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By Ciara Abeyta

Honestly, this isn’t ideal.

This situation isn’t ideal at all, and my heart goes out to those who have been greatly impacted and affected by the world’s current condition. Where did it all go wrong?  Where did this all begin?

For me, it all began with a meme.  I remember scrolling through iFunny’s features for the day and happened to come across a single meme joking about how China had an outbreak of some illness.  I barely gave it a second thought and swiped past, unaware of what was to come.

Not long after, the memes became more frequent.  New cases in China were reported as the disease ravaged the country.  Unfortunately because of this, racist jokes against Asia became a more frequent thing too, and it hurt my heart to see and hear people making fun of those who didn’t ask for the virus to happen to them, and who were dying and suffering because of it.  I shrugged it off as a serious concern for America, though, since it seemed like another Ebola: it was serious, but was contained well and forgotten not long after it started.

My life was finally in full swing.  I was just appointed to a new position at my work (I work two jobs: Accelerated Wealth on weekdays and CityROCK on weekends).  School was going well, and I was productive with my assignments.  My classmates were fun and engaging.  I looked forward to seeing them every day.  After a long day at work and then school, my partner and I would meet at CityROCK for a much-needed climbing session.  I remember the freedom, the adrenaline, the exhilarating feeling of being 40-feet off of the ground and fighting my own limits.  I became stronger in bouldering these last few months, and leading was a constant practice.  Victory whips only confirmed just how much I absolutely LOVE climbing.  It had become my outlet, my excitement and joy, and my favorite activity, as I’m sure many can relate.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly.  I had so many plans for the upcoming months.  My cousins and I were going to go to Disney World and Universal Studios for spring break.  I was supposed to go to Peru in June to visit Machu Picchu and do humanitarian work.  I was supposed to model in New York City for the International Modeling and Talent Competition in July.  Little did I know that everything I knew as “normal” would be jeopardized.

Soon, concerns began to rise as the disease had its first confirmed case in the United States.  But it was hundreds of miles away, and I was sure it could be contained.  Nothing to worry about.

However, as weeks went by, more cases were confirmed, and it spread like wildfire.  Finally, we had a confirmed case in Colorado. 

I remember walking into school one day.  It was eerily quiet, and once I sat down, the teacher began a long speech about “washing your hands” and “cleaning your workspaces.”  They said that if and ONLY IF the virus became a true concern, then school would be cancelled for the semester and classes would only be offered online.  I thought these were drastic measures and that it would never be necessary.  

Going to work the next morning, I received an e-mail laying out the protocol in case the virus became a real concern.

And that was when the fear hit me.  It was becoming all too real.  

I went to my dad, asking “should I be afraid?”

“No,” he said.  “Stay positive and take care of yourself.  We don’t have to be afraid.”

Still, I was, and I did everything in my power to distract myself from the monster that was closing in.

The week before the storm, I went to rehearsal for a large performance I was a part of called “The Thorn,” a Cirque du Soleil type of retelling of the story of Jesus, his death, and his resurrection.  I greeted my fellow cast members and got to work.  I stood backstage awaiting my cues as the dancers, aerialists, martial artists, and more took the stage.  I was thrilled for this show to open in Colorado Springs and then Denver the next week.  I have been a part of this show for three years and anticipate its arrival every single year.

Things were different and strange this time.  Cast members went from hugging and high fiving to being distant and silent.  We became isolated from each other.  Even backstage, nobody dared touch another person.  The virus threatened to take us down and cancel every single one of our performances.  I thought, surely they wouldn’t cancel.  We’ve worked so hard to make this show a reality.

Unfortunately, because of this show, my times at CityROCK became few and far between.  Time did not allow it, but I figured I’d be back in the gym as soon as the show was over.  

I woke up on Friday, March 13, 2020.  It was a foggy day.  I drove to work and sat in my cubicle, only to find out that everything had changed.  People were packing up their things and going home early.  

The protocol had begun.

I threw my laptop and personal items quickly into a tote bag and was out the door within an hour.  I stood in the doorway of the office to say goodbye before driving to get some lunch.  I had a doctor’s appointment, a chiropractor appointment, and a performance that evening.

I later got an e-mail saying that school was closed for the rest of the semester and classes would be online.

I asked the doctor about coronavirus and the concerns.  “Should I be afraid?” I asked once more.

“No,” she said confidently.  “I know for a fact that it will spread.  There’s not much that can stop it.  But if you’re careful, you don’t have to be afraid.”

I was still afraid.

As I was readying myself in my costume and makeup for opening night, I received an e-mail saying that ALL performances had been cancelled due to the mandate not allowing more than 250 people to be in a room.

