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World map in IKEA under a light bulb
Original photo by Caitlin Lu

The Reality of the Situation

Shit happens. I’ve lived enough years to understand that at least. The planning and the prepping sometimes just aren’t enough. And when the feces hits the ventilation device, what can we do?  We can fall to the floor and cry. We can scream and wonder “why me?” We can look up and wonder what to do next. Or like me, we can do all three (in that order, specifically).

My shit happened when, two days prior to my flight to Madrid for study abroad, I tested positive for COVID-19. 

What should have been an exciting time quickly turned into a frightening one. I was supposed to be hugging and crying with my parents because I would miss them, not because I would potentially miss Spain. I was supposed to be boarding a plane with my friends, not telling them that I couldn’t go yet. I was supposed to be in another country, not isolated in my house.

So there I cried and cried and cried some more. I screamed and I fell to my knees. 

The world wasn’t fair.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to me.

 I didn’t deserve this. 

But what I deserved didn’t matter anymore. What mattered was the reality of the situation. What mattered was what I was going to do next. So I wiped my tears, and I got down to business. I emailed the coordinator, the housing office, the academic office and all of my professors. I called the airline and rescheduled my flight. I called my friends and told them the situation. I did what I had to do to ensure that I would be okay. But then came the most devastating part: the wait.

The waiting to start an adventure that my friends are already living in—that was the hardest part of the entire situation. Seeing Snapchats, Instagram posts, texts, photos, knowing that they were there having a great time without me. It was overstimulating. So instead of focusing on them, I focused on me and what I could do.

During my time, I finished an entire series of books. I finally started a TV series that I had been meaning to get to. I kept up with all of my classes. I helped my brother with his college application. I practiced new hairstyles. I called my friends. I spent time with my family. I took advantage of the time I had, and made an awful situation into one where I focused on my self care. I did things for myself, things I wouldn’t have gotten to do otherwise.

And before I knew it, my 10 days were up and I was on my way to Spain. I was on my way with even more excitement and hope than before. I was on my way with a mind that was open to adventure and possibilities. I was on my way ready for whatever was thrown my way.

Shit happens. But when it does, what will we do next?

A lover of donuts, cheesy rom-coms, warm blankets, and the Chicago Cubs
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