BY Lian Montejo | Pandemic Diaries

In January, I was beaming with excitement. Another semester packed with unknown thrills was in store for me. I was eager to catch up with my friends and see how much had changed since winter break. I was looking forward to attending some of my classes, to the new experiences they would bring. I guess you could say that I couldn’t wait to go back to school. It was a feeling I never thought I would have. 

Since I started attending Cal, I have sought out ways to continue making the best version of myself. Whether that meant being more outgoing with my peers or participating in extracurricular programs, I wanted each semester to be its own chapter. Every moment of every day, from when I woke up and began my BART commute until the evening when I left campus, served as a step in the direction toward my plan of being more active in my life.

It wasn’t until I transferred to Cal that I started to grasp the importance of being active. Observing how much my peers had done in comparison to me in terms of experience, I figured that my time at Cal would serve as an opportunity to start building myself up. I joined the Starting Point Mentorship Program to become a mentor, I opened up to classmates who eventually became good friends, and I took on new opportunities as they came by, without question. I was happy. I was satisfied with where my life was and where it was going to be. I was ready to tear down and resurface the foundations of my life. “Out with the old, and in with the new,” as they say. That was where things stood for me when the school closed down at the beginning of March. 

My spirit downed, I was upset about what would happen to our school. When it was announced that the rest of the semester would take place via a virtual platform, I felt a little concerned. The last place where I wanted to study was at home. However, the thought of still being able to see my classmates and professors was encouraging. Though I wouldn’t be able to be there with them, it beat not seeing them ever again.

The first few weeks of the online transition were a bit of a challenge. It took a while for me to adjust to interacting with my classmates through my laptop. Class discussions weren’t as lively and lectures felt a little flatter, without their usual corporeality. It was then that my motivation to keep up with my academics began its descent. With what little energy I had left, I made efforts to keep in touch with some of my friends, arranging video chats and texting them frequently. I supposed that I would utilize this time to further connect with them, and hopefully make a memory out of all of this. Soon, though, even my energy to press forward with my social life started to drain away as well.

Now, more than a month has passed since the school’s closure, and I feel myself nearing rock-bottom. The enthusiasm and eagerness that I had at the beginning of my career at Cal has almost disappeared completely. My remaining ounces of energy are being spent on activities that I wouldn’t otherwise do if school were still open, such as cooking, reading, and practicing my drums. I would be lying if I said that I’m still following diligently along with my classes, or staying in touch with friends. To be honest, I no longer have the spirit to continue with what I started. As sad as I am to confess this, the me from seven months ago isn’t the same as the one now. It’s amazing what an entire month in relative isolation can do to you.

My feelings of stuckness, of depression, are nothing compared to the sorrow circling the globe at this moment. Not only is there a disease that is running rampant throughout the world, but also our human spirit seems to be rapidly shrinking away. Who knows what’s going to happen days from now? Weeks? Months? What I know is that life isn’t going to be the same for all of us once everything is back to normal — that is, if life does return to normal. It’s going to take time to rebuild what was once destroyed, to repair what has been damaged. To make the switch from one state to another is going to require a lot of energy and willpower. The worst thing to do is to choose to stay at the bottom and not do anything about it. Despite my current circumstances, I continue to find ways to build-up myself and those around me. Even though the economy is steadily declining, that doesn’t mean I have to go down with it. Neither should you.

Lian Montejo ’21, Union City, CA