Before I wore a mask, I thought COVID-19 was just another disease talked about on the nightly news. I mean, there were plenty of other health scares; all it took was a few weeks and the spread would slow down and things would be back to normal. When rumors began swirling about schools around the country telling students to pack up, I thought our school would never close or would at least make it until the actual start of spring break. It was silly that other administrations would talk about making classes online — Williams would never do something like that!
Before I wore a mask, COVID-19 was nothing more than a (particularly dark) meme on my social media feed. Social distancing certainly was not something to be followed, especially because I probably wouldn’t see any of my friends for months. It wouldn’t hurt to party for a few nights; it wasn’t like my friends or I could have had it. Thoughts of food or utility shortages were impossibilities. Nothing like that has happened in my life. What was so bad about just another flu that could possibly change that?
Before I wore a mask, I was upset that Williams was going to have students leave campus. Sure, other schools were doing it, but we were a tiny college in the Berkshires, and probably would never have to worry about something that seemed to affect only heavily populated cities. I shrugged, figured that these next few weeks would just be a particularly boring spring break at home with my sister and parents, packed up my things and drove home.
Before I wore a mask, my mom wasn’t in the hospital.
After I started wearing a mask, my family wondered every night if my mom would make it home. Watching my dad with tears running down his face, a man who until then I thought could never be shaken, made me feel powerless to do anything. We would anxiously wait on calls from the incredibly dedicated nursing staff or doctors for any update. For once in my life, I wasn’t worrying about school assignments. I was worrying that my dad would also come down with the virus. Worrying that perhaps my sister and I had it and had passed it on to our elderly grandparents when we delivered their groceries because they were too afraid to go out. Worrying that one of my friends or their family members would contract the disease. Worrying that someone I knew wouldn’t make it.
After I started wearing a mask, and two weeks of breathing machines and sleepless nights later, we received the OK that my mom could return home. Of all the people I knew, the dozens of friends and family, only my closest and most important role model was punished for absolutely nothing. As much as I wished someone could relate to me, I more so wished no one else would ever have to face what my family went through. Most depressingly, I know there were and will continue to be many other families that do not get the same OK that my family was lucky enough to hear.
After I started wearing a mask, I actually understood why the disease was being talked about on the news. It finally made sense why Williams had to cancel in-person classes. Only then did I realize that administrations across the country that have shifted to online classes made the proper choice given the circumstances. I was thankful that Williams was one of them.
After I started wearing a mask, the crude jokes about COVID-19 stopped making me laugh. Though the ones about social distancing and quarantine continue to get me to smile, it’s a smile knowing that people recognize the importance of isolating and are simply trying to make the best of the situation. Social distancing, at least in my circle of family and friends, is being closely followed, and as much as I miss everyone, I know this is the best thing for all of us to do for the time being. We won’t know how many lives would be lost if we decided not to isolate. We only know the results of the actions that we do take.
After I started wearing a mask, the reality of the situation began to settle in. What I thought would be an extended spring break had suddenly turned into a months-long separation from society. I miss the Purple Valley, the classes, the parties and, most of all, the people. But as much as I miss everyone, I am grateful we are apart. As has been mentioned before, we are all Ephs, no matter where we may be in the world. As a community of faculty, of classmates and of friends, we will get through this together, alone.
Nico Cavalluzzi ’23 is from Scarsdale, N.Y.