As an MSW student at HPU entering my last year of graduate school, the start of the Fall 2020 semester is definitely like no other. I met my new classmates and professors through my webcam, while logging internship hours and attending class sessions via Zoom. Rather than rushing from my internship to school and then to work, which was my routine the past two years, I now sit in pajamas in front of the computer for a majority of the day. I never realized how much I took my normal, graduate school life for granted!
Right now it’s 8:00 p.m. on a Friday night and I’m sitting at my desk writing a blog post for my internship at the National Association of Social Workers, during an island-wide stay-at-home order. What is going on? Am I really working at home on my computer, for my internship, on a Friday night?
On my typical Friday night, pre-COVID, I would spend my time working as a server at Blue Note, a live music venue in Waikiki. Between attending to my tables, I would find myself socializing with coworkers while listening to live music. Friday nights were awesome; I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have such a great job. Dancing slyly from table to table while making money, the "old" normal now seems lost in the past, like an old but cherishable memory.
As we enter the six months-mark into the 2020 global pandemic, brought to us by COVID-19, life has changed dramatically and has influenced my lifestyle in so many ways. Since the middle of March 2020, I have not worn makeup, worked a restaurant shift, attended an in-person class or had a reason to dressed up. It appears that I have not had a single, professional or student responsibility other than zoom meetings (and related assignments).
COVID-19 has taken my old normal away. This year has become increasingly lonely, confusing and frightening. Scared of the unknown, I often find myself spiraling down a dark tunnel, asking myself if things will ever get back to the way they were. Deep inside, I feel that I cannot be the only one affected in this manner.
Nearly the entire population on Earth has been affected by this new normal we find ourselves in. Between social and travel restrictions, loss of work, being stuck at home and glued to the news, social media and Netflix, many have experienced heightened senses of anxiety and hopelessness. Businesses have been lost or redesigned in this new environment with social restrictions. As with many others, my life has been altered and I find myself constantly having to adjust to learning and working remotely.
I believe I am affected in more ways that one. By living on an island where isolation has never felt more real, this impact has become even more personal to me. My family lives in Florida, while many friends are scattered across the mainland. Also, my boyfriend has family on Big Island and Kauai where inter-island travel is restricted. The travel restrictions over the last six months have affected me here, as I've lost many opportunities to see friends and family. Losing out on such interaction adds to the already intense feelings of isolation and loneliness I normally experience my first two years on Oahu.
When anxiety comes about, I sit on my lanai, take deep breaths, and remind myself to count my blessings. I am blessed to wake up every day in a healthy body, to be living in Hawai’i where I am able to cleanse my energy in the deep blue sea. I am blessed that I can afford rent and groceries. I am blessed that COVID has not touched anyone I know.
As humans, we have learned to adapt. Adapt to change. Adapt for survival. I too, will adapt to COVID-19.
If anything, this pandemic has taught me acceptance, flexibility, and patience. To accept what I cannot change. That flexibility in change and that I must have patience for the return to normal.
I don’t have to pretend like everything’s okay, because it’s not. What I can do, however, is talk openly about it, raise mental-health awareness, and practice self-care.
2020 Spring Semester blog posts are written by Jennifer Nacapuy. 2018-2019 Academic Year blog posts are written by Sruthi Vijayakumar & Cynthia Macey. 2017-2018 blog posts were written by Holly Arroyo & Jenalyn Camagong