A New Normal by Alyssa B. Martin

I have not enjoyed the last few weeks of this new normal. Being separated from my family and friends seems to grow more difficult for me each day. I have spent the majority of the last few weeks stuck in a continuous loop of missing my loved ones, wishing I could go back to my hometown, and dwelling on the things I cannot change. Needless to say, my mindset has not been good. 

As I sat thinking about what to write about this week, I drew a huge blank. Everything I considered or immediately came to my mind was either too depressing or too selfish-especially considering how my situation compares to others. Nothing was worthy enough for me to document. 

I reached out to a few dear friends and explained my mindset and thoughts on it. They encouraged me to write it down anyways, step away, and come back with a fresh mindset. So I-sort of- tried it. I decided rather than focusing on all of the things I wish I could change right now and all that is wrong with the world, I should be focusing on the little, positive, good moments of each day. 

In an effort to change my perspective here is a list of moments that have inspired me or brought me some joy during this quarantine and “new normal” season:

A beautiful bluebird laid eggs in our birdhouse and few weeks ago, and the eggs hatched last week. I captured the momma bird on her way to feed her babies. 

Sweet momma bird heading to feed her babies
My backyard, Flowery Branch, Ga
Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Books. I have not been reading as much as I should be or could be. Books make me happy though, even if it is just stacking them up for a quick photo.

I stacked this books up in my room for the purpose of this photo. Books make my heart happy, even if I have not finished them.
Flowery Branch, Ga
Tuesday, April 21, 2020

I have found a new love of sketching. When I was in high school, I started painting a little bit. It is something I have kept up with a little bit through the years, but I have never been very good at sketching or drawing. This has helped me to focus my mind on something I can control and create. It is a nice escape for a little bit.

A sketch of my bedroom window.
Flowery Branch, Ga
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
(Sketch: April-something, 2020)

Nearly every night my parents and I cook dinner and eat together while watching “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.” One of my personal favorites is the amount of Marvel movie reruns we have managed to watch in the past few weeks. Also, Every Sunday morning we watch church together in efforts to keep some sort of our old routine the same, even though it is definitely very different.

The past month of being stuck at home has given me the opportunity to do whatever I want, for the most part. One particular night a few weeks ago, I decided to try being a little creative by doing a self portrait shoot and play around with the lighting in my bedroom. 

Self-portrait using stringed lights in my bedroom.
Flowery Branch, Ga
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

I bought a new fish tank for my betta, Boyfriend-it’s a long story. My best friend bought him for me on Valentine’s Day last year, and he has survived nearly seven long distance car rides and living in a gallon sized bowl without a heater. I figured it was time to give him an upgrade .

Boyfriend’s new home
Flowery Branch, Ga
Monday, April 20, 2020

These days are pretty lonely. Everyone is dealing with isolation of some form right now, I think. Over the last few weeks, I have tried to stay connected to the people I care about as much as I can. It can be difficult, but I am thankful for modern technology to make it feel like the people I love are not so far away. It has made this season a bit easier by being able to hear my little cousins voice every night and to see my best friend’s face via snapchat or FaceTime whenever I want.

Two of my sweet friends I met at UTC, Amanda and Emily, and I have sent each other personality quizzes, life updates via snapchat videos, instagram videos of silly games, etc to stay connect. One night, we all did multiple Buzzfeed quizzes to see which character we would be in various shows we watched growing up. I used put our faces on the characters we matched.

Photo: somewhere on the internet or my friends’ instagram

Lately I have been trying to look at light with a different perspective. How the moon illuminates my parents bedroom at night, or the way the sunset shines in my window each evening. Something about light reminds me about hope and comfort, like warm feeling of sitting in sunshine on a cool spring day.

My bedroom window
Monday, April 20, 2020

Even though right now is different than what any of us have ever experience, I think we can all find hope and comfort knowing we are not alone. Millions of people are experiencing the same situation we are, even if it is in a different capacity.

From this day on, I am going to try to find hope and comfort knowing the sun will shine through my window tonight, and God has granted us another day to please him. I will look for joy and light in the smallest of acts and moments. I hope everyone reading this will try to do the same.

Sunday, April 5th

We got more groceries again today. Like a few weeks ago, my dad and mom ordered from Walmart,and while wearing gloves, brought everything in, sprayed the items off and waited a while before we put everything away, with the exception of frozen and cold items. 

I did offer to help, but there is only so much to do with limited amounts of gloves, plus I really wanted to document how different this process is now compared to a few months ago, when going in a grocery store to pick up a few items on the way home was a daily, seemingly carefree task. This really put in perspective how much we take for granted. 

My mom, Kristi Martin, spraying off our groceries.
Sunday, April 5, 2020 // Flowery Branch, Ga
My dad, Brad Martin, bringing in our groceries for my mom to spray off.
Sunday, April 5, 2020 // Flowery Branch, Ga

Honestly, everything I do now puts into perspective how good we all had it a few weeks ago. 

