FACES AND VOICES OF COVID-19: Home Is Where We Should Be

By Alona Grace Ruyeras

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 Oct) – I used to love the thought of staying at home.

While most people my age were outside partying and hanging out with their friends, I usually enjoyed just lying in my bed alone while listening to music. I do enjoy the company of other people, but nothing feels better than going home to a soft bed as my social battery drains out.

I enjoy being at home because I spend more time with my nieces. As I play with them, I feel like I am filling the missing piece of childhood within me. It summons the inner child in me that had to hide at an early age. When I was a child, people used to tell me that I was mature for my age, but when I got older, I became the childish one in a group of grown people.

I dreaded the days wherein I had to stay in school. I sit in my armchair, thinking about how it could have been greater if I was at home.

School was not my favorite place to be. It was a terrible experience for me. Most people refer to high school as the best time of their lives, but I dreaded every day of it. All the rumors that my classmates talked about in class made me angry, knowing that they were all made to make them talk. It was painful to study subjects I was not interested in. While most of my classmates were aspiring engineers or doctors, I wasn’t sure about my future but was certain I wasn’t interested in the natural sciences.

Home was like the light at the end of a tunnel for me. It was my protection from things I never liked. I felt like my room was the safest place on earth that could keep me protected at all times.

So when the news of having no classes for a week was like being told as a child that I’d be taking home a Happy Meal from McDonald’s. I was ecstatic. I wasted my money laminating the formulas for my canceled calculus exam, but I was happy to know that I wouldn’t need it anymore.

The first few months of quarantine went well for me. I’ve heard people my age complain about the lack of freedom caused by the pandemic while I was enjoying my time at home. I spent more time with my family members, learned new things like cooking, worked on my physical fitness more, etc.

I was doing the exact same thing every day until I just became tired of it one day. It didn’t feel the same way anymore.

Home started to change. Home began to feel different.

Home started to feel like a prison. Just when I thought that staying at home could somehow improve my mental state, it began to crumble like a sandcastle kicked by a boisterous child. My mental health drastically changed in a span of two to three months.

As I began to feel less connected to my friends online, I started to feel more distant. Seeing Instagram stories of people my age and how productive they were during lockdowns made me feel insecure. My self-confidence was ruined by my insecurities and self-doubts during the months when I was building it. It was difficult for me to get in touch with most of my friends. The fact that I didn’t share online movie marathons or gaming sessions led me to feel jealous and insecure.

Things became worse when my siblings started to return to their jobs. For the first few months of quarantine, I was with the whole family. I was never close to my siblings because they were far older than me, but being stuck at home somehow made me interact with them more. However, as the quarantine became less stringent, they started to leave home to work. From being with my sisters all the time to cooking stuff that may or may not even taste good, I became alone with my gadgets scrolling through social media over and over again. Due to the new online class setup, I had become a machine that repeated the same thing every day.

Home started to feel uncomfortable. Home started to get boring.

During these times, I realized the power of physical interaction. I realized how much I had taken for granted my time with family and friends, how much I had overlooked their hugs and kisses. I remembered the days when I would refuse to leave the house simply because it was too much trouble. I am now trapped inside my own home with no choice but to stay because an unseen enemy is outside, a virus that we still do not fully understand.

The pandemic has affected my perception of home. Home suddenly became a stranger.

I do not like the thought of staying home anymore.

I am not the only one who struggled mentally and emotionally during the pandemic. According to a study done by Tee et al. (2020), one-fourth of respondents experienced moderate-to-severe anxiety during the early phase of the pandemic in the Philippines, and one-sixth experienced moderate-to-severe depression. Factors such as prolonged homestay and quarantine measures were identified as factors that increase psychological impact among Filipinos.

Even though it has already been a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this pandemic, we are still here, stuck in our homes, losing hope that one day we would be out doing our usual things. As we are gradually getting used to this lifestyle, we are experiencing physical, emotional, mental, and sometimes even financial hardships. The pandemic sapped most people’s energy, including mine, and this seems to be going on for a long time.

It would take me a while to get out to see my friends, go to malls and public places, and enjoy the life I once knew. I can’t wait for the time when all of us can celebrate holidays together outdoors in malls, parks, or at events. I can’t wait to feel the breeze of the air without wearing face masks and face shields. Unfortunately, we don’t have any other choice at this point.

Although it is hard, home is where we have to be for now, even if it is not the home we used to know.

(Alona Grace Ruyeras is an AB Psychology student at the Ateneo de Davao University.)