I’ve abandoned my friends and I feel like a piece of garbage. What did they do to deserve such harsh treatment? Nothing! They asked about my day, were always there for me no matter what time it was, would bring me gifts, and would tell me happy birthday right when I woke up on that special day. And I just… left them. I worked so hard to build these friendships with these people, and one day I just turned my back and walked away from it all. I didn’t hear what they were talking about today because I didn’t engage them, to begin with. Everyone came to my birthday, but I didn’t return the gesture and missed out on many others.
I haven’t heard what shows my once-best friend has been watching, or what magazines they’ve read, or what fashion was considered “in style”…
Hell, I haven’t kept track of turnip stock prices in forever.
When the pandemic first hit in March of 2020, I don’t think many people really took it seriously. It was mostly seen as just time off of school and work, an extra week of spring break to party, get mad drunk, or in my case, fly off to an island and build it up as my own in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It truly came out at the perfect time, and with all this sudden free time on my hands as professors tried to figure out how to properly convert their teachings from in-person class to online, I spent way too many hours just trying to build a Very Original™ bamboo forest. Some professors did better than others, and once I got the email that one of my professors was changing the final essay from “Everything you’ve learned from the course’s readings” to “How Covid has affected you,” my first thought was sweet, I can spend more time with Angus for his birthday now.
When the reality of just how dangerous Covid is started to settle over people (well, rational people, but I digress) and things started to shut down, these little pixelated animals became more like comfort characters than mindless entertainment. Humans need to socialize, and suddenly that socialization was limited, so as a safer option I’d just talk to this old man-wolf who called me Youngin‘. I spent more time on my little character’s appearance than my own since I didn’t and couldn’t go anywhere. I woke up early in real life just so I could wake up in the game at the same time. I worked through all the errands and goals I had set out for myself that day since I barely had anything to do in real life. I even had—still have, actually—a planner app on my phone that helped me keep track of the following:
- who visited my island daily
- if I picked up the message in the bottle already
- if I got the money tree or not, the list went on.
I was taking better care of my in-game character than of myself. And it was so fun.
This cycle continued as Covid continued to spread. My classes stayed online, my employer stayed in business even though we were closed to the public for months, and slowly I was able to work myself into a schedule that allowed me to take care of both the little me and the real me. My island was built just how I liked it. I loved all the villagers I had living with me and Redd hadn’t visited in weeks (that scamming clown).
Then the fall hit, and classes were still mostly online with UCO giving the option to go in-person as long as you wore a mask. I complied easily with this, but I live with someone who has a weak immune system, and after going to in-person classes for one day, I emailed my teachers to let them know I’d be continuing online for the safety of my family. I’ve done fully online semesters before the pandemic hit, so the only thing that was new to me were the Zoom calls, but after doing that I was able to easily get back into the swing of classes. I work at a museum, and soon that opened up to the public as well. I was becoming busy again, and naturally I focused more on my real-life duties instead of what I needed to do to appease Tom Nook (before he came for my knees for the debt I still hadn’t paid off).
It’s officially been a year since New Horizons released and months since I opened up the game to see all the little animals I called my family. I hope they’re not mad at me, especially Flo—she was my ride-or-die girl. This was my escape from reality as I was stuck in quarantine, and I haven’t visited that escape in so long. I think I should pay them a little visit, as thanks for all they’ve done to help me out in such a hard time.