When I drove down to my parents’ home in South Carolina in mid-March, I could hardly believe what was happening — my entire life had been upended by a pandemic. Over the next few months, I yearned to move back to Baltimore and longed for the independence of my apartment, the comfort of my friends and my role as an eager medical student. Now, as I sit in my childhood bedroom, I am met surprisingly with conflicting feelings about returning to Baltimore for the upcoming year.

I am anxious about resuming the daily activities my privilege has allowed me to take a break from. While slightly unpleasant at times, quarantining with my family has been a blessing. For the last four months, I have not had to act as an independent young adult in any way. I have been able to stay safe inside my home and spend time with my family, whom I had missed much more than I had anticipated during the year. My father, who is already exposed to the outside world through his role as an essential worker, is the designated grocery shopper and errand-runner in my family. My mother is happy to have her eldest child and only daughter back at home, and she expresses her love through traditional home-cooked meals and fragrant desserts.

In a few weeks, this will all change. My cloak of denial and comfort will be removed, and I will be forced to live in the world of the pandemic. I will have to actively make decisions about potential exposure: Will I use the free Lyft system, exercise in my apartment’s gym or form a COVID family with close friends? In every interaction with the world, I will have to remind myself to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, stay 6 feet apart and refrain from touching my face. I am hesitant to expose myself to the risk of the world through seemingly mundane activities like grocery shopping, exercising and going to class.

More than anything, I am apprehensive about the inevitable social isolation that will come from returning to school. I live alone, so technically I will have less pathogen exposure than others, but I will have to balance this against my need for social interaction and support. After four months of living in my loud family home, watching Food Network with my mother and brother every night, and forming cherished rituals and memories, the transition to living alone and limiting my interactions with friends will be difficult.

Despite these concerns, I am excited about resuming my life in some capacity and am ready to feel like a medical student again. After months of Zoom lectures and minimal patient contact, I cannot wait to put my white coat on once again and finally interact with patients in clinic. I miss the rush of adrenaline and feeling of hope that I felt every day on my walk to school when I saw the Johns Hopkins sign in front of me.


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