Once a source of joy, trips home now spark anxiety

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

When Texas first reopened after quarantine sometime around May, I returned to Waco after a quiet few months at home. Back in Waco, I quarantined with my three roommates for the summer. It was the best three months of my life, at least compared to being in quarantine with my family.

During these three months, I returned home on a surprise occasion for Father’s Day and once more for a family trip. Now, each time I went home I was struck with a paralyzing fear as the airplane touched down in Columbus, Ohio. I didn’t want to be home at all. I immediately checked flights for the soonest one back to Waco before I was even out of the airport. While waiting at the baggage claim, I got hot and flustered and a stomachache set in. The first night I was home, I barely slept with a restless mind. The worry that I might have given someone in my family COVID-19 or would get stuck in quarantine again without being able to return to Waco was overwhelming.

I used to love to go home. While I would be sad to leave school for breaks, there was a sense of relief to be able to go home. Sleeping in your own bed, being taken care of by someone, having a home-cooked meal, being able to turn “off.” I’m lucky enough to call both of my parents “friends.” We have a very close relationship because growing up it was just me and them — I didn’t have to compete for their attention with siblings.

Home is no longer relieving. I’m anxious that my family will get sick and I feel trapped there. My mom suggests I not get tested before I come home if I don’t have symptoms or known exposure, but I can’t help but wonder if I’m asymptomatic. What if I gave the virus to my family? Any test I take before I come home would no longer be reliable after I spend five hours enclosed in a plane and the rest of the day in the airport. On the other hand, if I get tested at home, and 48 hours later the results come back negative, how do I know during that 48 hours I didn’t contract the virus? I don’t see how you can ever be sure.

There are mandates that are introduced and adjusted every day, too. The states on Ohio’s quarantine list are updated frequently. Whether or not you should quarantine, if and how long you’re contagious changes as new information about the virus is discovered. Long story short, I don’t know what to expect from tomorrow and that is what scares me.

My parents naturally are upset that I don’t want to be home. I don’t mean to make them feel unwanted. Besides the fact I worry about giving my family COVID-19, home brings back those early memories of quarantine: “flattening the curve,” toilet paper runs, at-home workouts, puzzles and “unprecedented times.” Those I’d rather not be reminded of.

As each day passes that I’m home, the potential for any of my family members to show symptoms from exposure to me decreases and my anxiety is eased. I still really hate going back to Ohio, but I hope my reluctance will subside as the threat of the virus does.