

    Despite feeling embarrassed about being asked if I rode a horse to school during freshmen orientation, my unexpected return home ignited a strong pride in hailing from yeehaw land. Some semblance of normalcy returned with the comfort foods of home. Considering most of the variety in my life related to what we were eating for dinner, the sight of takeout red oil dumplings and queso reminded me to appreciate the nostalgic experiences of home as well as the additional time with my parents and sister. While my opinion might have been different at the beginning of the pandemic, I appreciate this time with my family as I know the day will come soon enough when I will have to play adult on my own. The irony of the whole situation is that I always wanted to leave Texas and move to a subjectively more exciting place, even though I’m from the fourth-largest city in the country. Without the pandemic, I don’t believe I would have fallen in love with my home again with the same child-like wonder of my kindergarten days. 


    While this past year has felt quite different from my first semester on College Hill, I grew in new ways and hope that these quarantine lessons serve all of us well in the future. Sometimes, I’m overwhelmed with the sense that living at home and reexperiencing parts of my childhood has put my life on pause, yet it has also rapidly aged me as I lose time from what I could potentially do if there wasn’t a global pandemic. But maybe tracing back our steps can help us truly understand ourselves and allow us to take another look at the things we had but might have taken for granted. Though I am looking forward to the day when we can step into Jo’s during the weekend for an escape from the blistering cold and, of course, a recovery meal of a spicy with and fries.