Friday, May 29, 2020

COVID Student Journal: I knew I had to change my lifestyle in order to save money.

(Student submission Spring 2020)

On January 1st 2020, at exactly 12am, I found myself in a club somewhere in Orlando. I went out to have a nice dinner with a few of friends, and we made our way to Orlando’s strip where we chose a random club to party. I walked into the club and was surprised by the genre of music the DJ was playing. They were playing Soca music. This genre of music is rarely played in the United States. Most clubs in Florida play trap, rap or hip hop music all night. However, that night in Orlando, I had a really good time.

When school started I was extremely nervous because this is my last semester at Tallahassee Community College. I faced many obstacles during my time in college; however, I overcame each and every one of them like I always do. I messed up my GPA a few times, but I knew this semester would be a remarkable one.

I was told that taking five classes would be too much to handle, but at the time, I was managing just fine. My grades were intact. I was not one bit overwhelmed and life was great. I kept in very close contact with my parents and siblings back home, and they all mentioned how proud they were of me. I had literally nothing to worry about.

Fast forward to March 2020. It was the week before spring break. I was more excited to get the week off, so I can sleep all day. I ordered many car parts and tools so that I could have an entire week to work on my car. I aimed to change the appearance and mechanics on my car during spring break. However, that did not go as planned. My friends decided to plan a trip to Miami Beach. We booked a hotel, and drove to Miami on March 12th. There was a lot of traffic on the highway; however, when I got there, it was beautiful. There were many people on the beach playing music, dancing, eating and having a good time.

A few days later, the beach was closed due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. Ocean Drive strip was open, but there were barricades everywhere. We were not allowed to walk on the beach. One night, I was sitting at an ice cream parlor enjoying a banana split when I saw a stampede of people running towards me. My first instinct was to run, but I decided to go into the ice cream parlor. I knew if I sat in the same spot, I would have gotten trampled and hurt.

After about ten minutes, everything was calm again. I found out that there was an argument in a restaurant on South Beach, and someone pulled out a loaded gun. The argument got heated and law enforcement was called. When police officers arrived, they approached the armed man trying to talk him into putting the weapon down. Instead, the armed man fired, and the officers shot back. He was then taken into custody. I have never experienced something like that before. My heart was beating so fast that it felt like it was on the verge of popping out of my chest.

At that point, it was time to go back to the hotel. I felt unsafe. After being in Miami for about a week, I realized that COVID-19 was spreading faster than we thought it would. Authorities closed the beaches off to prevent crowding. We all still mentioned to crowd on the streets, in restaurants and clubs. This lead authorities to close restaurants and clubs as well. For some reason, spring breakers still found a way to meet up. Everyone started hanging out at gas stations, hotels and even parking lots. Authorities then enforced a curfew.

About two weeks later, I was walking on Ocean Drive with two of my friends. There were many others walking on the strip as well. Everyone was a bit distant, but there was music and people were driving in convertibles. It seemed like a very good environment at the time, but a few moment later I heard gun shots. At that point I knew something was not right in Miami. I ran to the car and headed back to my hotel room.

A normal person would have left Miami due to the high numbers in COVID-19 cases and increased crime rates; however, I stayed. The following day, I headed back to Ocean Drive. I was walking the strip at around midnight when a police officer approached my friends and I. We were told that we needed to leave because it is passed curfew. The officer then told us that we were supposed to be arrested for being out here passed curfew, but we only got a warning. I knew that if I got arrested my parents would be extremely mad.

At that point, I knew it was time to leave. I saw way too many warning signs while I was in Miami. My parents always told me that if something does not feel right, it most definitely is not right. I took it as since every time I left the hotel something bad happen, that it was time to leave before I get into trouble or get hurt.

I then decided to stay in the hotel room until it was time to check out. I had my food delivered most of the time. After a few days, I realized that COVID-19 cases in Miami was at an all time high. I knew that I had to leave. Hotels stopped serving breakfast, grocery stores shorten hours and banks were closing. Life became hard at that very moment.

Everyone was out of work. My parents in St. Maarten tried their utmost best to get me on a flight back home, but the airport on the island was closed. No one was allowed to enter or leave the island. This was the time to “make do with what we have” as my mother would say. Classes were transferred online. Graduation was cancelled. Clubs and gyms were closed. Everyone was depressed.

I knew I had to change my lifestyle in order to save money. I decided to drive back to Tallahassee and stack up on necessities. I purchased lots of water, canned goods and meat. I gave up the unhealthy lifestyle of buying burgers, wings, pizza and tacos every day. I started googling different recipes to learn how to cook. I usually spend my weekends working on my car, ordering car parts and tools; however, during the pandemic, I was forced to be very careful with money.

I tried to spend more time focusing on school and my health instead of enhancing my car. After a while, things became hectic. I was not accustomed to taking so many classes online at once. School became overwhelming, and I felt as though I was drowning. I had assignments due almost every day. Aside from zoom calls with my class, I had to focus on turning in my assignments on time.

The biggest challenge was starting the assignments. I was programmed to wake up at 8am every morning to get ready for class. Now that everything is online, I would find other stuff to do at 8am. Sometimes I would even wake up at 11am and start making breakfast. When I wake up too late, I feel as though my entire day has been wasted.

To cope with this problem, I decided to set an alarm. I woke up at 9:30am. I gave myself two hours to eat and shower then it was time to start my assignments. After a period of time, I completely forgot about COVID-19. I would hop in my car and head to Walmart around 10pm only to find out that Walmart is closed due to the virus.

In my opinion, the virus is spreading rapidly because many people are not taking it seriously. While I was in Miami during spring break time, no one wore masks or gloves. Comparing March to April in Miami, it is evident that the virus is not being taken more seriously. Individuals cannot enter gas stations and certain grocery stores without a mask. Hotels would not let you check in without a mask.

Additionally, I believe that the main cause of the pandemic is clubs and spring break. Thousands of college students flew to Miami from across the world to party. Many of them contracted the virus in their home town or in airports. They bring spreader the virus in Miami when they got there. As we all know, the lines outside clubs in Miami is extremely long. People failed to realize that they can contract the virus by having a simple conversation with someone in the club line.

The hardest part about the entire pandemic is the fact that people my age are making jokes about it. We may not be the ones dying from it, but we are the messengers. Meaning, we are the ones who are transmitting this virus to our loved ones. I am actually really happy that I was not able to catch a flight back home because I would hate to be the one to put my family in danger.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has made me appreciate life even more than I did before. I have never put the saying “here today, gone tomorrow” into perspective until now. Thousands of people have lost their life. Many lost their life as a consequence of their children of grand children’s nonchalance. Life as we know it will never be the same. I do not think we will ever fully recover from this until a vaccine is created. This is the main reason why we need to be cautious of our surroundings.

Life is too short to live recklessly. The entire world was forced to change and make adjustments in order to save lives. From a bird’s view, it might have seemed like bodies were dropping every second; however, we have managed to maintain and control deaths to a certain extent. COVID-19 has taught me that everything can change in the matter of two weeks. This is the main reason why it is important to remain positive. It is important to be selfless. It is important to take life seriously. Then and only then can we make progress toward the American dream.