A New Normal By Cooper Tidwell

Proceeding With Caution

The playground at Red Bank Elementary School lined with caution tape on Monday, April 13th, 2020. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

April 13th, 2020: I’m proceeding with caution. Not only literally, but mentally too. We all should be. We’ve made it this far and I think that’s worth some recognition. This is the last week of our quarantine commentary here on Rising Rock and I can’t help but reflect. In the beginning I was scared. I lost my job, my social life, my school, and my sanity all in the matter of a week. I rushed to get my life into gear as if I thought constant productivity would end a global pandemic. The world continued to ache. I said the fog will clear, but after a while, I wasn’t sure if I believed myself anymore. 

Time progressed and I began to feel numb. I was numb to the news, the constant cancellations, push backs, and time away from the people that I loved. Being hyper aware of every surface I touched became mentally draining. My knuckles began to crack from the constant hand washing and every day felt like I had just run a marathon. I was exhausted to say the least. 

Now, I’m proceeding with caution. I’m going easy on myself for once. Life doesn’t have to feel like it’s going 100 miles an hour like I once thought it had. I’m learning to love my friends and family more than I ever have. I’m finding peace in the stillness that life has become. I’m becoming a listener. I’m listening to people’s words of encouragement. I’m listening to my next door neighbor as she continues to find joy in her life even though her son is battling COVID-19. I’m listening to myself on the bad days, while reminding myself that the good days will come again. The world is still hurting, and we have a ways to go, but put love first and strap in. 

Coping With A Pandemic

Katey Dailey wipes down groceries with disinfectant wipes on Tuesday, April 7th, 2020. Many grocery stores in Chattanooga have begun offering delivery service to customers. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

April 7th, 2020: Something about this still doesn’t feel real. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m lucky enough to say that Chattanooga hasn’t been hit as hard, or maybe it’s just that my brain doesn’t have anything to compare this situation to. This is our new normal, but I’m not ready for it to be. I don’t think any of us are but this week was especially hard to cope. 

I’m still grasping how my day can go from lying out in the sun on a beautiful day with my best friend to her and I wiping down every possible surface on the groceries we had delivered to our apartment.  

I know one day this will slow down and when that day happens I’ll remember not to take a beautiful day in the sun for granted, or a simple trip to the grocery store. I’ll remember to truly appreciate how precious life is and I hope society follows suit. 

I’ll Keep Running

Once a central hub for students, Chamberlain Field is now left empty. Sunday, March 29th, 2020. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

March 29th, 2020: I’ve been a runner since high school. A hobby that I’ve always thought mindlessly of has taken on a new meaning in my life. Since practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible running has become my escape. I’m alone with my thoughts for about 35 minutes a day with no distractions, no news articles, nothing.

I ran on campus this morning. On a day like today, warm and sunny, Chamberlain Field is usually flocked with students, but today it was empty. Actually the whole campus was empty. The general lots that I’ve spent many mornings circling for a spot, and the tables outside Starbucks that seemed to make studying a little easier on a pretty day like today, all empty. It’s an eerie feeling to run through a campus that just a few weeks ago looked like a completely different world.

The scene I say today felt like I was either really early to an event, or that I was left behind in the second coming. I was waiting for someone to jump out of the bushes and tell me this was all a prank and everything can go back to normal! I’m still waiting, but in the meantime I’ll keep running like I did before this started and like I will once this is over. 

Parking lots on UTC’s campus are empty for the first time after students converted to online-based learning for the reminder of the semester. Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)


Signs at the Aldi in Red Bank, Tennessee encourage shoppers to practice social distancing on March 24th, 2020. Grocery stores remained open as other business close indefinitely. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

March 24th, 2020: On March 13th, 2020 I turned 22 years old. A time meant for celebration, laughs, and mimosas at brunch turned into uncertainty, panic, and a grocery basket full of water, tissues, and cleaning supplies. I will always remember this birthday. While drinking my coffee at my favorite shop in Louisville, Kentucky my heart dropped as I read the morning paper’s headline. I knew this would only get worse.

The headline of the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13th, 2020. In early March, schools, businesses, and events began to close across the nation. (Photo by Cooper Tidwell)

I have been back in Chattanooga for about 10 days. I have only left the house for groceries, exercise, and work. When I got back in town, gatherings with friends turned into groups of four, then two, now it’s just my roommate and I. We both lost our barista jobs for the time being, but we’re staying positive! In moments like these relationships are so important. It’s hard to see the road ahead when the fog is so dense, but eventually, the fog will clear. 

Meet the Storyteller

Cooper Tidwell

Cooper Tidwell is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in Communication with a minor in Theatre. Cooper’s works as a photographer for the University Echo. When he’s not taking photos he works as a barista at Mayfly Coffee on the weekends. You can contact Cooper at ndd764@mocs.utc.edu

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