By Briana Brady, Opinion Editor–

Leaving my Friday afternoon class heading into Spring Break, I had no idea that I would not step foot again on UTC’s campus this semester. In fact, I’m sure very few of us thought any differently than I did in that moment: a week of reprieve from school would come and go, and everything about the normalcy of the school year would fall back into place the following Monday.

My day to day routine “back then” was pretty set. I woke up at the same time every day, listened to NPR’s The Daily podcast every morning on my 30 minute drive to school, parked in the same garage each morning, attended class, went back to the garage to get my car, and headed to the Carver Recreational Center in East Chattanooga, where I spent the remainder of my day before heading back home to do homework—often talking on the phone during that traffic-filled commute.

My free time at home was sparse and cherished, exercise classes and yoga sessions managed to insert themselves into my busy schedule, and car rides were simply an opportunity to take some me-time before re-immersing into schoolwork upon arriving back home. Now, a mere three weeks later, I feel like I’m living a completely different kind of existence.

My routine has been turned on its head; without my morning commute, I can sleep about 45 minutes later, and I have no obvious opportunity to listen to my morning podcast. Eating breakfast, though, has become a new daily enjoyment: the extra time in the mornings allow me to enjoy a bowl of cereal before my morning Zoom call. While discussion boards have begun to inadequately take the place of any “socializing” I could formerly claim, my daily walks have replaced the time I would normally spend in the car and allow me to catch up with loved ones whom I don’t live with and now seemingly interact with in every moment. I have extensive opportunity for valuable family time, puzzles have become a source of comfort, and my room has become less of a place for calm and more of a place for work.

Zoom calls have become a kind of portal to another universe in which awkward silence has a whole new meaning, familiar faces seem distant, and conversations seem less natural—yet for me, they are still preferred to yet another discussion board posting. Human interaction outside of the home has shifted from lunches and coffee with friends to dings and rings signifying the existence and care of others via phone calls, FaceTime sessions, and text messages to just “check-in.” Social media, in some ways, has become just as depressing and anxiety-inducing as the 24-hour news cycle, and exercise has been confined to exploring the outdoors, participating in online yoga sessions, and playing pickup games in the driveway with my family.

Routine is no longer something I can cling to; my day-to-day involvements are no longer available to distract my my mind from my own worries. Yet, the perspective I have gained along the way remains. While my days no longer look the same in this season of life, nor do anyone else’s, and so many people are sacrificing and suffering in ways unimaginable to me. The conditions of this crisis have resulted in so many challenges for so many people: from exacerbated food insecurity to unsafe home environments to going into work each day knowing that you’re putting your life at risk to care for someone else… just to name a few.

I remain grateful for my own blessings and for those who persevere each day to care for others and/or who struggle just to make it through. May our routines shift to one of enjoying the simpler things in life, both now and once this has passed, and looking out for others along the way.

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