I am a superstitious person with a desire to break out of that habit. I told myself that Friday, March 13, would be like any other Friday. Except that it was not.
That afternoon, Emerson College President Lee Pelton sent an email to all Emerson Los Angeles students about the closure of the program because of the COVID-19 virus. This meant students were required to vacate the premise by the following Friday, March 20. Life had turned around for us hundred students in a matter of seconds.
As of March 31, there are 54 deaths and over 3,000 cases, according to the Los Angeles County’s Public Health Department website. Although these numbers have accumulated over weeks, the virus’ presence has exponentially increased everyday all over the country. But back on March 13, jobs were just slowly beginning to transition to work from home protocol.
There is a moment during every disaster where, for a split second, no one knows what to do. I relished in that moment alongside my roommates, who were equally thrown off balance. We looked at one another, processing what this meant for ourselves.
I have two jobs on the line, I remember thinking, I cannot lose them. Over the course of the previous semester, I worked so hard to get hired at my dream internships. One involved podcasting, and the other focused on deep-reporting. I had finally found a rhythm at my jobs, where I became a part of the ebb and flow of office life. But anything I had planned for the immediate future had slipped from right under me, out of my control.
If there is a moment in a disaster where everyone freezes, there’s also a moment when it comes back and it’s action time. I called my parents and my partner as I struggled to keep the phone in between my head and shoulder. My hands furiously typed away on email, as I explained the situation to my supervisors. I was feeling productive and intuitive, coming up with fantasy solutions as I typed. “I can move back to LA whenever necessary,” I even promised. I had no way knowing at that moment if that idea was even feasible. Fake it till you make it, they say!
But the responses I received initially were worrying. Each employer wasn’t sure if a remote internship would be okay, and told me to wait on their answer. The last thing someone needs to be told when they’re struggling to plan out the next several months in a moment’s time.
It felt so confusing and alienating to be in this position, asking why me every second. The universe didn’t understand how hard I had worked to get where I was. It didn’t see the tears and sleepless nights of resume and cover letter editing. It didn’t see the cold calls I made or the unanswered emails I sent. It didn’t even see the panic attacks of not being good enough for any of my applications.
I realized I couldn’t find solace in the universe, but I could solace that everyone around me was feeling the same. And they understood my frustrations. Society was collectively getting just as screwed as I was. Not feeling alone during a crisis is actually very fulfilling, even if we do have to keep at least six feet away from one another.
I promised myself that I wouldn’t give up. I wouldn’t take no for an answer from my employers. I wouldn’t vacate Emerson without a plan. Most importantly, I would stand up for myself to make crazy life decisions that I knew were right for me.
That’s how I landed at home, where I’m currently working remotely for both of my jobs. I even managed to find and be approved to rent a house with some friends at the beginning of May. Every day, I make time to look at jobs and apply where I can. Working on personal projects keeps me sane as I struggle to find the best spot in my house to do work. I’ve taken up learning how to play the ukulele. And I try to see what I can do in my community during COVID-19.
I made a promise to not fall into the trap of feeling hopeless. Showing up for oneself during this time of crisis is radical self-love. I don’t want to break myself down for something so out of my control. Instead, I want to build myself up out of the rubbles of this situation. What may come of the future may not be exactly what I expected, but I can definitely expect to see the fruits of my hard work during this pandemic.