Working From Home During COVID

It’s Saturday, September 5, 2020. Picture me in all my glory, wearing yesterday’s scruffy clothes, not-so-elegantly sprawled across a too-small yoga mat trying to maintain my balance. My eyes are glued to the screen as I study the instructor’s highly coordinated, swan-like movements. I try to match her pacing and technique, but of course, I flounder (as yoga is suited best for those who actually have a sense of equilibrium). “How in the world did I get here?” No, you aren’t reading the story of a washed-up man enduring a mid-life crisis, you’re reading about an 18-year-old man-child’s experience of working from home during COVID-19. 

As someone who thrives off of face-to-face interaction, I have to be candid: College from home mostly sucks. Aside from the universal reality of isolation that’s become a hallmark of the pandemic, I also have to grapple with a limited work environment and an overall lack of mobility. Sure, literally rolling out of bed to go to class at the touch of a button seems tempting at first. However, it quickly loses its luster — something that students across the country began to realize back in March. Having gotten a glimpse of the tedium months ago during the first major sequence of lockdowns, over the summer I prepared myself for the possibility that I might have to do it again in the fall. Little did I know that my hypothetical would become a reality. Hundreds of miles away from peers and professors, I, like many other members of the Oberlin community, prioritized my physical wellbeing over my social life and sense of freedom. 

Only a week into the semester and my anxieties and imagination had already begun to run amok. I conjured up scenarios in which I would face some unforeseen technical issue or be confronted with questions that can only be solved in a professor’s office. These concerns caused me to struggle quite a bit with selecting my classes for this semester. For example, having chosen to study a language that I have zero familiarity with (a folly of my own doing, I admit), I no longer have the luxury of hearing syllables crisply enunciated in person. Instead, I find myself craning my neck toward my speakers and attempting to repeat the expression “entschuldigung” back to the class to little avail. 

However, language is not the only hurdle in my path. As someone who is not mathematically inclined, yet in dire need of a Natural Sciences and Math credit, I found myself having to grit my teeth and postpone those courses for a later, in-person semester. This decision to prioritize language over math has further complicated my academic plans as I have been forced to acknowledge my limits and choose what courses to set aside for the future.

Aside from the challenges of schedule-balancing and working behind a screen, I’ve had to confront the simple issue of how to pass the time and keep the days from blending together. Of course, I have read about the recommended ways of staying mentally and physically fit from home — change rooms, take walks, create routines, and so on. If it were not for the DMV’s (DC, MD, and VA) high concentration of cases, I would be working retail, passing time, and making some money. Instead, I have been making do with my home environment; hence, my disastrous — albeit fun — experience attending a yoga class. If I have learned one thing from this experience, it is that sometimes we have to make our own fun and find joy — regardless of how imperfect the circumstances are.

Having addressed my ever-long list of hiccups and road-bumps, I admit that I would be remiss if I didn’t express my thankfulness for having a stable home environment and caring professors during this challenging time. I know that this is not the case for every student working from home. While many students across the country were forced to either return to school or withdraw altogether, I was blessed with more options. While I have struggled with everything from my attention span to accessing my reading materials, I have also been fortunate enough to have remarkably helpful and accomodating professors. While this upcoming semester may become one of the most challenging academic periods of my life, I am starting to realize that with a little elbow grease and some well-written emails, this year can still become something worthwhile.