2 months ago, the idea of remote work, less social contact, and free pizza delivery resembled a dream come true. Today, it embodies the strange reality of living midst COVID-19, a truly unprecedented time. Media loves to overuse the word “unprecedented,” but I think this’s the time to use it. I’m only 23, but, from what I understand, this is the first “global economy shutdown + digital-quarantine” experience ever. Things are getting weird and becoming clear. First, we’re at a point where we can sustain our social identities solely through technology — which will presumably escalate our need to rely on it. Two, there’s a lot we don’t understand about the world still and that’s apparent thanks to the blatant disarray of the government at large. Three, there’s a silver-lining in realizing what the Coronavirus reveals about the people around us.
My initial reaction to quarantine…
… was something like “life’s over.”
Not in an overly dramatic way, but in a decently dramatic way. I did foresee some serious, unexpected lifestyle changes on the way, so there was some drama to it. Drama… I mean, the whole social distancing thing feels like theatre practice kinda. We’re all suddenly trying to be socially-distant-social-creatures and avoid everything commonplace in American society; it’s like we’re acting. For me, if you were to turn my pre-corona life inside out, it would look exactly like a household quarantine. Forget the gym. Forget rock climbing. Bump the coffee shops, hanging out with friends, and eating at the restaurants. This is a left turn — well, more like an illegal U-turn. Kids aren’t going to class, entertainers aren’t entertaining, people aren’t working. The fabric our collective being has been ripped out from under us, so yeah, life (as we know it) is over. That’s kinda what I thought at first.
First Week Quarantine March 2020
First week, I sort of just accept the severity of the disease and tried to reorient myself to being alive during a pandemic. This is the buzz word of 2020; which is hilariously close to the definition of pandemonium. Quarantine in America, relative to anywhere else in the world, is not difficult. If we’re being real, how bad is it to stay home all day? You wear sweats, eat Netflix, and itch your butt all day. Brutal. Most of the so-called “stress” I felt in the beginning was mild inconvenience mixed with selfishness. I kept recapitulating quarantine as a disruption to my routine rather than a government protocol to help stabilize the virus and stop real people from dying. The gushiness of my First World lifestyle came crashing down. Never mind my actual health being at risk or the already likely death of my elders. The biggest issue that came to mind: “Oh, I have to be lazy and wash my hands more.”
The First Month of Quarantine April 2020
Extended quarantine highlights what it means be socially and environmentally fluid. Now that so many privileges have been taken away like traveling, communal interactions, and basic recreational freedoms, it’s like we’re appreciating them for the first time. Personally, I didn’t even realize how much my mood, thinking, and behavior rests on being mobile and able to do stuff. Like it’s so engrained, so obvious, we don’t think twice about the freedoms we enjoy as a society. COVID puts that into perspective and exposes how lost we’d be without technology. Seriously. Part of me thinks that if they took away our phones, TV’s, laptops, and video games, we’d just roll over and die. Like we’re at a point where these things are so essential to how we operate, communicate, and entertain ourselves, it’s unimaginable to consider how we’d survive without them. As I write this April 2020, it seems we’ve fully adopted the quarantine lifestyle and accept it’ll last a very long time — which is alarming because the longer we think less about going out and resuming regular life, the more likely it’s going to permanently change perceptions of human interaction, work conditions, and technological reliance.
Excuse Me While I Question Everything
Right around the same time Coronavirus burst onto the scene, the birds in my neighborhood started acting really weird. They began singing beautiful, intricate melodies late at night right behind the house. At midnight. On the dot. Growing up, I remember birds being known as early, so I don’t know why they’re turning on like robots at 11:59 PM. Basically the pinnacle of “alright, we’re all gonna die.”
I’m already prone to conspiracy theories. But now society is literally shutdown and the government’s controlling population, collecting data, and creating unheard of regulations because novel virus destroys modernized society simultaneously healing the planet. Sorry, but I’m skeptical? It’s so far-fetched, so paradoxical, it actually accentuates how bizarre it is this is just “happening.” Like I had to step over caution tape to throw a frisbee in the woods. Guy on a golf cart told me to leave. Why. Walmart employees are instructing me on how to stand and where to buy groceries.
The really messed up part is the news—the neeeeeews, something about it makes everything feel so sprawling and dark and out of control. It’s like we understand so little about the actual virus, but know exactly how to use the media to speculate, spectate, and separate us on what might be happening. One day, they say it’s flesh-eating killing people every 2 seconds, the next they say we’ve blown this whole out of proportion. Then you consider its origin. Was it man-made? Why did government respond so poorly? Was it on purpose? What if they take away the Internet? OR. What if the “vaccine” they create is actually a scientifically proven method to lower IQ, erase memory, and disrupt perceptions of reality permanently ruining the idea of truth? These are questions… More realistically, what if this is a permanent change in global perspective forever? This could easily happen. Which is crazy… but people know this, right?
The Unforeseen Good of The Coronavirus
The cool thing is there’s some good in all this. In the midst of chaos, that’s when order is bound to emerge. As we’re witnessing the fragility of human life and understanding our capacity for suffering, it puts meaning into perspective, shows us the limits of isolation, and gives unique insights to our collective character as a people in spite of massive change and hardship.
Initially for me, I didn’t perceive COVID-19 as something that was happening to me, specifically. Like I didn’t think I’d feel the effects of it. Even when it started to change everything, I was honestly kind of relishing in the idea of having so much time to myself. But then it started to weigh on me in ways I didn’t expect. I started to feel small staying inside my room alone all day. I began to realize I only like being by myself when there’s a healthy balance of time spent working, communicating, and playing with other people. I started to think:
“Wow, almost everything I do and focus on doesn’t matter in the face of tragedy; there’s so much I rely on outside myself for meaning and self-worth.”
I’m not this super motivated fitness person when you take away the gym. I’m not a real disciplined guy when you remove all forms of routine and structure. I don’t creatively push myself as hard when things feel stagnant. As I’m coming face-to-face with how weak I am when left alone to my devices (literally), I see how much I need God’s mercy — I see how much I depend on the love, efforts, and companionship of other people, and even though we’re spending more time away, I feel a greater sense of love among us.
Something about “pandemonium” reveals how together we are. We have one mission in this life and it’s to live and love other people. But we complicate it and we have to complicate it because we’re built to persevere. Some might laugh at the things I’m expressing, but I believe in God and I know he’ll use this. Because what else am I to believe? That all this is happening for no reason? That it’s a conspiracy? No. This is the first time the entire planet is at war with one common enemy… and the fact we’re adapting and coming together, rather than completely falling apart, says something about humanity.