Story by Gavin Kelleher-Marciello for The Telescope
On March 15, I was sitting in the parking lot of a local grocery store in Humboldt County, an eight-hour drive north of San Diego. California.
My best friend and I had planned an extensive camping trip in redwood country as it was my first time visiting her at her new school.
However, in the span of a day, the reality of COVID-19 and its effects on the world quickly evolved from a minor thought in our minds to an overwhelming feeling of catastrophe. As we sat in her car only a day after I had flown into town, we drove in circles trying to figure out what to do.
The city of San Francisco was quickly closing down and we began to realize the severity of the whole situation, which prior to this day, seemed more like a distraction. After two hours of discussing if we should pack up her entire dorm at Humboldt State University, cancel my flight, and drive, we decided to call our families. Multiple phone calls with my friend’s family left us feeling even more confused as the reality had not set in with her family either. They suggested we just continue our trip as planned. A brief, yet monumental moment after that we decided to call my mother.
Over the phone, she said, “I want you both to come home,” and in an instant we both burst into tears. This moment really set the tone of my initial experience with COVID-19 and social isolation.
After returning home, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty. Every time I read another story of a death or of displaced families, or heard of a family friend in the hospital, I rapidly declined into a deep, heavy state of sadness. I felt lethargic every morning and spent around two weeks feeling this way.
In addition to the global effects of the pandemic, I was also faced with some insecurities within my own family for housing. On top of that, I struggled with the mandated social isolation as I have always been a community-centered individual. All of these things began to accumulate, and I felt completely unable to shake this feeling.
I can’t say that the weight of these things no longer affects me, but I have found some solace in this whole process, which has forced me to slow down. I understand how heavily this has affected people from all backgrounds, especially those who have financial insecurities and structural disadvantages. I have learned to appreciate how this experience has manifested in my own life when it comes to genuinely appreciating the “little things.”
Some of the most tender moments I have had were witnessing my mother, who usually works three jobs and is constantly in a state of hustling to maintain our lives, has finally been forced to have a day off. Three days ago after coming home from work, I heard chatting in the backyard of our small apartment. I live in a complex where all the tenants are different ages, eye contact between neighbors is rare, and interactions are kept to a minimum. Yet, on this day, I walked into my backyard to see my mom laughing hysterically sitting in a newly purchased kiddie-pool with four of our neighbors. While I understand the danger of these interactions, in this moment I felt an overwhelming sense of happiness witnessing these complete strangers who had been alone for weeks coming together because of this bizarre shared experience.
I have also found it amusing and even even comical to see how people have managed to enjoy the outdoors. I live near a long range of ocean bluffs, and for the past couple of weeks, the trail and beaches have been closed. Yet on my daily walks with my 7-month old puppy, I have seen people having picnics on their car roof, a man playing drums in the bed of his truck while people driving by wave happily, and a man laying out rose petals over his truck while his girlfriend sits inside, waiting blindfolded to see what the surprise might be.
The collective of these simple interactions of community and affection that I have witnessed have completely shifted my ability to wake up in the morning and face the day. Experiencing this shared sense of unknowingness has brought out some beautiful sides of humans that I find comforting. Every day we wake up amidst this pandemic where the state of life seems unsettling and a bit scary. But as I’ve come to find the small happy moments that we all experience, the entire trajectory of my day shifts. I hope to maintain this sense of appreciation for the little things in life even as we navigate these uneasy times.
- Virus Affected Communities: Palomar Telescope | All Rights Reserved