Written by Everett Kirkman
I don’t think it really hit me until I was on the plane. I couldn’t sleep. I dozed off for a minute or two at a time, but I hadn’t actually slept for about two days. My mind was racing — it just didn’t seem real. Why me? Why our trip? Everyone else was still at school on campus, or in Greece or Peru. Why did it have to be us? It wasn’t fair.
When I finally got home, I showered and unpacked, closed my eyes and woke up 15 hours later in the exact same position.
That’s when it started becoming real — I was in quarantine. A week before that, I didn’t even know what that meant.
I was one of the first people in Arkansas — or even the country — to quarantine because of COVID-19. I got interviewed by a couple of news channels, and I was happy to talk about my experience. But, as I would explain how I was feeling or what I went through on the trip home, I realized I didn’t actually know. I knew what words I should say on camera, or how to talk about it all positively, but I had no idea how I actually felt. It felt like I was in limbo. I still had not actually processed it. So many of my friends were at the beach or hiking in the mountains for spring break — I was stuck in my childhood bedroom.
People I didn’t even know were afraid of me. I was told I was selfish for “bringing the virus back.” I was told I was irresponsible for coming back to Searcy. I was surely going to infect the whole state with this mysterious virus, even though I was in solitude and COVID-free the whole time.
I thought things would get better, but as soon as my 14 days were up, the whole country shut down. My next few months were monotonous. Every day felt the same as the last.
I spent a lot of time in my own head. I’m not very good at intentionally processing my emotions or slowing down at all. I was forced to rest during that season. I had to sit in the hurt, the loss and the heartbreak that continued to wreak havoc across the world and throughout the personal lives of people I hold closest.
I had to learn how to be still. I thought about the beautiful art and architecture I had seen during my short time in Italy. I thought about the wonderful people on my trip I got to know better, and I thought a lot about God and his creation. I thought about my own life and how fleeting it is. I missed Italy — I still do. I long to go back, but for now, I’m right here.
The Everett writing this is much more of an individual than the Everett of a year ago. I’ve slowly learned that it’s OK to do things by yourself, it’s OK to do things for yourself, and it’s OK to be quiet and listen to your spirit.