I had a whole other piece ready to post today, but it just didn’t feel right. As much as we can try to get on with normal life, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to ignore the dystopian novel like reality around us. All it needs is a quirky teenage protagonist (Greta Thunberg, maybe?) who somehow, through immense sacrifice and incredible acts of bravery, finds a way to outwit the generation destroying alien virus making its way across Planet Earth. There we have it, the next bestseller. I joke because humor is a coping mechanism I am trying to hold on to while my mind goes into overdrive imagining catastrophic scenarios, each worse than the last. It wouldn’t be right for me to post about anything else right now because all my musings this week has been about one thing and one thing only. And I am determined to keep this space an honest and real representation of my mind, even if it means adding yet another coronavirus themed piece to your reading list.
A pandemic doesn’t sound like something that should be happening in the twenty-first century. My global health major cousin, A, would roll her eyes at this and tell me exactly why the dense population and the level of globalization that we have now is actually conducive for the makings of a pandemic. Regardless of either of our opinions, however, it is very much here, at our doorstep, determined to enter through a crack in the wall even if keep all the doors and windows locked. For someone who is anxious 78% of the time (a very statistically accurate figure, I assure you), like me, it has become an all-consuming concern – my brain is currently devoting a whole 30% of its capacity (another carefully researched accurate figure) to only holding coronavirus related information. I wake up and instead of my usual morning ritual of meditation and yoga (read: scrolling through social media and then doing some stretches to get relief from the backache I have at the age of twenty-four after too many hours hunching over a phone), I check The Guardian’s live coronavirus blog which updates every few minutes around the clock. While I do this, I also mentally prepare for the first phone call of the day from my mother. Ever since Covid-19 entered the UK, my mom has been calling me twice a day like clockwork, once right after I wake up and again right after I get home from work. The conversations are mostly the same – her asking me to go back to Dhaka for a bit so that I am not alone during these scary times and me explaining that I’d much rather be alone than potentially carry the virus back to Dhaka with me and infect them and others there. Still, it should be noted that I never outright say no when she makes these suggestions. No part of me really wants to be here by myself now. I’m worried that if I had to self-isolate or even just work from home for a few weeks, the increasingly frequent conversations I’ve been having with my microwave, dishwasher, and other appliances in the last couple flatmate-less months might turn into an actual matter of concern. I feel the panic rising in me every time I consider the possibility of an Internet blackout (I know, not likely) and not being able to reach anyone in my life (I often forget that cell phones actually still let us contact people without Internet). But I am trying to be sensible. I think right now a lot of us living far away from our families are experiencing this feeling of helplessness – we want to be with our families because we are worried about them, but also, we know that traveling across the globe to them is not a smart move right now. So, we tell ourselves to be grateful for all the high-tech mediums keeping us connected and keep doing the things we have to, accepting that the uneasy feeling isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
Thankfully, it seems like a quarantine will not mean total isolation for me. My friend, U, will move in with me for the next month and half, or however long until the crisis dies down. She’s doing this to protect her elderly, sick father (whom she currently lives with) from the possibility of contracting the virus via her. Because the young and healthy, we are all still expected to go to work, at least here in the UK. Even if we didn’t, most of us would probably still have to leave the house to get essentials. And while that’s fine for us, there is a portion of our society truly vulnerable and at risk of not surviving this pandemic. It sounds incredulous and sad that someone might have to physically distance themselves from their family for an extended period for this, but it is the smartest and most practical precaution they can take when the latter is part of the at-risk population.
So when people flippantly talk of buying cheap flight tickets to “make the most out of this situation” because the worst that can happen is you get a fever for a few days, know that no, that is not actually the worst that can happen. Your actions might have very serious repercussions – on someone else. Because this virus (unlike the other nice viruses) doesn’t care if you really didn’t intend to pass it onto others and it won’t know to only latch onto people living the #yolo life. Even if you mean it as a joke and have no intention of actually going on a quick holiday, your words might add to the pile of worries someone is already struggling with. I may be a young millennial snowflake but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that these are times which need extra empathy and kindness from all of us. Share your freaking hand sanitizer because it really doesn’t help if you’re the only one with clean hands around you. Trust that you don’t need to clear out your local grocery store and stockpile canned goods and toilet paper for the next six months because your community will help you access essentials if you really can’t leave the house for that long (unlikely). Crisis has a way of exposing both the worst and the best in a society. And this is a teamwork challenge for us all – we only win through coordination and collaboration.
And with that, I conclude today’s musings. You are all welcome for all the highly accurate statistics and scientific information provided above. See you next week and till then, stay safe.
*Some handy resources with actual data:
The Gaurdian’s live coronavirus blog – the url updates daily so I can’t add it here but just Google it.