First Year

Elizabeth Dibble

COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is a global pandemic that has affected people all over the world. Before COVID-19, the majority of people that wore masks on a daily basis were doctors. Now, however, this has changed drastically and masks are not just for the medical field. Simple things like going for a walk down the street or grocery shopping have become situations where everyone has a mask on. With this deadly virus still continuing to spread, countless people have lost their jobs, parents have had to homeschool their children for months, family members have passed away from the virus, and traveling was even brought to a halt for a while. The way COVID- 19 has affected Savannah, an 18-year-old girl, was something she never pictured and it has made her look at life differently. Savannah’s senior year was cut much shorter than she ever imagined. These events also led into her freshman year and entire college experience. Additionally, she was laid off from work, her only source of income, and her parents were on a tight budget because they are business owners of JLK Events, a DJ company. With Savannah’s narrative we can apply Arthur Frank’s respective theory: the disruptions of life roadmaps. Since Coronavirus has interrupted so many major life events, not only has Savannah had to change the roadmap of her life, she has personally been affected with having the Coronavirus several times. Savannah has been put in a place in her life where all these devastating things have happened that she never would have imagined, causing her to pay more attention to her mental health.

Savannah was a senior at May River High School in Bluffton, South Carolina when COVID-19 started to take over in March 2020. When Savannah first heard about the virus at work on the news she said we see stuff on the news all the time about how different countries and states are going through challenging situations. When she began to hear that COVID-19 was changing people’s lives in China, she never thought it would come here and last as long as it has. Little did Savannah know, her last time walking through the hallways of May River High School in March would be the end of her senior year. May River canceled prom and all sporting events and, for her graduation, there were only ten students allowed in the auditorium at a time. Each student could only invite four guests which included her mom, dad, sister, and brother. Other than that, everyone else had to watch the graduation online. Savannah’s transition from High School to the College of Charleston has not been ideal. Savannah is living off-campus in an apartment. Even though off-campus living is a lot nicer than dorm life, she was really upset that she did not get to experience that dorm life during her freshman year like most students are supposed to. All of her classes are taught via Zoom which has been extra difficult for her. It took her a solid month or two to get back into the swing of schoolwork, adjusting to college, living on her own, and not going to classes in person…none of which is what she hoped for upon graduating high school. One way she has been taking care of her mental and physical health includes taking breaks throughout the day. Savannah mentions that the hardest part about being in college right now is knowing that she is not getting the full experience due to Corona. She is always reminding herself that everyone is living through this and that she can push through it! Taking breaks throughout the day helps her stay refreshed and keep herself in check.

As Savannah talks about how this pandemic has affected her and her family we can apply Arthur Frank’s theory about the disruptions of life roadmaps. Having Coronavirus changes everything from financial stability to daily life and forces a new perspective on people. When the state of South Carolina put its citizens on a mandatory lock down, Savannah felt annoyed, upset, and started to feel isolated and lonely because her everyday activities changed. It felt weird for her since she went from barely being home to the opposite extreme of constantly being stuck at home. Before COVID-19, Savannah was always working, at school, or hanging out with friends. Once quarantines and lockdowns began, all of those things were either avoided or done from home.

The restaurant that Savannah was working at had to let go of her in March. Many restaurants all over the state were letting people go due to the surge of increasing COVID cases. Since Savannah was financially on her own, she was really worried about money. Thankfully, from March through June, she was getting unemployment weekly. When everything started shutting down, even Savannah’s parents were on a tight budget. They were on a budget because they are business owners of  JLK Events but were able to get PPP loans for the business office and for the employees. A PPP loan (Paycheck Protection Program) is a loan that helps provide small businesses the means to keep people on their payroll. Essentially, it helps small businesses stay open and keep their employees in times like today. The way Savannah feels about the government’s current preventive measures to protect Americans from COVID-19 is that the government should have started taking it more seriously at first. She feels that lockdowns should have happened sooner and they need to stop redistricting businesses since so many have already ended up closing their doors permanently.

As many people have had this virus, Savannah has been exposed twice and, unfortunately, gotten sick both times. Savannah talked about the symptoms that she most recently dealt with. This was the week before Thanksgiving break. She stated that she had really bad headaches all day long, but was thankful that her professors understood what was going on and that they gave her extra time to do her schoolwork. She lost her sense of smell and taste, but luckily got it back pretty fast. After having Coronavirus, she was also feeling weak and extremely tired. When Savannah went to take the COVID test, she mentioned how the test was not painful at all like other people have warned her about, but her test did come back positive. Savannah has also realized how much harder it is to make doctors appointments through this experience. When Savannah tested positive, she stayed in her apartment room until her 14 days of quarantine were over. Thankfully, no one in Savannah’s family has gotten the virus. In spite of that though, she has had a couple of friends that caught the virus, which involved the same symptoms she had.

Savannah’s story is important to the study of illness narratives because it is as modern of a story as it can possibly be given that the pandemic is still ongoing. It describes a situation that countless people are being forced to experience. This makes it unique as well since most illness narratives only describe the effects of a disease or illness on one person at a time. For 18-year-old Savannah as a freshman at the College of Charleston, living through this pandemic has been really strange, difficult, and frustrating because of how long it has been going on. Despite all of the disruptions in her roadmap, including ending her senior year of high school early, being unemployed, her family struggling with their own business, as well as even having Coronavirus and how that has changed her, she was able to learn something. She has learned not to set expectations too high for life right now and to simply be thankful for the little things that she does have. Savannah mentions that before she actually got Coronavirus the first time, she honestly thought it was not real. Then she started having symptoms and tested positive for the virus. Since then, Savannah began to realize how long it has been going on and how serious it really is. If more people would take precautions when going out and being around crowds of people, like wearing masks and staying six feet apart, Savannah believes that these precautions would help slow down the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. Savannah has definitely had to overcome many obstacles and change her roadmap of life, but she knows that it will only make her a stronger person at the end of it all.