Column: COVID-19 brings fears, struggles and optimism

This is a photo of Michael Taplin and his brother in Rhode Island. Photo taken by Michael Taplin.
Michael Taplin and his brother in Rhode Island. Photo by Michael Taplin.

Michael Taplin
Oxford Stories

When I drove home to Illinois for spring break on Friday, March 6, 2020, I only expected to stay nine days. Opinions and fantasized ideas circulated through the media and college classrooms about the novel coronavirus.

At that time, I barely knew it would cause severity worldwide and the frustrations it would bring along with struggles and fears.

Over a month has gone by taking us from our routine. The lockdown in Illinois has been adjusted to last until April 30, three weeks longer than the shelter-in-place order until Aug. 7 set by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D).

I realized COVID-19 was significant when one of my colleagues had a family friend in Wuhan, China, and they said the virus was serious and not accurately presented in the Chinese media.

If we knew the severity of COVID-19, we should have all hunkered down then rather than now. We could be finishing this madness up if everyone acted unitedly instead of individually.

Now I am unbelievably ready to be back in Oxford with my best friends, partying, and attending in-person classes rather than continuing my education online. All I want is life to go back to normal.

Pictured here is Michael Taplin with three friends. Photo provided by Michael Taplin.
Pictured here is Michael Taplin with three friends. Photo provided by Michael Taplin.

At the beginning of the semester, I was diagnosed and put on medication for depression. For days at a time, I isolated myself and mentally could not be around other people.

Now, with a stay-at-home order heavily enforced, I feel mentally worse than I did back in January. For me, I need a consistent routine to be productive and have the mentality to complete my work, and to engage with others in conversation. With this lockdown, I am struggling with having the motivation to have a consistent routine.

This is a photo of Michael Taplin on a Zoom call. Photo taken by Michael Taplin.
Michael Taplin on a Zoom call. Photo by Michael Taplin.

My day begins between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Then, I immediately shower, get dressed, and eat lunch to prepare for a daily work or class-related Zoom call. After the call, I complete as much homework as I can, end my work day at 5 p.m. and eat dinner. Then I binge Netflix or hop on Playstation 4 to talk with friends online.

With the virus affecting my daily life and forcing an abrupt move back home, I am facing other struggles and fears.

I fear my summer job will be delayed or terminated before it begins. Over the summer, I am an assistant manager at a private swim club. I have no clue if the opening day over Memorial Day weekend will be pushed back, or will recreational, group gatherings continue to be postponed, or if the severity increases, will we even be open this summer?

I absolutely love my summer job and find it calming. It is a way to relax and unwind. I may panic if the stay-at-home order is altered to last longer or if this peak is really the beginning.

I also fear for my brother, who is working the front lines as a healthcare professional in a strictly COVID-19 hospital in Maryland. I do not fear for his life because, just like any pandemic or emergency situation, this is one of the many things he was trained for in his field of work. However, I do fear the stress he will endure and the pain he will witness firsthand from patients and their families.

I have a trip planned to visit my brother this June for Father’s Day. I really hope the trip does not get cancelled due to this virus.

I struggle with knowing I may not see some of my closest friends until August. It is the fact I dislike most of all. I really hope next semester will still be fall semester.

One of my best friends just celebrated his 20th birthday while quarantined. All we could do was FaceTime, and not being able to physically be there is hard. If my friends have been there for me in the past, they deserve the world for their birthdays.

I cannot wait for football season to begin. All I want to do is fast-forward to be in Oxford and take my planned classes for next semester. I feel drained, and I wish this could all be finished.

Here is a picture of Michael Taplin writing this story. Photo taken by Michael Taplin.
Michael Taplin writing this story. Photo by Michael Taplin.

On the up side of things, the Oxford party scene will be bigger and better than ever once the virus spread declines or when the curve has flattened. I project bars along the Square will be open, yet will suffer without having sports on their televisions.

Students will be coming back to collect their belongings for summer, changing living spaces for next year, or just visiting to make up for a loss in their college years.

I plan to make four weekend trips throughout the summer to bring friends, relax and have fun. It will be awkward at first to transition back into a real world atmosphere. However, people will be united as they continue to live healthy lives.

Michael Taplin
Michael Taplin

Michael Quinn Taplin, 20, is a sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications with specializations in social media and public relations and a minor in general business.

Born and raised in Edwardsville, Illinois, Taplin was slightly fearful to venture off and move away from his close friends and family. However, his twin sister decided to become an Ole Miss Rebel and stay close to her favorite sibling. 

Taplin recently founded a photography company with plans to capture moments for senior graduates, brides and grooms, families, and expecting mothers. He wants to set up a scholarship program for students in journalism, business, and art-related fields who have created businesses to enhance their skills and give back to others. 

While enrolled in 15 credit hours, Taplin has a journalism-related internship as a social media ambassador. His duties include creating content for UM’s Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook accounts; assisting with email-marketing campaigns; analyzing social media accounts to find trends; and executing promotions with students on campus.

Taplin once served on the board of directors for the Edwardsville Art Center as a student liaison, but recently became the center’s public relations officer to help with marketing needs and news releases. 

In his free time, you can find Taplin surrounded by his friends. Activities include listening to new music, golfing, and attending parties.

In high school, Taplin was involved with student government and served his peers as class president, student council president, and was the leader of the student fan section called Orange Rush.

He also felt the need to include and introduce every new student to Edwardsville High School. Taplin founded New Student Ambassadors, who gave tours to new students in the school district and welcomed them into a high school of 2,500 students.

Taplin also helped the newly founded club receive a four-year grant for $5,000 – $1,250 annually.  These extra funds allowed the program to increase in size, and he created the same program at two middle schools in the school district. For his dedication and service as a student leader, Taplin delivered the commencement address at his senior graduation. 

After college, Taplin wants to work in politics and hopes to one day become the press secretary for the President of the United States of America. He feels this is the highest level of journalism because it is news for Americans and is broadcast from the White House. Taplin doesn’t mind what political party is in office while holding the position. 

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