Photo illustration by Jake Weir/B&W Staff

Edit desk: When all is unfamiliar

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In December 2019, a little over 21 years after living in the same house and small town in New Jersey, my family tidied up, packed everything away and moved out.

Emily Thampoe

I had known that we would be moving since I was 17. My father had started a new job in New York State, approximately an hour and fifteen minutes from our house. That is, without factoring in traffic. 

Needless to say, I had plenty of time to emotionally prepare myself for this change.

Like many people who spent the bulk of their formative years in one place, I often yearned to know something different than the historical town I called home until I went to college.

I never anticipated that our move would take as long as it did, nor did I think that I would be a little over halfway done with college when we had to say goodbye to our house. 

Since moving out of the place that we called home for so long, my family and I have lived in temporary housing in a town 20 minutes away from where I grew up.

While I grew up coming to this town for shopping and for appointments, I did not possess a mental map of it like I did of my hometown. 

I did not know each nook and cranny intimately. After all, I was merely a visitor for the better part of my existence. 

Just as I and all of my classmates were gearing up to return to campus after spring break, we received the news that school would be conducted online for two weeks.

Two days had passed after that initial news, and we all soon learned that we would be learning off campus due to the ever changing conditions of the coronavirus pandemic. 

I was both disappointed and dumbfounded. 

I was very excited to return to Bethlehem to continue the spring semester, in a town that I have come to know that is filled with friends that I have come to love. 

But I was also taken aback at how this virus, that I had heard whispers of as early as January, was halting life around the world.

Because of the public health crisis occurring globally, I now had to spend an unknown amount of time inside of an apartment that doesn’t feel like home, in a town that I haven’t had the opportunity to become properly familiar with. 

I can go on walks, so long as I don’t come across a significantly large number of people. 

I have to be attentive in practicing hygiene, so I don’t contribute to the spreading of the virus.

This world that we are all now living in brings to mind the dystopian plots of some of the books I read when I was younger, in the house I called a home for so long.

The reality that we must all be wary of where we go, who we see and what we do, all so that we can take preventative measures against a virus that has caused over 12,800 deaths in this country, does not seem feasible. 

But it is — we are all living through a period of time that feels like a bad dream and could easily be the storyline to a young adult fiction book. 

The day I said goodbye to the only house I had ever known, I did not shed a single tear. I had been preparing for this moment for a few years. I looked at the empty room that was once my bedroom and was unfazed. 

I would soon be vacating the premises and a new family would be creating a new life in the space where my family had created ours.

This was reality — this is what we had to do.

I did not have a choice in the matter, as soon as it was apparent there would be a house closing.

But as I look back on the fact that we moved, from the perspective of someone who is quarantining with their family in an apartment that was only supposed to be temporary, I wish I had some sort of constant. 

My former home and my hometown were my constants for so long, that I became too accustomed to them. So accustomed that I took these sources of familiarity for granted, which I now regret. 

I suppose with an ample amount of time and a pandemic occurring outside one’s walls, there is time for epiphanies to be had. No matter how unfortunate the timing. 

If something is so commonplace and familiar to you, do not stop trying to find new things to appreciate about that thing.

Try to embrace it while you can, because you never know when you will bask in an endless amount of unfamiliarity.

Emily Thampoe is the lifestyle editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]

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