Behind the Mask
A New Reality — Arizona
March 13, 2020; it was a dark and gloomy day with the aftermath of the Arizona rains. That day was a seemingly straightforward day for my friends and me. We were sent home because of a college student that contracted something called the coronavirus or COVID-19. I thought nothing of it because my first assumption was that the case would go away, just as the seasonal flu came and went like gusts of wind. I was sorely mistaken. Little did I know that those two words, dark and gloomy, would be the ones that I would use to describe every seemingly endless day of my life for the next 11 months. Being hidden behind a mask, covered in sanitizer 24/7, and staying locked up in my home were the things that not only I, but also billions of others around me were suddenly forced to do. Life like this became my new reality.
My life forcibly became a constant loop: get up late, do something at least semi-productive, eat, and then sleep. The world around me became a blur as I watched toilet paper vanish from store shelves, hospitals fill up, and people succumb to the disease. I even went into a state of denial, making countless attempts to assure myself that this virus would be gone in a week, but I was wrong. As if the emergence of a new deadly virus was not enough, I had another major obstacle added onto my plate and the plates of my family members as well. My grandma had unexpectedly been diagnosed with a high-grade transformation of her lymphoma. This became a severe and worrisome issue in my household since COVID-19 was proving to take its worst toll on elders. My grandmother's illness caused more tension in the house than I had ever seen before. As the days grew longer, I suddenly realized that I was falling deep into a hole out of which it seemed impossible for me to climb. The stress, depression, and my fears of the pandemic formed a dark cloud over my head and that of my family’s, and I felt as though we were held captive in a catastrophic cavity, even on the sunniest of days.
Then, I started to notice that the individuals around me were lifting themselves up from this darkness and finding a new light to shine. While some families were going on picnics, baking, and sharing memories from before the pandemic, mine was figuring out doctors appointments, COVID tests, and chemo bags. I certainly didn’t enjoy the feeling and I know the loved ones around me did not either. However, those appointments and medicine bags weren't going to go away, and we all knew this. This was the moment I knew that I needed to accept my new reality and learn from it and maybe even find my own light in the darkness.
I will say that the early parts of my new adventures were not, by any means, easy challenges. I often found myself resorting to Tik Tok, my room, or my music, but I soon established the fact that those mechanisms were all a part of my new life, my new reality in this strange, upside-down, twisted world. I began trying new activities such as painting, working out, reading books I had always wanted to read, and even making my own attempts to see the world in a better way: one that lies close to the life that the people on this earth lived before COVID-19 hit. I found hobbies and interests that I had put away for a persistent amount of time, like photography, journaling, and astronomy. Suddenly, this new world I was living in didn’t seem so bad after all. I shared many of these experiences with my grandma, who in turn felt like she would be able to make it in this world too. By picking up the fallen soul of myself, I was able to help those in my family recover and realize that yes, times can be miserable but this is our world now. We have our reality placed in front of us and it is up to us to choose how we want to take it.
— Anaiya Patel, 14