You have my full permission to begin reading this by first stepping outside and screaming at the top of your lungs for a few seconds.
Welcome back. I have to be completely honest, and I don’t know if this makes me “that guy” for anybody, but ever since I was a kid I have always had a feeling deep in my spirit that I would be here on earth for the end of the world. Growing up in church whenever they talked about Jesus returning, I just kind of felt like I’m definitely going to be there when that happens. I imagine other people think about what retirement will look like or what dying will feel like. I have always had some kind of rapture while I’m still living.
I don’t bring up the end of the world because I think this pandemic is the end of the world. I bring it up because this is as close to the end of the world as I have ever felt. I’m young—I barely remember 9/11, I never experienced a situation like the draft or nuclear bomb drills. I imagine they felt kind of like this—unpredictable, chaotic, and confusing.
Full disclosure: I might be considered one of the pesky “spring breakers” who refused to give up her vacation as the pandemic unfolded. Yes I spent a week in Cancún right before the US started shutting down. I pray I am not carrying the disease and did not spread it to anyone down there or en route—yes, I took extra precautions to help that. But the night before I left as my friend’s parents begged me not to go, I thought you know, if the world is ending I wanna be on the beach.
By the time I returned to New York it was highly encouraged that I work from home, restaurants and bars were closing or going take-out only. Within a couple of days the gyms and everything else went too. I went to the grocery store and settled in to social distance.
Prior to my trip I was getting sick to my stomach and having trouble sleeping. The reports of what would become the current pandemic absolutely terrified me. The uncertainty of it all nauseated me. I have to shut my eyes and pretend I believe things are going to be normal again soon.
What surprised me is how quickly my body has adapted to the new normal. When I go outside and see flowers blooming, I have felt shock, like “Oh. It’s spring? And the world is still spinning out here?” Part of it comes with the homesickness. After a year of living in the city, I kind of forgot what nature sounds like—at least what it sounds like in the suburbs when you hear birds chirping and cicadas singing in the summer. I miss my family. They’re gonna read this and say “Why don’t you come home?” But it’s not safe.
We humans are pretty good at adapting. We kick and scream and gnash our teeth about it but those of us in these super-infected areas have introduced an entirely different way of life in a couple of weeks. It’s not perfect. In fact, it’s very broken, but companies like mine that could move remote barely missed a beat. That’s why it’s so strange to me when I go out it feels like a zombie or apocalyptic movie. Things look and appear normal—not necessarily devastated by a huge disaster—but then you see a sign that’s like “Always carry your zombie repellant” and you’re like oh right that exists in this universe. I walk around the block and things are normal. Then I see the closed TJ Maxx and people in masks and I remember oh right this is my reality.
When I visited Italy last October, my friend and I had trouble appreciating the magnificence of the Vatican because the crowds were so overwhelming. It felt like I visited the inside of other people’s mouths for 2 hours. Seeing the pictures of Italy’s deserted streets and the ones right here in New York make me long for that sea of bodies (okay never that many people in such a tiny space again). It is one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments but of course, no one would have wished for this.
I am blessed. I am eternally grateful that so far I have been relatively unaffected by this pandemic. My family is safe, I am safe, we have our jobs and our homes. We will probably get through this.
But wow this sucks.