The bedroom in my parents’ house has always been a place of solace for me.
As an adolescent I made it my cave, retreating into its depths to find a solitude and a quiet I can fill with my deepest desires. It is warm, and the large windows are covered by white painted blinds that I routinely open to let the sun in and allow the burgundy and cream sheets covering my bed to glow, radiating with comfort.
The desk, which is built into the small alcove in the corner, was reserved for my personal writing, the kind of writing I took on out of love and exploration rather than the writing I take on as a means of sustenance. It holds a desk lamp that emits a soft yellow light made even softer by the pale pink fabric of the lamp shade.
When I’m feeling most inspired, I turn off all the lights in the room apart from that lamp, and let it flicker slightly as I scratch away at a notepad, or type on my laptop. It’s an old bulb, one that should probably be replaced soon.
Working from home was once a rare occurrence, one that I avoided as much as possible. I was used to leaving my work at the office, where it was cold, where I always needed a jacket. Shedding that jacket and tossing it on the back of the rolling chair in my bedroom, near my desk in the corner, was a daily ritual that allowed me to let my shoulders drop and finally let the day roll off of me.
Then the pandemic happened. I write that so simply, almost obtusely – it “happened,” it spread, it beats on like a death march echoing on a drum we all try to shove to the back of our brains.
The impact it has made on me has been minor, thankfully, which I am grateful for. I have not lost the people closest to me, and am privileged to still have a job that can still sustain my livelihood, my education, my entertainment.
In March, I relished the extra week of Spring Break when the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley announced the pandemic brought changes and precautions. I was relieved to have extra time to work on (or, more accurately, procrastinate) an assignment for my creative nonfiction workshop.
Then that extra week turned into two, and soon after we were informed that the remainder of the semester, and the summer semesters, would be relegated to online distance learning. I was in my second semester of graduate school, which I am thankful to write provided ample grant funding and flexibility through the pandemic.
When the Edinburg campus opened up again this fall, one of my three classes was part of the nine percent of in-person courses offered. The wide open grounds seemed all the more expansive, absent of the typical milling student and faculty population traversing building after building.
It was eerie, particularly since my one in-person course took place late at night, running until 10:25 p.m. One of the bright sides was that the school did not require us to purchase a parking permit, so I was able to park right next to my destination.
It was a political communication course, taught by my mentor Gregory Selber. Wearing masks was a small price to pay for the discussions we had in that class, which were thought-provoking, open, earnest, and illuminating.
We were even able to catch the 2020 Vice Presidential Debate, which streamed live during one of our classes. I can still hear the pregnant pause, then the eruption of laughter, as a fly landed unceremoniously on Vice President Mike Pence’s stiff white hair.
My other two courses – a screenwriting workshop and a genre class on studies in cinema – were conducting synchronously online. My professors David Carren and David Anshen (two other educators who will serve on my thesis committee) were engaging, available and understanding of the vast, sometimes complicated adjustments of the pandemic.
The flexibility Zoom afforded made for even more learning. Discussions were different, but we didn’t have to wear masks, and screen sharing provided a welcome and helpful tool.
As I prepare for another online semester, I look forward to the challenges it will bring. The question, however, of how the school will operate moving forward, still lingers.
When will more students return in-person? When will the community finally start to fight back and mitigate the spread that prevents it in the first place?
My bedroom has become an extension of my office – at the height of quarantine, my dad took over the kitchen, my sister the living room, my brother the computer room. Mom still had the “luxury” of leaving her work at work, where she has gone every day through COVID-19 without complaint.
My alcove is now covered in folders and sticky notes, and the desktop has various agendas and my office calendar. It only took a few weeks to turn it into a strange polyamorous marriage between writing for work, writing for school and writing for me.
In the midst of a pandemic, of COVID-19, I found myself in an isolation I did not choose. The blinds are still closed for the most part – I can be easily distracted when I have deadlines to make.