Perspective in the age of the pandemic

Photo courtesy of E!News.

CLAIRE BARNETT | OPINION COLUMNIST | cgbarnet@butler.edu  

I’ll be frank — life in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic has not been all sunshine and rainbows for me. I find some solace in the thought that I am not alone in that sentiment, because I know for certain that I’m not. Bearing witness to the seemingly-endless stream of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and Instagram-live fitness classes infesting each of my social media feeds is getting to be increasingly disheartening with each passing day. Most days, I struggle with finding purpose for long enough to convince myself to brush my hair out once or twice.

My reason for writing this is not to discredit the coping mechanisms of the bullet-journaling yogis that I never knew I coexisted with before all of this. I understand that for some, eating pristinely cut meats off of charcuterie boards and sunbathing on your front porch is an ideal passage of the ever-continuous amount of time we have all been gifted with by our state governments.

Rather, I’d like to acknowledge those who are behaving a bit more hermit-like throughout this unprecedented period in history. We are pale. We are kind of sad. And we exist. It’s not every day that I’m able to get myself up and out of bed to be the pinnacle of productivity for eight hours of the day simply because I now have the time for it. We shouldn’t be made to feel as if that is necessary, or even normal. And that’s OK.

My current attitude consists of a sense of complex guilt and sadness — topped with a touch of nihilism — as the virus runs its course throughout our country. Together, we have watched the complete dismantling of our government in response to the disease and continue to watch the futile and unnecessary presidential press conferences that plague the television every weeknight. Even more so, however, we have all lost an inconceivable amount of opportunities and experiences that have been canceled or delayed indefinitely as a result of the coronavirus.

For me, guilt arises out of the fact that while I mourn the loss of a ballet competition in Australia that I was supposed to attend in July, others simultaneously mourn the loss of the real, human people as a result of the coronavirus’ influence. Honestly, it’s incredibly reminiscent of the meme in which Kim Kardashian sobs after losing one of her diamond earrings in the ocean in Bora Bora, and Kourtney is quick to remind her that “Kim, there’s people that are dying.”

While it is as important as ever to honor and respect all of the lives that have been lost as the pandemic ravages the globe, I also want to elaborate on my feeling that it’s just as natural to want to mourn the loss of all of the missed opportunities. Feeling guilt, among other general feelings of dread and apprehension, at a time like the present is rational, but it surely isn’t productive either. Deep down, it doesn’t quite fit within the normalcy of my moral code to be upset over the inevitable cancelation of my summer internship when it is for the greater good. But then I pose the question to myself: is anything normal right now?

The cancelation of study-abroad trips, the rescheduled concerts and sporting events, and the lost time with friends and family all begin to add up rather depressingly as the weeks of self-isolation slowly begin to turn into months. And while I do feel guilty for feeling like my losses have any validation in comparison to those of people who have been impacted by the coronavirus in more devastating ways, I also feel that to properly move on, we must allow ourselves the time to feel disappointment as a result of these events that were very much out of our control.

While it is hard to understand and cope with everything that has been going on within our country and our personal lives as the virus continues to run its course, I just want to take the time to give validation to however you may be feeling right now. No matter how you choose to cope or keep busy throughout this uncomfortable period of time, life will eventually resume. We will all emerge from this with not only a renewed sense of appreciation for all of the communities that we share in, but also for the most mundane of routines in our daily lives. Now more than ever, we are unified in our sense of loss, even as the premise of social distancing places us further from each other.

For now, however, I’m going to lay in bed and re-read the Harry Potter series for the third time between naps and Zoom University lectures. Because as much as I’d like to be the girl who color-codes her daily quarantine routine schedule and practices mindfulness every 30 minutes, I simply cannot be. And I’m OK with that. 

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