By Southwester Staff

Local author Bianca Kersellius recently released her first book, a memoir entitled InDEBTed: Stories of Surviving Debt, Inequity and Obtaining Freedom. The book takes readers on a vivid journey unpacking the rigorous reality of Kersellius’ life as a young Black woman in America with student loan debt.

Kersellius provided the following excerpt to The Southwester, from Chapter 5 of her book. On March 31, InDEBTed was released online through Amazon KDP, Barnes & Noble and Google Play. More information can be found at https://www.kerselliuskreations.com/indebted

COVID-19 Put the Whole World in Time Out

2020 was a year for the history books. Losing greats like Kobe Bryant, Bill Withers, Little Richard, Chadwick Boseman, and many others left me in a constant state of disbelief. America almost entered World War III at one point, and the coronavirus kept us all quarantined in our homes for months. I refer to 2020 as the year of the timeout and the year of the awakening. The year 2020 put its foot on our necks every chance it got, and the coronavirus pandemic had been no exception. The virus spread like wildfire throughout the world and eventually made its way to our country. 

I first heard about the coronavirus in February of 2020. At the time, I was working on my business launch because it had been two months since I’d left my full-time job. I had no idea that we were all in for such a rude awakening. I read articles about the virus outbreak in Wuhan, China and how it quickly surfaced in other countries overseas. Once March came, it seemed like all hell broke loose as the virus began to spread and take over the entire continent of North America. From my vantage point, it seemed that we (Americans) did not take the virus seriously enough. Toilet paper soon became nonexistent on store shelves. Lysol wipes were sold out damn near everywhere, including online, and people were buying up food and household essentials as if the world were soon approaching its end. COVID-related deaths were on the rise and masks and face coverings became mandatory for people to wear outside—although some people completely missed this message, but I digress. Stay-at-home restrictions were getting pretty serious nationwide. 

The timing seemed to work out for me because I was already used to being home most of the time since I left my job during the winter season. It was not hard for me to keep myself in the warmth and comfort of my home while I focused on starting my business. I was content for the first couple months, but the global pandemic had kept me confined to home for more than half the year by the summer of 2020. That wasn’t a part of my plans at all. Hell, that wasn’t a part of anyone’s plans. 

2020 had been completely overwhelming and traumatic. I had moments where I had to turn my phone off to avoid all the distractions in the news cycles. The phrase “if it bleeds, it leads” is still true when it comes to what we see in the media. This fear-based tactic used in newsrooms across the US can be too much to bear. I was exhausted from seeing Black people murdered by the police. I was tired of the whack ass responses from companies regarding their stance on racism and police brutality. 

I also grew tired of seeing social media posts about people directing others on how to spend their time during a pandemic. People would say things like: “If you don’t come out of this pandemic with a new business or new investment, then you’ve wasted your time.” We are all living in crisis mode, and it’s so useless for people to project their expectations onto the rest of the world. There are people out here who are dealing with depression, trying to heal from trauma, and struggling to find the light at the end of the tunnel during this pandemic. We all need to practice more compassion and empathy to those who may not have certain privileges. 

Aside from some of the nonsense on social media, the pandemic allowed me to do a lot of self-reflection. I had more than enough time to sit with my thoughts and emotions. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if the world were still functioning at its usual fast-paced normalcy. The extra time pushed me to break the cycle of rushing. I’m learning that what may be urgent for everyone else does not have to be urgent for me. Everything does not have to be done right now. I’d also become more comfortable with saying no and prioritizing myself. I am not obligated to do anything that I have no interest in doing. 

In addition to learning more about me and breaking old habits, I also had mental breakdowns and moments of self-doubt. I am still on this journey and, honestly speaking, some days are better than others, because one minute I’m fine and the next minute I’m bawling my eyes out over the chaotic world that we live in. The most important thing is that I’ve learned to acknowledge that it’s okay to not be okay. Hell, we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, and I’m sure a lot of people are not okay during this time. 

Trips have been canceled. Weddings, concerts, and family reunions have been postponed until further notice. We lost the ability to physically connect and interact with one another. Essential workers have been put on the front lines to fight this invisible virus. On top of that, people have lost family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and most have not had opportunities to say proper goodbyes.

The Coronavirus Gets Personal

Being that I’m an entrepreneur in my first year of business, I’ve found myself experiencing the hardships of starting a new business. I launched my business back in April of 2020, during the pandemic, and the pandemic has taken a toll on my entrepreneurial efforts. I’ve been unable to coordinate large gatherings such as weddings, birthday parties, etc. While I’ve updated my service list to adapt to the virtual times, only God knows when I’ll be able to book clients and coordinate events again. In addition to that, I’m unemployed and living at home with my parents due to unfortunate circumstances, and I’m just trying to stay positive through it all. 

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