This period of time is such a remarkable time. It’s a time of uncertainty, marked with a lot of questions: When will I be able to work again? When will I have a continuous paycheck again? When will I be able to go out and hang out with my friends again? When will I be able to find toilet paper at the grocery store again? When will I be able to…?
And there’s that phrase: When will I be able to?
(You can’t really tell, because it’s just a one-letter word that’s typically capitalized for grammatical purposes, but the “I” was capitalized for emphasis here.)
At the beginning of this isolation and the world “shutting down” around us, I’ll admit that I was selfish. I was focused on myself and what this meant for me. At where my income would come from, at the plans it canceled, at the people it suddenly cut me off from, at the fact that I had to call ahead to grocery stores (which is ridiculous no matter what, but that’s a discussion for another time).
I’m incredibly fortunate to work for a company that is supportive of it’s employees, even part-time ones, and I have my own freelance work to stand on. So maybe what I have to say won’t necessarily ring true for everyone, because I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have an employer offer any type of compensation during this period of ambiguity.
Now with that being said, I was still swarmed with uncertainty and questions. I didn’t – and still don’t – have any kind of answers from my job past the next two weeks. Overall, I was upset that my life was being disrupted because I didn’t think this was a big deal for ME. The numbers didn’t add up for ME.
Because as a relatively healthy 23-year-old, living in America, COVID-19 seemed to mean nothing to me. If I was infected, it would ~probably~ be nothing more than if I had gotten the flu. Not ideal, but not world-shattering, and as someone who spent way too much time at a fraternity house in college, I was already probably exposed to worse germs.
But as I reflected after the first day this new reality hit me, Sunday the 15th of March, I shifted my perspective. I realized that I was housing SUCH a selfish perspective. As I researched COVID-19 in further detail, I realized it was SUCH a SELFISH perspective. I social distance myself and change my normal patterns because as a healthy 23-year-old, I’m a prime carrier to infect those who fall into the risk factors.
I social distance myself to flatten the curve. I social distance myself now and “inconvenience” myself now so that it won’t be so bad later. And the numbers? Well, they just don’t seem so scary just glancing at them because we’re barely testing individuals for COVID-19.
The more I reflect, the more I think about how there’s been very real suffering on our planet, and I think this experience is an awakening to our reality. Everything on this earth is so fragile, but through that, we all have such incredible potential to learn, heal and grow through this suffering.
Through this, I hope we remember how important connection is. How important it is to shift perspective to others and not to ourselves. How important our physical, spiritual, and mental health is. How your validity doesn’t come from your work, the number of people you hang out with in a week, what people see you doing on social media. It comes from simply being.
This may not be the best comparison, but I think of this cleansing for our mental and spiritual health as a comparison to what the social distancing has done for the environment in China and Italy: The levels of nitrogen dioxide reduced so drastically that they can actually see stars in the night sky in China and the canals in Italy are the cleanest they’ve ever been.
So don’t think social distancing is silly or an inconvenience; instead, use it as a time to reset. To reconnect with yourself (and even others) in ways you didn’t think you could. To knock things off your to-do list that you kept putting off. To take up a new hobby, or revisit an old one that got lost to the chaos of your life. To maybe even sleep-in, if that’s something you haven’t done in a while.
Take it for what you need.