Like many others, I have experienced the past several months like a ship on the open sea, with some days of clear skies and calm waters and others of gray, turbulent storms. When the first shelter-in-place orders went into effect in California, I was in the process of completing a creative writing certificate program at my local community college. In-person campus operations came grinding to a halt, and I transitioned to online learning for the final leg of my program. Because I had taken some online classes in the past as part of my bachelor’s degree, this was not as difficult for me as it was for others, although I missed my usual routines of spending time with friends after class and interacting with students as part of my job on campus. The most difficult aspect was learning that my employment would not be renewed due to covid-related campus closures. To make matters worse, my boyfriend and I had to shelter in place in separate households. For the health and safety of our respective families, we went from spending time together nearly daily to being unable to get close enough even to hold hands. In order to see my face in person, he had to mask up and jog for a mile from his house to mine and chat with me as I peered down at him from my second-story window.
Beyond these personal hardships, my stress has been compounded by events greater than myself. In June, I protested against the senseless violence at the hands of police that seems more visible yet no less common in the age of the Black Lives Matter movement. In September, I observed with horror the orange sky caused by raging wildfires exacerbated by climate change and racist mistrust of indigenous controlled burning practices that could have lessened the severity of the blazes. Since March, I have checked the news almost compulsively to follow the development of a coronavirus vaccine, even as I felt myself growing numb to the ever-climbing numbers of deaths from the virus as they surpassed hundreds of thousands nationwide. I remind myself often that complacency should not replace vigilance; even as my lockdown fatigue intensifies, the novel coronavirus still lurks out of sight like a sea monster, waiting in the depths to topple my vessel of safety and growing stronger with every surge of cases.
Yet, through all of this, I have persevered. At the advice of a friend, I applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which has helped to ease my financial burdens. With the growing availability of coronavirus tests, my boyfriend and I have been able to schedule a safe visit once every few months, and we are making plans to move in together in the new year. I have used my spare time at home to work on a novel that I have dreamed of finishing for years, and I have also slowly begun to revive my love of art. I created the piece “Persevere” for the California State Library Covid Diaries as a reminder that, though I may feel empty and gray at times, I do not necessarily have to “feel okay” in order to find ways to rise up and push forward. And with two vaccines now approved for emergency use and helping to bring the end of this pandemic closer, I am finally beginning to see land in sight.
Submitted by Kayla Wilton, San Francisco County – San Francisco.