I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T meet COVID-19: Self-isolating at parents' house means loss of newfound freedom
by Tori Thoele
Dallas Carter had big things planned as she began packing for home to leave for her senior spring break. She planned on meeting up with several hometown friends in Saint Louis, visiting with her family, and most importantly, seeing her cats. Carter lived in a spacious two-story townhouse that she shared with three other roommates on the University of Evansville’s campus. Her room, decked out in purple and blue, shared a glimpse into who she is. Pictures of friends and family line the wall, small toy elephants litter the small work desk, and a neatly made bed sits in the corner of her private living space.
Dallas had been independent her first year as a college student. She got to follow her own rules, stay up as late as she wanted, and start leading her life as an adult. That is until COVID-19 ran rampant, infecting hundreds of thousands in the US, ultimately shutting down most colleges for the rest of the spring semester. Now, she has to live at home with her younger brother, mom, and step-dad. It’s safe to say things are not the same: “It’s so much harder to live with my family now, knowing this is where I live not just that I am visiting. I didn’t just have a taste of independence, I completely had my own life. I lived on my own, paid my own bills, bought my own groceries. My brother and I share a room in the basement now, that is split down the middle with a curtain, his side has a door and mine doesn’t”, Carter proclaims.
Not only does Carter not have privacy, but she doesn’t make the rules anymore. “Coming home and not being in control of anything is infuriating. Not being able to decide certain things for myself and being told 'this is how we do it,' when you’ve been living a different lifestyle with different people. There is so much less privacy and the hardest part is really the lack of closure. Knowing that this is just how it is now, I never get to say goodbye to certain people or finish the senior year bucket list I had started,”mCarter sighs.
This is how it is for most college seniors around the nation. No warning, just a single email from their deans letting them know that school is ultimately canceled, as well as spring breaks, birthdays, graduations, and any other celebration that was planned before the quarantine. Whole lives have been shaken like an angry beehive, bees pouring out and stinging everything in their wake.
Carter states it best: “Imagine you go for a weekend at the lake right. Well you get there and things start closing so as time goes on the trip starts to get ruined. It’s okay, you can recover. But, now you are told that you must stay in your lake house for two more weeks with your distant family that you were staying with. There’s a catch, you still have to do all of the work you would’ve done during those two weeks from the lake house, but your family says 'You’re at the lake house, you have to do fun lake things instead!' Then two days later, a new email says you never get to go home. The lake house is home now. And you are stuck in the lake house because there is a stay-at-home order. It’s a feeling of complete loss, confusion, hopelessness. I could go on. What are you supposed to do?”
Dallas will end her day, as she usually does, stuck in quarantine and in a place she can’t quite call home.
The playground surrounded by caution tape is a metaphor for Carter's situation and for what many people are dealing with now: the things that we once enjoyed are temporarily off limits.