by Jacob Barriga
photography by Ethan Bermudez
Jobs were lost, depression set in, people said we would never recover. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the country was forced to shut down to save lives, including our own. Yet, we persevere because that is what we are wired to do. We just make our next moment a great one. I lost baseball, football and a full year of my college experience. I lost meeting new friends, networking and learning how to navigate a new job while balancing everything else in my life. However, looking back on a time when life seemed to stand still, I can see where I grew as a person.
Now, in my life there is little time to sit down. Almost every day, as I start my day, I immediately am working on homework, going to class, or even working out. I go straight from class to baseball practice until the evening and on the two days that I don’t have night classes I go straight to work at In-N-Out burger until late in the night and do it all again the next day. Days sometimes turn to weeks, then months, and as I look back at the end, it’s hard to comprehend just how much time has passed me by. As the pandemic shut everything down, and we were forced to go home to quarantine, I was in the middle of this process. Baseball was ramping up as we approached the midpoint of our season. I was finishing my general education before starting my upper division classes. I even got that job at the start of the semester to put some spending money in my pocket. I was putting a lot on my plate when everything shut down, and as I got home and had nothing to do, I felt as if I had all the time in the world.
It took time to adjust but everyone slowly got back on track. As I look back, I found the most valuable thing I could have when the world was stopped. I found time for my family. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate them before. They have always been my biggest supporters, taking me to and from games and practices and making all my in-school performances. My parents always made time for fun too, as we took road trips to the Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Park and San Francisco. However, those times seemed long gone. Once I started high school, I became a social butterfly and was never home. Moving away for college meant scarce calls home, and usually only for something I needed. I wanted to grow up so fast and as soon as I was able to that I left the nest without looking back. Quarantine brought me home. It slowed me down and grounded me again.
I spent hours with my family as we tried to pass the countless hours we spent stuck in the house. At first we were still in our own bubbles in the house. My parents were worried about work. I was lucky enough to still work, and my brother and sister went back to playing video games like nothing had changed. That was until we took the overnight trip to see my grandmother.
It was late on a Wednesday night. My grandpa was struggling leading up to this. He was in and out of the hospital and had a few serious surgeries over the previous six months. My dad got the call he was half waiting for, but it was still a shock. My grandpa had passed away in the hospital. We gathered everything we needed, and I drove us through the night to meet my grandma in her Las Vegas home. We comforted each other for a couple of days as my dad’s brothers and sisters came and went, and everyone touched base with each other while they figured out what to do for my grandpa. After a couple of days, we came home, and we were closer. We spent so much of the last few days together that we continued to put time aside for the family as quarantine mandates continually got more strict.
There was a period of time where my dad didn’t work because he wasn’t considered an essential worker. It was at this point that I was the only one working in the house. It still wasn’t too bad—my dad eventually went back—but while he was home, we had family game nights, and we all worked together on a 2,000 piece puzzle.
These seem like small things, but these times stick out to me because I have realized that there are not many of those nights left with my parents and my siblings. We are all branching in our own ways, and our parents are getting ready for the final stretch of their careers before traveling the world in 10 years. After moving out in August 2020, only five months after we first went on quarantine, I got busy again. I am working, studying and playing sports, but I am now working on continually reaching home and talking to my parents every week and keeping touch because I know it means so much for them, and I am grateful for having them there for me whenever I need.
As my college career comes to a close, I hope that I can spend more time with my family. They are an important part of my life, and being able to slow down and spend the extra time with them helped me realize how much we mean to each other. All the times we sat down and took the time to eat dinner together, play games, watch a movie and go on hikes—it all reminds me of how strong my foundation is, and how I should never take that for granted. This type of family bond is something I want for my own family one day, and I have the confidence I can because my parents have shown me the way. ■