Covid-19 and a dream

A story of how the virus deferred the dream

I’ve known since I was in middle school that I wanted to be a journalist. For me, it was sophomore year at Villa Angela-St. Joseph when my first piece of poetry was published. I never thought me painting a real picture of how deeply I felt would resonate with people on the level that would want to share it with others. That’s when I felt I could change things with my words. 

You know that feeling of excitement that you get when you’ve worked really hard, put your best foot forward, shed blood, sweat and tears all in an effort to accomplish your dream? It’s a feeling Spring 2020 graduates won’t get. COVID-19 has changed everything, and I’m pretty mad about it. To be honest, I’m sad and frustrated, too. May 9 was going to be the big day for me and after all I’ve been through, graduation was going to be the big cherry on top of a successfully sweet sundae. 

My former teacher Anna Vitale probably doesn’t realize the impact her creative writing class had on me. She knew how much I enjoyed the work and when we went home for the summer, she mailed the final project with comments. One that I’ll never forget is her saying that what I wrote was an award-winning sentence. She really had me thinking I was a mix of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison out here! 

Little did I know, the place I loved so much, where I took my writing to another level, would not be the place I completed my undergrad degree. I didn’t feel challenged enough and decided I’d go home but immediately transfer to Georgia Southern in time for the following school year. The plan was almost executed until I ran into financial aid problems. It meant I moved back home to stay for a while and began the two- and three-job hustle. 

Over the next 10 years, I would study at Cuyahoga Community College and Ashford University on and off but I’d never give up. It wouldn’t be until I transferred to Cleveland State University that I would find my place and literally everything I wanted would come to fruition.  

Fast forward to the present. When I heard other schools were switching to remote learning, I was highly upset Cleveland State had not gotten on the band wagon. Days after the first wave of shutdowns, I received the news. I went from feeling relieved to depressed in one text. 

My friend and mentor texted me about graduation and my heart instantly dropped. I went to check my email right away and saw that the ceremony was going to be cancelled. I can recall my eyes swelling up and getting a lump in my throat because I didn’t want to cry. I had so many feelings about the coronavirus but this was the first time it was personal. How dare this disease rob me of all that I worked for? I texted her back -- then something happened. It was the first time someone gave me permission to wholeheartedly feel every bit of whatever this emotional rollercoaster was going to take me on. And so I did. 

It didn’t hit me right away. I drove home with no problem, pulled up, took my boots off at the door, and set my things down. Right before bed, I went to use the restroom and just broke down. A news station in Atlanta aired a few local songs that would help reach the 20-second mark we were instructed to hit while washing our hands. 

So, I drew on that, and dried my tears and sang, “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson, wooo, I am for real. Never meant to make your daughter cry. I apologize a trillion times.” I repeated this hook once like the newscaster said and of course slid into the bridge of the song because who sings that and stops there. This was symbolic of so many things for me. One, this was my new normal. Singing songs for 20 seconds or more to get a good wash in. Two, I was sorry (to myself) as I stared in the mirror and sang. Sorry that this was happening right now of all the times. And three, I knew much like how the song I love and chose to sing every hand wash comes to end, so too will this. 

After a month of not being at my best mentally and a rocky performance academically as a result; after a month where people I thought I was close to stopped talking to me and couldn’t even tell me why they were upset; after a month of feeling like a failure because there were days I couldn’t even get out of bed, I’m finally somewhat back to myself. It’s taken a lot to get here—a lot of love from my mom and sister, a lot of laughs from my favorite cousin coupled with wisdom from my grandmas and prayers from family and friends. And while I still have feelings about all that’s going on, because so many people help me pull myself up, though I still may have some bad days, I’m determined not to fall back into that place.