A New Normal by Amanda Brooks

Journal Entry #4

Zach McNease, Anna Brooks Wilcox, and Spencer Brooks laugh while dyeing Easter eggs. Dyeing Easter eggs is a tradition that many families partake in. April 12, 2020. (Photo by Amanda Brooks)

April 20, 2020

“Mom, do you still have our Nintendo DS?” Looking for new forms of entertainment, my 24-year-old sister turned to the old ways we used to occupy our time before life started moving so fast.

Moving back into childhood bedrooms, living under our parents’ roofs (and rules), and relying on phone calls to connect to friends can feel like a loss of the independence that moving away to college can bring. I am reminded of how I kept myself entertained before I had the freedom of a car and the ability to explore freely.

As my adult siblings and I played different games on the DS and Game Boys that my mom had kept up with for who knows how many years, I was reminded of the simplicity of life that is shown through the eyes of a child. As I dyed Easter eggs, I did not feel the frustration that has been weighing on my shoulders or the pain that comes knowing that life is different and seems to be getting harder with each passing day. All I cared about was how long I had to leave the egg in the dye to get it as green as possible and how my village in Animal Crossing had so many weeds.

Easter Sunday being filled with reminiscent memories of times long past made it feel almost normal. The problems did not disappear but for just a few hours they were more of a distant memory than that of the intense Easter egg hunts with my siblings. For just a few hours, the number of Reese’s Eggs atop our slice of cake mattered more.

Although the problems still exist and take up space in our minds, nothing, not worldwide pandemic nor earth shattering tornado, can strip our brains from the memories that make up our childhoods. Maybe, that is what we cling to–the happy moments and the ridiculous notion that once upon a time and happily ever after used to make sense.

Leanne Brooks frosts a cake to serve as dessert for Easter Sunday lunch. April 12, 2020. (Photo by Amanda Brooks)

Journal Entry #3

Joe and Leanne Brooks sit with their dog, Lily, in the garage of their home to enjoy some outdoor weather. Because of their backyard renovation, the garage has become the space for community. April 4, 2020. (Photo by Amanda Brooks)

April 9, 2020

For many, the week leading up to Easter is a week filled with hope, celebration, and liveliness. Being the fourth week of quarantine makes it hard to feel any of that. 

The unexpected fluctuation of rain and shine is a reflection of the seemingly never-ending roller coaster of emotion that we are stuck on. 

During the weeks leading up to Easter, Memphians place crosses in their front yards. The cross is a symbol of the hope that is supposed to be felt during this time. Our small crosses serve as a reminder for what Jesus did on the big one. Seeing the crosses pop up over the past few weeks brought a sense of normalcy to this complete abnormal time.

Underneath the dreadful sense of monotony and uncertainty flows a restless river of hope. I feel it each time a new email comes in about an event that is being planned for sometime in the future. We are still planning and working and hoping toward the end of this. Being unaware of when this will end does not stop us from looking forward to when it does.  

Our lives are still moving, no matter how much they have slowed down. Registering for classes is just one small, hopeful reminder that by this time next year I will be a month away from my college graduation.

The slow-motion crawl through life that we are all experiencing right now has allowed me to take a closer look at the signs of hope that I would normally miss. 

My parents relocating our outdoor furniture and grills to the garage as our backyard gets redone reminds me of the hope they have to be able to share their new outdoor space with friends soon. The crosses sprinkled throughout my neighbor’s lawns remind me to have enough hope to still celebrate Easter even if it looks different. Watching my mom sing and lift her hands while wearing  pajamas reminds me of the hope that one day we will all be able to gather together again. 

Leanne Brooks lifts her hand in worship. Live streaming church service has become part of how churches maintain their Sunday morning gatherings. April 5, 2020. (Photo by Amanda Brooks)

Something as simple as a sunrise, the flowers blooming, or the ducks swimming in the lake in my neighborhood, remind me of the hope that the earth has not given up. The planet is still hopeful. Even the rainy days bring hope by washing away the darkness and bringing new life to the planet.  

Of all the things that have been lost, hope, although sometimes hiding beneath the surface, is still present.  

