In times like these, my mind wants to have answers – a “take” on things – to provide some sense of certainty. Truth is, things are far from certain now and I don’t really know what to say. I found this tongue-in-cheek compilation of commonly used first line phrases from emails during this quarantine:
Amid the massive uncertainty of when things will return to “normal”- if they even will – one glimmer of hope that I’ve found reassuring is our interconnectedness.
The ramifications of being so closely intertwined are not all positive; in fact, they’re potentially deadly. We know that an unshielded sneeze has the power to infect someone six feet away. At a macro level, disrupted supply chains and global networks demonstrate how vulnerabilities in one part of the ecosystem can quickly spread, like cancer, to the whole. The big and small decisions we make have a ripple effect around the world.
But just as every tangled web of affairs creates collision, chaos, and confusion, so it also sews camaraderie. It’s been heartening to see all the creative ways people are organizing to help each other. Even if we do nothing more than stay at home, there is perhaps some sense of relief that we have more time to spend in the presence of loved ones, catch up on unfinished tasks – or simply, breathe.
On my end, I feel blessed to be back at home, safe and healthy, with my parents. After the campaign, I spent a few weeks in LA with the intention of looking for jobs out West. During this time, I learned that I was admitted to Princeton’s Masters in Public Affairs and Policy program – which I’m elated to start at in the Fall. Around the same time, COVID shelter-in-place orders began going into effect around the country. Amid the warning that interstates and state borders could potentially shut down, I drove cross-country to hunker down with my parents in Tennessee.
It’s now been a little over a month of quarantine life in the ‘burbs, which is blissfully (and sometimes aggravatingly) simple. Weekly outings to the grocery store are a highlight – masks, gloves, and all. I’m back to reading fiction and am even part of a virtual book club (a first for me!). I also finally submitted to a long-awaited Netflix binge. Thank the quarantine for reintroducing me to culture…
Of course, the greatest silver lining is having more time to reconnect with family and friends in novel ways. We hosted a virtual bachelorette for a dear friend whose bachelorette and wedding had to be postponed. My 5-year-old niece is currently with us in Tennessee, bringing three generations under one roof and injecting new energy around the house. We regularly Facetime my nephews in San Francisco, with my Mom teaching Chinese lessons and me leading a semi-serious yoga stretch routine. Call it summer camp in the age of corona. (I now empathize with WFH parents who are scrambling to keep their kids engaged – it’s not easy!)
I know that life on the other side of this won’t be so simple. With grad school on the horizon, I am in the privileged position of not needing to find a job in the immediate future. But I am still very apprehensive about what the future holds – both in the near term for me within higher education, and in the long run, for all of us, in an economy that is bound to experience drastic transformation. I have to stop myself from maniacally checking the news. Last week I removed social media from my phone for my own sanity. Whenever I start to feel a tinge of restless anxiety, I am reminded that I’ve got it easy compared to our frontline medical heroes who are literally towing the line between life and death.
As physical distancing continues for the foreseeable future, how we stay connected will become fundamental. Connection is a vital social lifeline, a light in the middle of this long tunnel. We may be ravaged by a microscopic virus, but the inimitable human spirit will beat this. I hope you have someone nearby to talk to, laugh with, and get through this with. I can’t wait until we gather again.
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