When the World Got Sick
The world is a very busy place. We all have things to do, see, eat, people to meet with, business to be had, things to accomplish. But all of a sudden, and with little warning it's as if the whole entire world took a pause. Corona virus didn't care about your wedding in May, your itinerary in Europe, your job at a restaurant, your semester abroad, your senior prom.
We are all planners: what to do next, where to go, what to eat. But right now that plan feels like it's hovering in the balance, unsure of what's coming next. I feel a little like we all fell down the rabbit hole and wound up in the Alice in Wonderland novel:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” —Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
It's so strange to be sequestered into one place, yet feel so unmoored by the situation at hand. What is next? When will this all really end?
We might have some loose dates but we don't have a cure or an idea of what life will truly look like after this.
I think I've realized, even with my past three years of my life traveling all the time and moving continents, that humans need structure and routine. We like to know what's coming next. We need to plan for our future to feel safe and sane.
Seven months ago I moved from Germany back to my home in Dallas. And I looked forward to the spring Texas weather: mild and breezy, the perfect temperature to sit outside with friends on a patio drinking a frozen margarita as country music plays in the background. We planned to start traveling America, buying an RV, and hitting the road to see the sights.
While I’m sad and stressed that I can’t travel, something that is not only familiar to me but part of my job, I also know that we live in an incredible time where I can simply Google a place and see photos, videos, and read about its past.
I kept telling myself over and over: it's not that bad. This surely has to be over soon. But when I did venture out into the world and go into the store, that's when the reality crashes down. Everything feels different.
I prepare myself in the car like I'm going in for a robbery: first putting on a mask then donning the rubber gloves. At first I laugh, flipping down the mirror to see how I look. But as I walk the aisles, careful not to come within six feet of anyone, there's an eerie feeling. “Am I staying far enough away?” “Whatever you do… don't sneeze. Hold it in!” “Okay… still no toilet paper.”
It's hard to not feel anxious when you do venture out into the world. The normal sound of traffic whizzing by is no more. The stop and go traffic on 635 isn't there.
I often think about how this isn't that bad. We aren't reliving World War II, we aren't in the 1930s Dust Bowl and wearing masks to prevent suffocating from mud in our lungs. But, at the same time, this is a hard period. And maybe it's not the same as these other tragic events, but in their own right, this time is hard for us. Our sense of normalcy is gone. And there's not a simple cure to fix that feeling or to make us feel safe.
We've come to realize that things can shift dramatically in the blink of an eye.
I am personally trying to take a step back and realize the small things I take for granted. Life doesn't always need to be epic, I should luxuriate in the ordinary and appreciate the small details around me. I often spend time complaining about running errands, and now, that's something I miss. Now, going to the grocery store fills me with dread and I worry about the potential of putting myself and others at risk simply by picking up milk or squeezing an avocado.
I am extremely nostalgic, and this time period has made me even more so. But now, I’m feeling nostalgic for things I didn’t realize I missed.
I took for granted the girl’s nights where I’d stay out too late laughing with my friends, with a slight hangover the next morning. But mostly I miss feeling secure in that my family and friends are okay. I worry about their jobs or businesses. And even more, their well being.
I know that I’ll take away from all of this: time is fleeting so you do have to take calculated risks.
Michael and I keep telling each other: can you believe we were doing “insert travel” last year? I haven’t appreciated some of the freedoms I’ve enjoyed in the past. The things that once seemed ordinary are things I haven’t given enough weight to or been grateful for.
The one good thing about Covid-19 is that we are all in this together. It doesn't matter your race, socioeconomic status, religion, or political ideology. We were all busy living our lives, sticking to our routine, so intent on the next thing on our to do list, we didn’t have time to look around. Right now, we do.
So while this time is incredibly challenging and scary, I think it also forces us to stop, get out of our routine and start caring about the world around us and the people in it. What happens if the world stops? Well, this is what it kind of looks like. And it’s never happened before.
For me, I want to write this down. The way that I pay attention and digest is to put it on paper, or on screen.
One thing I know for certain: the world HAS changed. And that’s okay. And maybe my idea of what was normal: shaking someone’s hand when I meet them, will be no more. Which is weird. And yes, that makes me feel uncomfortable. But we have to set out new definitions. Not in just the way we interact with each other. I’m not sure exactly how this virus has changed me. But I can look back on the things that I’ve done in my life, pause, reflect, and see how I want to move forward now.
This is a rare opportunity in our life to stop being busy and choose where we want to go. No matter what path we take, we end up somewhere. Right now we have a choice.