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March 11, 2020 and the OGQ

| Friday, March 12, 2021

Just over a year ago, March 6, 2020, I was riding passenger side with a friend as we drove home for spring break to Washington, Missouri. We talked a little about the concerns of the coronavirus, but the conversation probably didn’t last much longer than the first 20 minutes of the seven-hour drive. 

Five days later, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 health crisis a pandemic. Of course, COVID-19 began long before March 11, 2020, but for me, that was the day it really started. 

I was in the quaint and beloved Washington Coffee Shop with some high school friends when Notre Dame, along with many other universities, announced their students would not be returning, at least until April, that very same day. My initial reaction was an insane mix of excitement and trepidation. I knew in that exact moment everything would be divided into life before March 11, 2020 and life after. 

I didn’t return to the coffee shop for months, as we all know what happened next. Some friends and I have taken to calling the time of roughly March through May as the original quarantine or the “OGQ.” I filled my hours with reading over 20 news articles a day, making oatmeal and learning to roller skate. 

Life was drastically different in the OGQ as compared to now. I would drive to the grocery store and be the only car on the road. I wouldn’t even wear a mask because we were still told at that point to save them for medical personnel. I would cry daily over the fact my high school friends lived a walk away and I couldn’t see them. College friends were just variously sized squares on my screens. I worried endlessly about the economic welfare of the coffee shop, the job securities of my professors and the health of my family and friends. 

In a trick I picked up from a Notre Dame friend, I name my Spotify playlists with songs I’m into at the moment after the month it currently is. I created a new one today and was about to name it “March,” but how could I name a playlist filled with songs about sunshine, summer adventures and good vibes — inspired by this week’s gorgeous weather — after such a despondent month? I still associate “March” with the worst of times, and I honestly don’t know if that will change. 

In some ways, I’m thankful for the experiences I had this past year as opposed to what was planned. Instead of studying abroad, I’ve gained new incredible and inspiring friends at Notre Dame that I’m not sure how I lived without before, and I strengthened my friendships with high school friends back home I thought I would have left behind that summer while traveling. That’s not to say most of the past year has not been a series of challenges that have forever altered my life and the lives of billions others and changed the fabric of our communities and world. I don’t need to detail it, we all know. 

I doubt we will ever “go back to normal,” but recently I’ve felt far more hopeful for a more immediately bright future than I have since last March. The CDC said Monday vaccinated people can socialize safely with unvaccinated individuals as long as they don’t have serious health risks, and deaths, hospitalizations and cases are down in the U.S. As opposed to the OGQ, March 11, 2021 looks way more like life before March 11, 2020, and I’m lucky, blessed and thankful to be able to say that. 

Some other things haven’t changed since the OGQ. Just as I did then, I still eat oatmeal almost every day, struggle to keep my balance while roller skating and worry about the economy and the welfare of my loved ones.

But the thought I had in the coffee shop last year was correct, everything has become divided into before and after. The past year has been a unique experience in that I knew with every day that passed they were the ones that would define the rest of my life. March 11, 2020 through March 11, 2021 has defined who I am. I guess all I can say is happy quarantine-iversary and thank you to everyone who was with me through it. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Isabella Volmert

Isabella "Issy" Volmert is a junior majoring in English and minoring in theology and journalism, ethics and democracy at the University of Notre Dame. She currently serves The Observer as assistant managing editor. Follow her @ivolmertnews for niche JED Twitter content.

Contact Isabella