Occasionally there is an event or change that alters human society forever. The World Wars, the development of the Internet, and so on. The current pandemic is one of those events. All over the world, people are suddenly confronted with a situation more surreal than any they've encountered. Here in the USA, many states are already on lockdown. Stores are running out of food and essentials, restaurants and theatres are closed, and people are confined to their homes. Fear, apprehension, and hope drift in the air, along with a very real virus.
I'm not attempting to sensationalize. While many continue to doubt the severity of this pandemic or the necessity of quarantines and social distancing to prevent a complete collapse of our healthcare systems, the very real ramifications of this event have already started.
In this scenario, I suppose I'm lucky. My wife and I both already work from home, and our kids are here. We have internet, we have electricity and food. I'm young and healthy. And yet, I'm just as concerned as the rest of the world. Today I checked my calendar. I had a scheduled virtual visit and had forgotten the time. While looking I noticed something else, Monday was supposed to be my son's day to "lead the class" at his preschool. With no warning, I broke down. Tears welled in my eyes and I felt such overwhelming sorrow I couldn't move.
In some ways it was foolish. Even on the personal level, I've lost more. We've a scheduled trip to DisneyWorld, a massive surprise birthday party for my 40th (Disney emailed and ruined the surprise) and my daughter's first birthday. I'm doubtful that's on. And of course, with him home, I'm attempting to homeschool, losing time to write or cook or take care of the house, and so on. I've a cousin who's already run out of toilet paper. A close friend who cancelled her wedding. And a host of theatre friends suddenly out of work. Since my children were born, I've felt a duty to give them the best life possible, and now just worry about keeping them safe. And don't get me started with the real fear of our funds in the market. Yet, that simple fact, my son was going to miss being the "class leader" sent me spiraling. This wasn't fair. Not to him, not to any of the kids. Students who will miss half a year of school, or their graduations. And what of special needs kids? Or anyone who NEEDs socialization? My son's very social, and thrives with play time. How will he cope long-term without?
No, this won't end tomorrow. No, this won't be easy. After a single week of social distancing, I'm ready to move on. And the doubt about the future is real. Many models such as this one in the Washington Post forecast the event could last a year or more. A year of social distancing, closures, small biz collapsing, arts and nonprofits failing, and entire industries such as entertainment, cruises, and so on coming to a halt. And if you're reading this, at least you too have internet and electricity. Not everyone does.
Hopefully, the virus is under control earlier. I've already started a new novel set during this historic and unfortunate circumstance. Perhaps the most important thing in all of this is HOPE. It's still there. As mentioned, it floats in the wind. It's sometimes muffled behind fear or doubt. Not knowing how this'll play out is hard. Will we be isolated a week or a year? And what will the world look like after this?
There's a certain REM song that comes to mind. The lyrics are critical. It's not just the "end of the world" - no, it is in fact "the end of the world as we knew it." In this case, that might be true.
At this point, we just have to wait and see. Stay safe, and stay sane.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.