• Jenna Medlin-Roark

Beach Day Before Landfall Hurricane: How I Saw It As a Representation of 2020

As North Carolinians watched Hurricane Isaias make its way towards our coast, I decided that now would be the perfect time to make a trip to the beach. There is a certain calm to the beach right before a storm approaches. As we drove over Snows Cut bridge in Carolina Beach, we saw business owners hammering particle board over their store windows and parking lots were empty as stores closed to allow their employees to prepare for the storm. The hurricane was going to hit us tomorrow night. We did not really take the time to prepare. We got two cases of water, made sure we had a candle or two, and bought steaks to make for dinner the night the hurricane hit. We were here during hurricane Florence, a storm that devastated our entire town. To me, nothing could be worse than that. Isaias had a lot to live up to in my book.

We pulled into one of the first beach accesses we saw. Normally, finding a beach access was such an incredibly strenuous and tiring process that it was almost better to just avoid going to the beach entirely. I pulled my black Subaru into the pebble parking lot and walked down the wooden staircase over the sand dunes to the beach. I took a minute to decide where I wanted to put down my blanket. Josh pointed to an open spot to the right but it did not satisfy me. Next to the spot, was a group of young guys listening to Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and screaming the lyrics "I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango? Thunderbolt and lightning very, very frightening me." "Nah", I said to Josh. "I need some zen time, let's go over there" and pointed to the left towards the pier.

I stepped into the warm blue water at Kure Beach as the waves violently hit my legs and splashed water into my face making my eyeliner stream down my cheeks. The ocean was angry and disturbed. Waves crashed into the pier and nearly knocked me over. I stared out into the ocean hoping to perhaps spot a dolphin or watch the seagulls take a dive into the water for an attempt to catch a fish.

I turned to go back to my blue and white blanket and grabbed my bubble rosé kombucha out of our white cooler. I noticed a woman sitting to the left of us on her phone and dress in a pink shirt and leggings. Her hair was in a messy bun at the top of her head and she looked like she was going through a hard time. I noticed that the tide kept coming in and softly hitting her but she did not seem to mind it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a violent wave crash into her. She did a 360 and fell onto her back, slamming her hand on the wet sand to regain her balance. I do not mind admitting that I did an accidental spit take and started choking on my drink from laughter. I hid my head behind Josh's back as to not let the woman know I was laughing at the fact that a wave just slapped her. "2020 be like" I said to Josh, as if the woman was this year's meme. I wiped my tears of laughter from my eyes and, Josh trying to talk through his laughter said, "that really is an accurate representation of this year."

Personifying the ocean seemed to help me process everything that has left myself as a person and everyone as individuals in this world confused and scared. As a human race, it seems as if every month something crazy is happening. January started with the impeachment hearing of President Trump and the Australia wildfires, in February, the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna due to a helicopter crash rocked the entire world. In March and April, COVID-19 had made it to American soil and sent us into quarantine leading millions of Americans to lose their jobs. May and June saw hundreds of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd who was killed by police in Minnesota. Rioting and looting of businesses sent many into closure, afraid of what damage could be done. In July, America started to open up which was met by a surge in COVID cases and the plea from government officials to wear masks. In August, an explosion devastated Beirut, Lebanon killing over 220 people, injuring over 6000 and left over 300,000 homeless according to the BBC.

Personally, I have been in quarantine and working from home since March 17th, 2020. We postponed our wedding scheduled for May 10th until September 29th and my college graduation was postponed until December. Like so many other spring graduates, finding a job has been one of the most difficult endeavors. Having applied to over 200 jobs, I have become increasingly hopeless in my ability to find a job after college. As entered the month of May, I started to have anxiety issues like I have never before. I have always been an anxious and nervous person. Although I did not want to admit it at the time, I had become depressed. Panic attack after panic attack filled my days afraid of the unknown and upset that my plans had been ruined. I am a planner. I am ambitious and driven to be successful. I was determined to get a job using my degree. Let's just say, that it has yet to happen.

Enough had become enough and I told Josh, "I cannot take this anymore. I feel like I am drowning in my own head, gasping for air." I frantically sent my doctor a message, not even realizing which doctor I sent it to. They immediately put me on Lexapro and I finally felt relief after putting the first pill in my mouth and taking a sip of water. Obviously, it did not kick in that quickly but the mere fact that I would soon not feel so anxious, gave me peace. That sense of peace was followed by my absolute rock bottom. This medicine threw me into such a slew of insane emotions that I thought to myself, "I should have never gotten on this medicine and just pushed through my feelings of nervousness and depression." After consulting with my psychiatrist, we decided to change my medication and I was finally able to get onto medications that eased the mental illness that had been festering inside of me.

I enrolled in therapy once a week and we spent many sessions trying to reassure myself that the circumstances we find ourselves in, are not our fault. It is that the economy is in a horrifying state that is leading to my not being able to get a job. It is not my fault that my graduation and wedding were canceled. Instead we tried to replace these negative emotions with positive. "Yes Jenna, you are not able to get the job you want, but hey at least you still have one unlike many others." As much as I paid attention to what was going on, I was still in my own selfish world, not realizing that I could be in a worse position. I am just not where I planned to be. "You had to POSTPONE (that's the important word here), the wedding and graduation just had to be pushed back. But look, you still married Josh anyways and you graduated college albeit not the way you wanted, but it still happened" said my therapist.

As I sat in my red swimsuit next to to the person I decided to marry completely unconventionally, admiring the sunset over the North Carolina coast, I am enamored by the peace and tranquility that comes over me. I had almost forgotten what other people's smiles looked like having seen others only in masks. It was bittersweet seeing families walk their dogs along the soft sand. We watched a dad with his two children go fishing and were tickled by the shouting and excitement the kids had when they were able to catch even the tiniest of fish. For a moment, I had forgotten that Coronavirus still plagued this earth. It was nice to have a moment of normality in the craziness that is our world now.

Find your moments of peace in the small things. Find the good in what seems is bad. Know that we are all going through this and that you are not alone. Every person may be able to find their own happiness in what is a storm filled year. The hurricane, to me, represented every event that seems to set us back. We get through it though and move onto the next storm that life wants to throw our way. There will be damage, but we will rebuild. It is scary to watch what will happen to our families and community but remember we are strong.

I have been able to devote more time to school and writing. I have also been able to get to know myself better and start to fix the anxiety and depression brewing inside of me before I was at the point of no return. Enjoy those around you. Sometimes I think of how I am so tired of seeing Josh all of the time (I know that sounds horrible to say) but then I think about what we have been able to learn about each other during this time. Quarantine has given us countless dinners, drunken movie/game nights, and moments of fragility within ourselves and our relationship that went unnoticed and unappreciated because we were so occupied by the noise of the world outside of our home.

Take a deep breath, poor yourself a drink, turn on The Office, and allow yourself to escape this crazy time in our life.

#quarantine #coronavirus #peace #writer #blogger #mentalillness #beach #hurricane

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