by Payton Aper, Blog Staff
It’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s sort of my own fault I got COVID. A co-op party last Friday night was enough to take me out for a week, and I was even thinking to myself before I went that maybe I shouldn’t. Cases at University of Michigan are on the rise, and yet, something about the ever promising college experience and a chance to hang out with my highschool friends got me to leave my room. If the college experience entails getting your brand new jeans muddy in the middle of a co-op barn, then I guess I’m set. Now, all I’ve got in return is a virus trying its hand with me and the chance to live like Kevin McAllister for a week.
I’m on day 1 of 5 in a bare-bones apartment that looks a lot like the cover of Harry’s House, Harry Styles’s upcoming album. I’ve got my speaker, two books, random clothes that I packed haphazardly, and a ton of Kroger food thanks to my parents. I also have my mini Keurig, which I somehow convinced myself was absolutely necessary and spent a good five minutes cramming into my backpack last night. And while it might sound ridiculous, and pathetic if you read my last blog post, I’m actually almost excited to be stuck in quarantine housing. I can blast my music and (sort of) prepare my own food. It’s ridiculously hot, but if I open a window there’s a tree with tiny bright red blossoms on it swaying in view.
At 20 I’m old enough to not be afraid to live alone, but still young enough that doing it feels like some act of rebellion. Before I moved out for college, being home alone was one of my favorite things. It was a time to scream music at the top of my lungs, watch whatever TV I wanted, make an absolute mess cooking, and explore my sexuality. Being “home alone” means, aside from the surface definition, that you are at home and at peace with yourself. Your own company is not a burden but a welcomed, old friend. When I lived at home during my freshman year, it meant I could pretend I was already in Ann Arbor, living independently and ‘on my own’. But at some point during this school year, caught up in parties and new friendships, I forgot the genuine value of solitude.
After a lackluster social life in highschool and a year and a half of quarantine, I was so tired of being alone that I pulled a 180 and stopped being alone entirely. If I was alone this year, it was to do homework with music blaring or at the gym to drown out thoughts in my head. Hell, even right now I have Dua Lipa playing. Someone recently told me that they realized they never let themselves sit with their thoughts, and as time goes on I’m recognizing my own problem in myself. I run from myself- to social media, to shows, books, podcasts, music, other people, anything to avoid meeting my gaze in the mirror. Why that is I’m still not entirely sure, but I’m afraid it’s because I won’t like who I see. Maybe the liminal space that is the Northwood Apartments will serve as a transitional point between Ann Arbor and ‘home’, and force me to figure that out. When the page, the walls, and the schedule are blank, there’s only so much self-avoidance you can do.
Ann Arbor is beautiful in its disturbed, littered, class-juxtapositioned way. I walked alongside a group of people in Canada Goose jackets as we passed a homeless person with a sign. There was a squirrel by the chemistry building a couple of weeks ago gnawing at a cotton candy lollipop. You would think that the absurdity of Ann Arbor would remind us that there’s another world out there, outside of Canvas and networking and petty concerns, but for me it’s the opposite. I’m like Glenda from The Wizard of Oz, navigating in a bubble covering the square mile which now constitutes my entire existence. If nothing else, isolation could pop that bubble by the mere act of removing me from it.
I remember hearing about COVID-positive students who stayed in hotels in the Fall 2020 semester to avoid the then-awful quarantine housing. A friend of a friend once went to Jimmy John’s while he had COVID to get his last meal at the cost of several employees’ wellbeing. My point is, a lot of middle and upper-class college students are just playing at being adults. We have our parent’s money and support, and might never be more independent than we are now. But if we look in the mirror, our actions reflect the adults we’re poised to become: selfish, extravagant, and lonely even when we aren’t alone.