Anxiety is an exhausting mental illness to have. It chases you: Everywhere I go, it seems as if there’s something just waiting to stress me out. The heart-pounding apprehension of asking a question in a lecture. The lip-gnawing experience of rereading an email 10 times before sending it. The worry that I’ll flub my coffee order and embarrass myself in front of the barista. The paralyzing fear that as I walk through CVS, there’s someone lingering behind me, watching and laughing at some unknown social faux pas.
When I decided to live at home this fall, I did so promising my parents that I wouldn’t be staying home for more than one semester. “It’s just for COVID safety,” I told them. “I just don’t think a co-op is safe right now. If things aren’t better by next semester, I’ll get a sublease.”
Last week, in one of my history classes, Sickness and Health Since 1492, I was assigned the reading “The Cholera Years” by Charles E. Rosenberg. The book is a dense, nearly 300-page account of the United States cholera epidemics of the 1800s; the syllabus had us reading all but one chapter. I flipped through the pages of endless paragraphs and resigned myself to a Saturday unfortunately spent.
Last March, when the University announced that classes would be moved online, I was in a philosophy seminar, cramming with my classmates for the exam we had in five minutes. It was one of those classmates who read out the University’s official statement, the rest of us sitting in hushed silence, our notebooks lying open and forgotten in front of us. “Well,” another classmate said, “I guess we all get to go home now.”