A New Normal by Marielle Echavez

As a senior, this pandemic has affected my life in more ways than I ever imagined. My college experience has been abruptly cut short. I am now self-quarantining in my Chattanooga apartment, grateful that I am not one of the many students who were forced to move out of their dorms. My graduation ceremony scheduled for May has been canceled. I planned my last ever semester of school to involve as much creating and opportunities for projects as possible. I have a passion for all things videography and photography, and my fellow communication classmates and I had some amazing projects in the making. But we move forward; Here is my new normal.

Journal Entry 2 – A Personal Perspective

March 22 – April 1

Ascension Living Valley Residents post a sign saying “Heroes Work Here” outside of their building on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. Photo taken by Marielle Echavez.


305 miles, 4.5 hours, and COVID-19 separate me from my family in my hometown of Dyersburg, Tennessee. This last semester of college has made me feel like a home-body, and I am typically okay with that but not when I have no other choice. COVID-19 has touched base in the two places I call home, Dyersburg and Chattanooga. 

As of April 1, 2020, Tennessee is the 17th state in the US with the most cases with a number of 2,239 reported cases and 24 deaths. Dyersburg/Dyer County has had 3 cases and Chattanooga/Hamilton County has had 51 cases and 3 deaths.

But there has been a recent discovery in medicine research that hydroxychloroquine also known as Plaquenil is helping treat victims of COVID-19. It is an incredible break-through in research to know that there is medicine out there that may end this pandemic. But there is already a shortage. This medicine helps treat lupus and arthritis patients across the world, including my mom, who has both.

I had been worried for my mom for many reasons. Aside from her health and the coronavirus in general, she is around different people all day as a physical therapist who works in both a hospital and a nursing home. 

I talk to my family often, despite the distance, and last week, I got a phone call from my dad as he offered advice on what foods to prepare, what necessities to buy, and gave updates on what the world looks like on the other side of the state. This is when he told me about how my mom’s pharmacist told them about the situation and gave my mom a 3 month supply of medication before there was an extreme shortage. I am so grateful for this stranger.

The only people I see in person nowadays are my roommate and my boyfriend, whose family is also on the opposite side of the state. This pandemic has affected them in a way different than others because he is from a family of educators. His mom, dad, step-mom, step-sister, brother, sister-in-law, and he himself are all part of the education system. Many people don’t get to say that about their families.

They have all missed being in the classroom with their students, and I get to witness the teacher-perspective because of that. My boyfriend says that he feels weird not being in school. “It doesn’t feel real. It feels like I am on a break and that I should be going back to school. But I’m honestly not sure if I will ever step foot in that classroom with them again.”

This entire pandemic has put me at a loss of words with constant thoughts spinning in my head. With all of these things happening in the world, my safe space has been at my tiny desk in my tiny apartment – just creating. Being silly and positive on social media makes time pass by quicker, but this entire situation has just been hard. It’s hard trying to find the balance of keeping up with the news without feeling insane. It’s hard trying to find the motivation to study and get all my assignments done. It is hard to stay positive when you know there are people who are sick, who have lost their jobs, who can’t hug their family or friends, or who have lost their loved ones. 

The one thing that hasn’t been hard is creating art. When I am feeling down, I light a candle, choose my canvas and just paint away. Through the chaos, this one quote brings me into a positive headspace, and I am grateful.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

Journal Entry 1 – The World Around Me

Sunday, March 22, 2020

  • Gas Updates:
  • Sunday, March 22, 2020 – $1.73
  • Wednesday, March 25, 2020 – $1.65
  • Wednesday, April 1, 2020 – $1.49

Here is what my world looked like on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Gas was $1.73 at the BP gas station on Mountain Creek Road. This is the lowest I have seen in a very long time. It’s an eerie feeling seeing a rare opportunity for cheap travel, yet we are unable to leave our homes. As I write this today on Wednesday, March, 25, 2020, prices have lowered even more to $1.65 per gallon. We haven’t seen prices like these since before the early 2000’s. Typically, I would feel excited and grateful for something as simple as a cheap price on a gas station sign, but right now, I feel desensitized to it. There are bigger problems in the world. People are self-quarantining in their homes in social isolation. In recent weeks, people have hoarded toilet paper during this pandemic creating an outage in most convenient stores across the United States. This last Sunday, toilet paper was finally restocked but limited to 1 per purchase in the Signal Mountain Walmart. It is so outlandish seeing how the world is reacting to this pandemic by panic-purchasing toilet paper in excess. There are no words to express how it feels to be alive in a time where things are changing so rapidly and as history is unfolding in front of our eyes. But even though the world seems chaotic, spring is still in full-bloom.

Flowers have bloomed, and Spring has made its presence midst the prior rainy season in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Sunday, March 22, 2020. Photo taken by Marielle Echavez.

Meet the Storyteller

Marielle Echavez

Marielle Echavez is the head editor of Rising Rock. She is both a staff writer and photographer for the University Echo but is most passionate about videography. She is a senior studying Communication and Psychology and plans to pursue video production post-graduation. Some of her work is displayed on @mariellejaimedia on Instagram and can be contacted at wcb788@mocs.utc.edu.

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