I was devastated and fell onto the floor in a pool of tears.  Minutes later I got a text from a fellow cast member saying that the show was still on, but ONLY for that night, and they had to limit the audience to 100 people.

I dropped everything and jumped into the car, driving as fast as the speed limit would allow.  Despite the small audience, the show was one of the most amazing I’d ever been a part of.  I was grateful that we got one last chance after all of our hard work.  I went home that night feeling a slight bit sad but mostly fulfilled and content.

The next morning, I woke up and packed my things to drive and meet my family at our condo in Frisco for a ski weekend.  The cancellations of performances allowed me to be able to go on vacation.  But as soon as I arrived in Frisco, we learned that every ski resort was closed due to the virus.

I was disappointed but still decided to make the most of it.  We hiked in the snow, walked out on Lake Dillon, shopped, and ate dinner in downtown Frisco.

While at the restaurant, the purge alarm began to sound.  Everyone’s phones were going off with an emergency alert saying that COVID-19 was in our area and we needed to act fast.  Restaurants in Frisco were mandated to close and groups of 50 people or more were disbanded.  I’ll admit, I felt a bit of panic and anger.  Anger because it felt like the virus had followed me everywhere I went, and it was taking things from me one-by-one, trying to bring me down. I had been trying to escape it, run from it, but instead, it pursued me faster than I realized.

I had been getting e-mails all week about closure after closure and cancellation of every event I was meant to attend.  Earth Treks and then Gripstone closed.  I held on to hope that CityROCK would hold out as long as they could, and they did.  I hoped that I could return from Frisco and climb one last time before closure, but the day I was meant to go home, CityROCK released their closure announcement.  It was also recommended by the governor that anyone who was recently in Summit County be put in quarantine. 

I was sad, frustrated, devastated that every joy was stolen from me one after another, as if this virus was laughing at my misfortune.  Many other people felt the same way as workplaces and schools closed. 

Immediately after returning from Summit County, we put ourselves into self-quarantine.  We had been exposed and possibly infected.  I felt symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, and a sore throat, but no fever or anything of COVID-19 magnitude.  Each day has been a battle, and we have had 8 days of isolation thus far.

It was a scary and devastating time for my family.  My dad’s business closed; my mom has become stir-crazy from being stuck inside.  My sister misses her school and her friends.  My brother misses his friends.  His birthday is coming up this week, and it saddens me that he isn’t able to celebrate it with his friends like every 14-year-old should be able to.

Coronavirus took us out in a matter of weeks, and we never could have seen it coming.  It has devastated thousands of lives and continues to spread.  Society has become a ghost town.

So what now?  

Despite the countless negatives, I’ve begun to realize that there are many things to be grateful for.

My life is constantly hectic.  I find myself running from place to place, guzzling gallons of gas and barely sleeping.  Now I get to breathe.  I get to take these moments and step back. I’ve had a chance to look at my life and reorganize.  Rearrange.  Revitalize myself.    

Because of my constantly busy schedule, my family has rarely seen me in the past few months.  I’m grateful to be “stuck” at home with them.  We have no choice but to hang out together!  I’ve bonded with my siblings far more in this past week than I have in a long time.  We’ve broken out our old board games that we haven’t played in years.  I got back on to Minecraft and other video games.  We work out together, hike together, eat together, play together, and love each other.  I get to spend time with my dog who is always sleeping when I come home at the usual time of midnight.  I get to reconnect with friends over Skype and Zoom.  I get to play guitar, sing, work on fun new projects, listen to music, watch my favorite shows, do yoga routines at home, and hike in our beautiful mountains.

Things I never had time for I can suddenly do now.

Of course, I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns and feelings of hopelessness.  But my family always builds me back up.  

Though it may not be ideal, maybe this pandemic is something that we can learn from.  With a complete societal shut down, we are left to rely on those we love.  We are forced to slow down and just breathe.  We will no longer take things like social gatherings, restaurants, health, CityROCK, or anything else for granted.  You never know what you truly have until you lose it.

I am endlessly grateful for the roof over my head, the carpet beneath my feet, and the loving family around me.  There’s something so profoundly unifying about our current situation.  It’s not just a problem that a single state or country is dealing with.

It’s the ENTIRE world, and WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER.

Do not let discouragement, sadness, hopelessness, and frustration bring you down.  Instead, appreciate the small moments.  Be grateful for what you already have.  Maybe this virus is trying to teach us something—and it’s about time we learned from it.

Be motivated to take care of yourself.  Work out.  Eat well.  Develop a new skill or practice old ones.  Love your family and friends.  Be there for one another—six feet apart. 

Don’t lose hope.  It isn’t over.  We are fighting this together, and we WILL win. 

 

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