Crosses, such as this one, fill neighborhoods all over Memphis, TN. The cross is a reminder put up for the Easter holiday. April 6, 2020. (Photo by Amanda Brooks)

Journal Entry #2

A sign reading “THIS TOO SHALL PASS” hung on the side of the road in Memphis, TN. Communities are encouraging one another through random acts such as this one. April 1, 2020. (Photo by Amanda Brooks)

April 1, 2020

The concept of “home” has shifted in many ways in the past three weeks. 

 Before college, life around me remained pretty much the same. The same house. The same school. The same church. Not a lot ever really changed. 

 Chattanooga began to feel like home during my freshman year of college. I remember how weird it felt to call my dorm “home.” I remember feeling like I had betrayed Memphis somehow. Home had become different for the first time in 18 years. They say “home is where the heart is” but my heart had been split. It’s stayed that way ever since. 

 I traveled back to Chattanooga this weekend, the first time since all this began. As I packed up the remainder of my belongings, I began to wonder “where was home?” Was my heart still split between two places?

 Home no longer looks like going to Cookout with my friends at 1 A.M., but it also doesn’t look like going to the grocery store with my family after church on Sundays. Home suddenly feels like a concept that I no longer have a grasp on. Being kept out of one and holed up in another, there is no longer a warm, fuzzy feeling with “home.” 

 That warm, fuzzy feeling does come though. It comes when the neighbor running down the opposite side of the road gives me a smile. It comes when I get a random phone call from a friend. It comes when my whole family sits down to eat a home cooked meal together.

 Home isn’t my roommate’s empty closet or the annoyance that comes with every member of my family trying to navigate working in a confined space. Home is no longer Chattanooga or Memphis for me. It is the sense of community I feel when seeing a sign reading “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.” Home is people. If home really is where the heart is, then my home is definitely split in more than two pieces. 

 I, personally, can’t wait for the time when all the pieces of my heart are together again—the time when we are all back home. 


Journal Entry #1

Margo Zani, Kirbi Ward, Rachel Watt, and Amanda Brooks participate in a group Facetime call. Friends have been trying to find ways to connect without compromising the new social distance lifestyle. March 23, 2020. (Photo by Amanda Brooks)

I never thought my junior year at UTC would end this way. Instead of the study of my sorority house, I am writing this from my childhood bedroom in Memphis, TN, with the confidence that one day we’ll be able to help our kids with their History homework about the year 2020.

March 25, 2020

In the new world of social distancing, “safer-at-home” orders, and self-quarantines, we are supposed to be safe from the novel coronavirus, at least physically. “Alone together” is a phrase that keeps getting posted on social media, but does it really make anyone feel less isolated?

Are Facetimes with friends and Zoom classes with professors enough to keep college students from failing mentally and academically? For many, it may not be.

Much to the annoyance of my friends, I express love through physical touch, meaning every time I hear “6 feet apart” a piece of me cringes. I never thought I would be deprived of a hug or holding hands. Although necessary for my physical health, it has affected my mental health. Every video chat is a reminder that I cannot be in the presence of people and every video class is a reminder that I do not have the same academic opportunities that I normally would. Something that is supposed to help us feel connected brings light to the reality of how far apart we are.

It is equally important to protect our bodies and our minds. Ensuring the mental health of the national is vital to the reopening of business and the return to everyday life once all of this is over. This sudden pause to a usually fast paced society does not have to mean a pause in every aspect of our lives. In this fight against COVID-19, a well mind can go a long way.

Eventually, we will be able to hug, kiss, shake hands, and be near each other again. That is a day worth looking forward to, but until then, I will strive to learn contentment in the waiting. This pandemic, as much as it has taken, will not take our sanity.

For resources on how to combat anxiety and stress during this time, visit https://www.utc.edu/counseling-center/index.php or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html.

Meet the Storyteller

Amanda Brooks

Amanda Brooks is a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga majoring in Communication with a minor in Theatre. She is a writer, photographer, and proficient public speaker. She is a great problem solver because of her work during the Disney College Program. She is passionate about highlighting stories of the community around her and the people within them. She can be contacted at bny637@mocs.utc.edu.

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