I miss my family, and a few months ago I was complaining about spending time with my brother, who I would give anything to be with right now.  

I miss UTC, and a few weeks ago, I was complaining about how tired I was of school, which I still am, but I miss the environment of a classroom. Now the most human interaction I have in a week is my Wednesday morning zoom class.

My zoom classroom
Wednesday, April 1, 2020 // Flowery Branch, Ga

My point is, you never really know the good times and the good in your life until it isn’t there anymore, so what will be the good times when this moment is over?

I wonder in a few months if our world will be in more turmoil than it is now, and we will be yearning to be back in April? Or will we all have a new gratitude for each other because we were forced to spend weeks apart? These thoughts and questions flood my mind all night and day, and I continuously ponder what life is coming to, and what our next “new normal” will be. 

It has been roughly three weeks in quarantine, many people have asked me if I am tired of living with my parents yet. 

After two years of living alone, completely moving back in with them has definitely been a shock. I’m not tired of it though; in many ways, I am thankful for this time. 

Most mornings, my dad wakes me up by pushing on my back urging me to get up and get moving. During the week, I am in my room trying to do school work most of the day, while he is in his office- directly below my room- and I am able to listen to his continuous phone conversations all day long. 

A few months ago, being woken up by my dad in these ways, or listening to him talk all day, would most likely annoy me; however, now I can’t help but breathe in gratitude every time I hear his phone ring downstairs. It is a constant reminder of how truly blessed I am to have a safe, loving home to go to during this time. 

My parents and I have found different ways to push ourselves during this uncertainty. We have started running and cooking different dishes together. Some days, after being stuck in the house all day, we take random car rides to get some fresh air.

Thursday, March 26th
Brad Martin driving through Flowery Branch, GA

I haven’t felt creative enough to paint anything in many years. Part of this lies with allowing people to control my mind and emotions, and the other part is due to the stress of college life weighing heavy on my shoulders. Many times this last week, I found myself taking to my little desk in my room creating more than I have in years. 

Friday, March 27th 
The desk I sat at for many hours last week, creating and working.

My life may not be going how I thought it would be at this point in my senior year, but I am thankful for the time I have had with my parents. Each day I try to remind myself to live for these moments and find something good in every situation.

A compilation video of the week in my life.

We are living in such odd times of history.

In a blink of an eye, I went from a resident assistant, living alone and watching after 30 freshmen, to living with my parents again. It is strange to me how quickly life changed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

I keep thinking about how this will be written in history books twenty years from now and what the outcome of this time may be. I can’t help but wonder if there is more we could be doing right now rather than just sitting at home, washing our hands religiously and praying this takes as few
lives as possible.

Could we have contained this more if China told the rest of the world a few months sooner like Trump said the other day in his press conference?

Is social distancing really going to matter in the grand scheme of all of this?

I have so many unanswered questions about this time, and part of me fears the future state of when they are all answered. The other part of me hopes we are all better off in a way than before. Only time will tell.

My parents and I have been in quarantine for nearly two weeks now. My dad got sick first, then me, and then my mom. We aren’t sure what sickness we all had, but we are hopeful, and pretty certain, that it was not Covid-19, nonetheless being sick during these times is still slightly frightening. Every time I have coughed or complained about not feeling well the past few weeks, my mom has been googling my symptoms or taking my temperature to make sure they aren’t Covid-19 symptoms (I’m not kidding, lol).

Every morning I wake up to the sound of my dad working downstairs; his office is right below my bedroom, and the air ducts allow me to hear his conversations. I fix breakfast, drink some coffee and watch tv with my mom. One day mom and I spent about eight hours working on a puzzle; it
made us want to rip our hair out, but it was a nice change from having the tv on all day.

Rainy days, puzzle days
Tuesday, March 24th / Flowery Branch, GA

We started working in the garden last week spreading pine straw. Despite being sick, we got quite a bit done, until my mom made me stop because I was overdoing it. I’ve also discovered a new talent since we have been stuck in the house: darts. I am rather good at it; last week I had an eight game winning streak against my mom and dad. It got to where neither of them wanted to play me.

It is rather nice, though, being with my parents under the same roof. We play more games and talk more than we did before, and we genuinely want to be around each other. Even though we are slightly going crazy, and I want to spend time with some of my friends, I am thankful for this quarantine time because it gave me my family back. My heart hasn’t been this full for quite some time.

Meet the Storyteller

Alyssa B. Martin

Alyssa B. Martin is a Senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga pursuing a degree in Communication with a Minor in Spanish. She is the Social Media and Distribution Manager for the University Echo, and she has also interned at the Trenton Daily News / Dade County Progress as a journalist. Martin is most passionate about people and giving a voice to those who may not have one through journalism. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, reading, playing the guitar, writing, taking photos and working puzzles. 

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