I have one more week to say that I AM a musical theatre major at Southern Illinois University before I have to change part of that sentence to I WAS. I’m getting ready to end this chapter of my life and move on to the next. All senior year I’ve been preparing in my mind how I was going to adapt to this new chapter after college and into full fledged adulthood.
I was enjoying spring break at my parents’ house in Valparaiso, IN when I got the message saying that spring break was extended for another week and that class work would be online indefinitely due to the virus outbreak. The rest of that night my time was spent gossiping in group chats with my classmates talking about the future: how long this was gonna last, if future events were going to get cancelled, and how in the world theatre classes were gonna be taught through a computer screen. The next few days were spent opening emails from my professors and administration learning about all of the new changes that were about to occur.
Two of the shows that I had been cast as leads in this semester were cancelled and the senior showcase that my classmates and I had been working on for over six months was cancelled as well. Needless to say, I was heartbroken. As a senior, this is my last semester to “shine” and show people what I had been working toward and studying these last four years of school. Another thing that I won’t get to experience is graduation. The school hasn’t decided yet, but there could be a virtual one in May or a regular one held in December. Neither options are ideal. Going through this pandemic as a senior also means not relishing in the last couple months of my college years. There are so many things that my friends and I had on our senior year bucket lists and they will most likely never be checked off. One of them was climbing a specific building on campus late at night, a tradition that musical theatre majors at my university would usually partake in sometime during their college careers. Another is the highly
anticipated themed theatre parties that I’ll never enjoy as a college student again.
Being away from school has made it easier to not think about these events that I won’t partake in. However, sometimes in quarantine these realizations hit me and I feel somber. It’s a loss that will take time to get over, but knowing that I’m not the only one going through this feeling makes me feel better. And then I think about the people actually having to fight off COVID-19 and I feel like I shouldn’t be complaining about anything at all. I think about the people who are being forced into quarantine with their abusers and can’t find a way to escape, or people who are quarantined alone that are suffering from the lack of human connection, or people that have lost their jobs and are having to worry about paying their bills. And then I think back to my problems and they seem so miniscule. However, I don’t think that anyone is completely happy right now no matter who you are. One might have happy moments during their days inside their house, but the whole world is being affected right now in similar ways. One of the common worries that everyone around the world has is that NO ONE wants to catch this horrible virus and somehow there is a unity that is being produced from that worry.
Quarantine at my parent’s house in Valparaiso is interesting. My sleep schedule has changed so much. The first couple weeks of quarantine I would never see the sunlight; sleep all day and enjoy the peaceful night sky. Being a bartender at Charlie’s Chicago, I’m used to staying up all night so it wasn’t odd for me at all. Eventually my classes online started and I had to completely reverse my sleep schedule.
Theatre classes online have been very strange so far. Like most colleges across the U.S., I’ve been using Zoom to video chat with professors during regular class times throughout the week. I’ve had to take lots of videos of me singing and acting out monologues and then email them to my professors. Dance class has been turned into an hour long discussion once a week about a dance clip on YouTube. My voice lessons are through Zoom as well and my first lesson was very odd having to sing with a piano 350 miles away. As the weeks progressed, my vocal coach has found ways to make the voice lessons go a lot smoother. At first, classes in general were so chaotic and most of my professors were not prepared at all to teach classes through a webcam. It wasn’t anyone’s fault though! How could ANYONE predict life was going to change so drastically? Even though my professors are trying their best to give us the resources to succeed, nothing seems to be sticking in my brain. I’m finding it hard to pay attention during Zoom calls and I find motivating myself to be harder than usual. Being quarantined on top of the pre-existing “senioritis” has proven to be a bad combination. However, I’m lucky that most of my professors are understanding of their students’ feelings and have given us extended time to complete our assignments. It’s a situation that students and teachers alike needed to adjust to.
Other than classes, I like to take walks when it’s sunny out and listen to podcasts. Even though the weather seems to be getting warmer and sunnier out, I can sense a hysteria in the air. No one and I mean NO ONE passes you on the sidewalk. Everyone, including me, avoids walking down the same side of the street as someone else. I get stressed when I see too many people on the sidewalks and don’t know which side of the street to proceed to. It’s a thought that seems to be going on in everyone’s head. In the rare instance that I go to a store, I feel contaminated when I come home. Almost like someone stuck a post-it note to the back of my shirt that says “infect me,” yet I don’t even know it’s there. I immediately wash my hands and change my clothes. I try to stay in contact with my other friends too. My 22nd birthday was at the end of March and my friends organized a Zoom call and we had an online party at our respective households. It was not ideal, but I’m glad that it wasn’t my 21st I was celebrating. Aside from FaceTime and Zoom chats, the other day family friends came over to visit. Their household sat on one side of the driveway while my household sat on the other. We all enjoyed beers and caught up on one another’s lives. Social distancing at its finest!
Life has changed drastically for all of us, but as the days of quarantine rack up I find myself getting more and more used to this temporary way of life. We, as humans, all have the ability to adapt to new situations. There have been plenty of days where I feel like I’m going crazy stuck in my house with my parents, but going through this I’ve taken mental notes on what I need to do for myself when I find some days challenging. As all of us get used to this new way of life, it’s important to remember that this is all temporary. Just think about the day when we will be able to go out and party and see friends and actually be able to hug them! It’s going to be a celebration that will be unforgettable! We’ll be able to dine-in at our favorite restaurants and we’ll be able to go shopping for stuff other than groceries. We’ll be able to buy toilet paper and actually have a choice on which brand to buy. Life will officially resume back to normal and the word “Coronavirus” will merely be the butt of every joke. But until then, adjusting to this temporary way of life is crucial. In doing so, our celebration will have a date on the calendar sooner than later!