By Mia, Portland Waldorf High School Student

It was the last night before my flight back to the US. I was lying next to my mom, crying soundlessly until I couldn’t control it any more, my mum too. The Coronavirus outbreak was shattering everyone’s lives in China. Just when I was glad for booking the last flight back to Portland, my agency informed me that as soon as I returned, I would be quarantined in an apartment, not allowed to go out or see anyone. Feelings of betrayal, despair, isolation quickly surrounded me. I felt like I was fighting the whole world—my host family, my school and my friends. Imagining the disgust and fear in their eyes, I fell asleep with tears running down my cheeks. 

When I arrived, the apartment’s confined space worsened my mood. I wanted to be happy to prove that the world didn’t succeed in beating me up. But with hate in my mind, I was only constantly paranoid and upset. However, every story has a turning point, mine was no exception. In the end, I was actually glad for this experience. Here’s what made my mindset change, and potentially, what would help if any of you at some point, also end up in an isolated, emergency situation.

  • Love from others One can only truly feel positive when one feels loved and supported. Due to news on anti-Chinese sentiments everywhere, I assumed that I would be treated with prejudice too until I received an email from a PWS parent. A meal train, she suggested, so that PWS parents could make our experience a little better. I was moved. The big bag filled with delicious meals, chocolates and heartwarming notes everyday defrosted the ice in my heart and relieved me from the struggle of pretending to be strong. This relief allowed me to focus on truly pleasant occupations/thoughts that maintained my well-being. 

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  • Love to Others I didn’t reach out at the beginning of my quarantine. I wanted everyone to comfort me spontaneously, ignoring the fact that some didn’t even know what was going on. As the meal train came to me, I started building a steady network with all of my friends and family. Only through this, could I stop portraying myself as the victim, and transform the negativity into empathy for others. It felt meaningful as I talked to friends about their difficulties in life; I FaceTimed my family in China every day, as they were the ones suffering in the real battlefield. By shifting my focus onto others, I felt connected to the bigger world and was reassured with my self-image. I wrote about 12 cards, sending them to those who I felt thankful for, something that I never had time to do before. 
  • An Opportunity to Learn Instead of seeing quarantine as a prison (which was easy to do), it is much healthier to see it as an opportunity to get out of one’s old schedule and try new things. potatoBecause I didn’t have my regular obligations (school, socializing…), I could explore interests that were previously too “time-wasting” for me: trying out grandma’s egg porridge recipe, watching research documentaries… I learned new skills/knowledge that will keep influencing my life choices. What’s more, dealing with trash sorting and unexpected ant hazards gave me more independence in my soon-to-be adult life. As the saying goes, you always get something out of anything. Having never laid hands on any cookware, I felt incredibly accomplished when I made butter grilled potatoes from scratch. 

The day that I returned home, it felt so dear and valuable to me. But thinking back, quarantine was a challenge I proudly conquered. The world hasn’t given up on me, nor has it given up on Wuhan. Everything will be ok again as long as we stay strong and caring for each other!