Featured Brain Image For Jonathan's Story.

The Coronavirus Pandemic: Jonathan’s Adaptation to Change

The Pandemic: Jonathan’s Story:

About the Author:

Image of Jonathan Spaan Smiling.

Jonathan went to Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York where he was a Biology major and member of the Division I Lacrosse Team. He just completed his master’s degree in Medical Sciences from Boston University School of Medicine and he is currently working at Boston Children’s Hospital conducting research in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center.

Life Before the Pandemic:

Q: Describe your everyday life before the pandemic hit. Include aspects of your life such as work, school, extracurricular activities you did, and other social aspects of your life. 

Before the pandemic hit, I was living in Boston, Massachusetts finishing up my last semester for my master’s degree at Boston University School of Medicine and conducting research in the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. With the remainder of my time, I enjoyed working out and playing in different intramural sports leagues, as well as hanging out with my friends and taking advantage of the different activities that a city like Boston has to offer.

Reacting to Change & COVID-19:

Q: Describe how you initially reacted to COVID-19 and the social distancing.

A: Like many others, there was definitely some shock in my initial reaction. Packing my bags so abruptly to move home and seeing the daily aspects of my lift change so fast was a surprise and took some time to adjust to.

Life Changes & Adaptations:

Q: In what ways did your life and schedule change as a result of the coronavirus? 

A: My schedule changed drastically as a result of the pandemic. I moved out of my apartment in Boston to live at home in Rochester, New York with my family. I went from taking classes and performing research in person, to doing everything online. The transition definitely took some time to get used to. Additionally, I had secured a scribing position at Boston Children’s Hospital that had been set to start in the spring but was postponed as a result of the pandemic.

Q: What have you had to do in order to adapt to these circumstances?

A: During trying times like these, it is important to be there for one another. It was difficult seeing how the pandemic impacted my siblings. I have a younger brother and sister who were both in their final semesters as college seniors and in the middle of their final college lacrosse seasons as well. Having their college careers as both students and athletes come to an abrupt end due to something that was out of their control definitely took a toll on them mentally, and it was important for me, as their older brother, to be there as a support system. Further, I was also worried for my 95-year-old grandmother. She was at-risk and living alone. While at home in Rochester, I devoted much of my time looking after her groceries, housecleaning, and general well-being, taking her for drives around town to keep her busy.

On a personal level, since my scribing position had been postponed, I had to find new ways to get involved. Luckily, this is where I found Different Brains Inc. I came in contact with Dr. Reitman through my time at Boston University, and was inspired by the work he had done with Different Brains. For the past months, I have been interning with this organization, and advocating for the increased awareness of neurodiversity. It has been an amazing experience and I am extremely thankful for the opportunity.

Coping With Change:

Q: What coping mechanisms are you using in order to deal with these strange times?

A: Dealing with so much disappointment over these past few months has made me all the more grateful for what I have to look forward to. I have found it really important to try and remain optimistic and recognize the silver linings during these times. I have cherished the time I have been able to spend at home with family, as it is the longest amount of time I have lived at home since graduating high school.

In terms of coping with these strange times, throughout the pandemic I have tried to stick to as much of a schedule as I can. This includes waking up early and getting showered and dressed for the day. In addition, I have had to find creative ways to work out and stay busy. This includes taking social distanced walks outside with family members to stay active and get some fresh air. Trying to incorporate as much structure as possible into my day-to-day activities has really helped me cope with everything that has been going on around me.

Life Lessons & Advice:

Q: What have you learned about yourself and the world around you from these circumstances?

A: Reflecting on the pandemic I have learned a lot about myself and the world around me. On a personal level, the pandemic has allowed me to take step back and be thankful for what I have. While working at Boston Children’s Hospital has opened my eyes to the challenges that providers are facing in this time of crisis. It has furthered my resolve to get creative and do what I can as an employee at the hospital and as a member of my community. Since moving back to Boston, I help hand out meals to Boston residents affected by COVID-19. With everything that is going on at present, it is still important not to forget those who run the risk of being marginalized even at the best of times. I am regularly reminded of this with my work with Different Brains as well. Looking to continue our support of neurodiversity in this time of need, we are conducting a study examining the effects of COVID-19 on children with combined type ADHD in the hopes of raising greater community awareness. COVID-19 will continue to affect our lives long after a vaccine is created, and we all must do our part in the months and even years to come.

Q: What advice would you give to someone like yourself that’s currently dealing with similar circumstances? 

A: This is an extremely difficult time for everyone. As I alluded to earlier, I would tell someone that is dealing with similar circumstances to try to incorporate as much structure into their day to day lives as possible. It is important to get creative to find new hobbies and activities to participate in while staying safe and socially distanced. It’s also important to reach out to others if you are struggling; and in the same breath, to be the support system for others that may be struggling. These are unprecedented times, but by working together and being there for each other we can continue to move forward.

Story by: Jonathan

Interviewed by Julia Futo on December 16th, 2020

Author Image

Julia Futo was born on August 5th, 1999, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She faced difficulties early on in life with trying to perform everyday tasks. Before she was five years old, she was diagnosed with two learning disabilities: Encephalopathy and developmental coordination disorder (DCD). She struggled in school for a long time, but that changed when she took journalism in high school and learned how to become an advocate. She is currently in college and hopes to help others find their voices.