Western Kentucky University
$1,500 Scholarship and Hearst Medallion
STORY: Sheltering-in-place has been one of the most difficult times of my life. These last few months have been a blur, and I have seen some of the most exciting opportunities for me, my career and my life slip away. I was supposed to leave the country for the first time, I was supposed to have an amazing internship this summer, I was supposed to go to DC to study first amendment law and controversies, I was supposed to do an amazing story about an amazing family battling Spina Bifida, and so much more. Instead, I find myself in a haze, scrolling for miles, my mental health spiraling, my relationship struggling, my camera collecting dust on a shelf. Quarantine has felt timeless, each day and night blur together and so I have decided to refrain from including times or dates. These are the first photos I have taken in nearly three months.
Lily Thompson, the photographer, lays in bed for a self portrait replicating a typical morning for her in her home in Bowling Green, Ky. I stay in bed most days until at least 2 or 3 in the afternoon, switching between Twitter, Instagram and TikTok for hours. I refresh my feeds over and over to watch life happen outside the walls of my home without me. My boyfriend, whom I live with, is an essential worker, a vet tech at our local humane society, so I am left home alone throughout the day with only our pets and my own thoughts to keep me company.
Brandon Taylor, my boyfriend, cries in our living room during a fight with me. He and I have been together since Oct. 2018 and have scarcely spent a night apart. Moving in together at the beginning of this year seemed like a natural next step. We'd been living together for barely a month when shelter-in-place was initiated. He went to work, I stayed home and he was close to my only human interaction for weeks. His life hardly changed when the virus hit but everything changed for me. We fight more frequently now than we have ever, COVID-19 and living together has revealed issues in ourselves and our relationship that neither of us realized were there.
Dishes pile up and Brandon often just does them for me. While I have never been a very clean and organized person, one of the things we fight about most, quarantine has brought out some of the worst parts of myself. When left by myself with nothing to do, look forward to or live for I revert into a laziness and tiredness that makes even daily tasks difficult.
Getting up to take a shower is a chore. I have nowhere to go and nowhere to be, so getting up to do the simplest tasks becomes difficult. The laundry piles up, the house is dusty, my plants go unwatered. I find myself stuck at home all day without the motivation to get up and do anything. The first weeks were the hardest. As the sun peeks through windows and the air warms, I find myself more apt to get up and do things, like wash my hair or go outside for a walk.
My best friends, from front to back, Georgia Hoffman, Arinda Davis, Maggie Hoffman and Katie Greene tan in my backyard. The one bright spot of this situation is the amount of time I have had to be with my friends. For the first time in years, our schedules line up because we have no schedules. The first few weeks of shelter-in-place, they each went home to be with their families, but came back to Bowling Green to finish up the last of our classes and enjoy the summer together. I have grown closer to them than I ever have been.
Ryan Murphy, Brandon's best friend, shoots during a game of pool. The first fews days of quarantine gave us the chance to put together the old pool table that had been in pieces in our basement. The pool table has led to weekly pool tournaments with some of our best friends. Pool nights have been so important because they give each of us something to look forward to each week, a moment of togetherness that has been taken from us in our daily lives.
Katie, left, helps teach Brandon a headstand in my front yard around midnight. Brandon and Ryan, right, took to learning basic gymnastics after some drinks and a movie at my house. If there is one good thing about all of our lives being disrupted, we have all grown closer as friends. My house has become the place where we all congregate, drink and goof off; the place where we don't have to think of COVID-19 or wear masks.
Brandon and I apologize to each other after a fight. Living with a significant other for the first time during this time has been difficult in ways I could have never imagined. We have reached new levels of intimacy and new levels of annoyance. We each have issues to work through and we are learning how to do that together while also learning to live in a new world.