Illustration by Connor Lawless
I feel you. I, too, am sitting on my couch, impulsively checking my email, Twitter, Facebook and the CDC’s coronavirus map. I have been doing so for the past week. I, too, am separated from the people I love and care about and have no date in mind for when I will be able see them again. I am fortunate to have toilet paper and pasta on my shelves, but like you, I wonder if there is a time when I will run out and be unable to leave my home to buy more.
I, too, am scared.
This is the very first time, in my lifetime at least, in which America is suffering a crisis without an end in sight. We have conquered hurricanes and tornadoes and fleeting financial crises. This coronavirus could linger with us until June, July or August with chances of returning with colder weather and unlike other disasters facing America, this one impacts every single person. Every American is being told to change their way of life — stay inside, avoid contact with others, work and learn from home, stop going to church and start praying from home.
At first, I felt petty for complaining. At least I’m not sick or hospitalized or dying. And yes, these are blessings. But, we are still allowed to complain. We’re college students with hard-earned internships and positions on campus cut short. We’re forced to learn in an online format which for some, just means more work and less learning. We’re social creatures told to practice social distancing. The places we go to cope with stress in times like these are closed. So, take a few moments to complain. Let it out. This sucks. While some have it worse, we ALL have it pretty bad right now. It’s OK to be frustrated, sad and scared. But once you’ve let out your tirade, stop and reconsider your situation.
The first thing to consider is that the worst kind of sadness and frustration is the lonely kind — when it feels like it’s just you suffering alone. In the case of this virus, it is you and literally everyone else. Take comfort in knowing that while physically you may be alone, in reality, you are suffering with the entire country.
Secondly, there is something you can do to help — nothing. Doing nothing — staying inside your home and hunkering down is actually helping the situation. Never before has sitting on the couch helped to fight such a global problem. Never before has laziness been so empowering. Embrace it because when this is all over, doing nothing is going to return to what it always was — a sign of laziness, and not disease prevention.
Third, think about the end — the light at the end of this germ-infested tunnel. Think about that first hug with someone you haven’t seen in months. Imagine going out to eat with your friends and family. Dream about getting your eyebrows waxed after months of jungle-like growth on the bridge of your nose. Fantasize about shaking hands, going to the gym, leaving the grocery store with only one package of toilet paper and feeling secure that you’ll be able to return for more as soon as you need it. Consider a day when you’ll wake up excited that you actually get to go to class instead of signing into Zoom or a virtual classroom. The things we took for granted and the things we complained about suddenly won’t seem worth a complaint.
Personally, this virus put a lot in perspective for me. I realized how powerless humans really are when faced with an enemy like this. I realized America is no better suited to tackle a pandemic than any other country previously inundated with disease. I realized that there is a lot I took for granted. No one is invincible.
So, complain. Whine. Sob, even. But then, sit back and think. This is history and the best thing you can do is watch it from your couch.