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July 6, 2020
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Part III Life behind the closed door

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
April 10, 2020

This is week three of this series. The first two stories focused on what it was like to be behind the closed doors for some folks in the at-risk group by their age. But they aren’t the only ones impacted by the continuing shelter in place orders during this pandemic. This week I wanted to bring you a community voice outside of the more at-risk population. Again, I think you’ll find that although our stories are not the same, they continue to be similar.

My third interview was with a young college student. They are in their early twenties, getting ready to graduate this year. Their pronouns are they/them/theirs. They are healthy. They had family support, student loans and a job to sustain themselves during their education. They were thinking about going into post graduate education next. They recently moved into a new apartment in Rohnert Park with a significant other as a roommate. They were a barista. The roommate worked on campus and had a second job giving lessons at a self-defense studio.

They were among the 80 percent of employees laid off at their coffee shop. Although they filed for unemployment, the benefit being received is minimal. While not currently in financial difficulty, they worry if these orders go on too long, that they will struggle. The roommate has also seen their income go down. Hours were cut. Self-defense lessons were shifted to on-line; however, many students have suspended their lessons because of worry about expenses. 

They might have to rely on family again. They are empathetic however, because they know that many more folks are under greater financial stress than them. They are also frustrated that they don’t qualify for the $1,200 stimulus payment from the government. Even though now living and supporting themselves, they were listed as a dependent last year on tax returns because of the father’s educational benefits helping them through college.

At first, they weren’t taking the pandemic too seriously. They did cut back on social activities somewhat. Since the order, they’re taking it seriously. Going out only for groceries or essentials, practicing social distancing when they do. Not at high risk themselves, they would be devastated, if by not staying at home they got infected, causing others at higher risk to get ill or even die. Trying to be positive, they are trying not to feel super bad for themselves. They said that their sleeping habits have changed.

They miss being able to visit family. Family lives in the East Bay. They feel lucky because they already had friends and family connecting with them on social media while away at college. That hasn’t changed. They talk or FaceTime with their mom on the phone, almost every day. That too hasn’t changed. But they miss not being able to visit or hug their grandmother. FaceTime with her isn’t the same. They are also sad that the family tradition to gather for Easter won’t occur this year. They are also disappointed that they are unlikely to walk for graduation. It’s postponed. They are unsure, if or when, it’ll be rescheduled. They are disappointed with the steps their college has taken to support students. Classes are online. Some seem even harder than before. Support is limited. The library is closed and students without high speed internet including those who live on campus struggle. They fear the college isn’t serving their students well.

They do have some hopes for the future both large and small. Little things like washing hands or basic hygiene that was taken for granted may not be so casual in the future. Employers may change their policies around sick time and employees realize they can’t go to work when sick. Keeping more social distance may also become more ingrained in folks. Perhaps the pandemic is a wake-up call for behaviors that may need to change. They cited our health care system as an example. They also are happy to see all the stories about neighbors and communities coming together to help others too. They hope folks continue that, once this pandemic recedes and the shelter in place orders are lifted. 

As before I want to thank them for sharing their story with us. It’s not easy to share your story. However, if you’re interested in sharing your story with me for Part Four of this series, you can contact me at cassandra@thecommunityvoice.com. In the meantime, stay safe and be well.