My name is Zuleth Cervantes, I’m 18 years old, and this is my covid experience.
I was living in Thousand Oaks California with my mother’s cousin. A few years ago I left my hometown, Tijuana, Baja California, to continue my studies in the U.S. in the hope of a better future. Ever since I moved to California my life had been nothing but exciting. I was in my senior year in high school when the pandemic started, almost 3 months away from graduation. Like everyone else, I had lots of plans before Covid hit California; a New York trip with my theatre class, presenting two plays I was part of, my last choir concert, PROM, grad night at Disneyland and of course, the graduation ceremony. Everything in my life was in the right place; or so it was until the pandemic burst my bubble.
We had a week off school because of the virus and my parents wanted to see me so they asked me to go back to Tijuana for the week. I said my goodbyes to my friends at school before the “long weekend”, not knowing it would be the last day I would see them. During that week off school, the district confirmed the rest of the school year was going to be online due to the now global pandemic. My parents decided I would stay in Tijuana for the rest of the school year and after graduation I would move to San Diego to study college.
I had a hard time dealing with the fact that I would be moving away from my friends all of the sudden. Everything happened so fast and there’s nothing I could do about it. I spent the last three months of my senior year crying about not saying my proper goodbyes to my friends before leaving Thousand Oaks forever. I definitely valued more the memories I had with my friends. It was crazy how much I wanted just one more regular school day. My heart was filled with things left unsaid to my teachers and plans I had made with my friends before everything changed. Before the world changed.
The school set the date for a drive-thru graduation ceremony in June. My parents couldn’t take me because only U.S. citizens could cross the border, according to the new regulations in the frontier. Luckily, I have an aunt who lives in Winton, California, who offered to pick me up from Tijuana and take me to my graduation ceremony. The plan was to go to the graduation in Thousand Oaks, then go to her place at Winton and spend a couple of weeks there. Then she would take me to San Diego and I would start college.
I had a great time at my aunt’s place in Winton. After feeling down for days because I didn’t get to see my friends at my graduation I was finally feeling better. Then the unexpected happened. My aunt’s sister in law, who went to our house regularly, tested positive for covid. We had let her come in, trusting she was not only family, but responsible enough to respect the quarantine because she was pregnant. We never saw her as a threat because she was vulnerable, but now we realize that letting her in was our biggest mistake.
After we found out we went to get tested only to find out we were all infected. Five days later my uncle, my aunt and I experienced symptoms. We had high fever, headaches and our bodies hurt all the time, but the symptoms didn’t hit me as hard because of my age. During that time I took care of my two little cousins because my aunt and uncle couldn’t get out of bed. I didn’t know how to cook but I did my best to cook for everyone and keep the house in order. I also had to deal with college registration during that time and it was a very stressful process because it was completely online. I had to wake up early to schedule the soonest zoom appointment, make many calls to the school administration and send tons of emails.
My uncle’s boss still paid him after he stopped working because he tested positive for covid, but after three weeks we still tested positive and his boss wouldn’t pay him anymore. We were short on money for food so every week we would go to a parking lot where the army gave away free food for the affected families.
Five weeks had passed since we had our first test and we were still infected. The clinic explained to us that covid can remain in one’s body for a few weeks more than usual in some people. We got tested three times before the fourth set of results were finally negative. My uncle went back to work, saved money for gas and after a few days he took me home.
The area in my life that was most affected by this experience is my mental health. I am usually a cheerful, loud person, but when I came back with my family in Tijuana I felt different; I felt anxious most of the time. Completing simple tasks became tiring and being social around my family was exhausting. Even though I’m still recovering from it, the bright side is I learned to put more value on things. I value being closer to my family now that I live in San Diego. I value the time I spent with my aunt, even if it wasn’t as I pictured. I value my mental health and the things my body does for me. But overall, I value my family’s health more than ever and I thank God every morning for having them with me. I pray for my loved ones to survive this pandemic with good physical and mental health.
Submitted by Zuleth Cervantes, Ventura County — Thousand Oaks.