The media is saturated with COVID-19 news, panic, and commentary. People keep circling back to the idea that this time is unprecedented. The things we’re producing now–memes and all–will be primary documents in the future when people look back to try to understand this time.
While I’m still grappling with what it means to be a part of this moment in history, I already know there are some things I don’t want to forget. When events become history, we tend to collectively remember in broad strokes. This is a collection of little things.
Things we left behind
When we left campus for spring break, we didn’t know we weren’t coming back. I left early (skipping 3 classes), and I didn’t do the best job saying goodbye.
I don’t know what’s happening to my stuff. It’s all locked in my room in Connecticut. When campus started shutting down, some friends of mine rescued my plants from my common room, but everything else is stuck until we hear otherwise.
Yale put out a request form so we could ask hired movers to enter our rooms and ship us “essential items” such as study materials unavailable online, laptops, or travel documentation. They keep saying that they’ll be in touch “soon” about our other items. No luck yet.
Groceries in the era of social distancing
In high school, I went to Walmart when I was stressed. I knew the layout of the Walmart closest to my house so well that my friends would call me to ask what aisle something was in and I could tell them.
Something about the perfectly lined shelves of cleaning products and snacks was oddly therapeutic. This makes the empty shelves oddly unsettling.
Last Friday, I went to Walmart on a grocery run, and it was so surreal. Everyone’s cart was full, but all the shelves were empty. In the future, I’m sure people will remember how we rushed to the grocery stores to fight over toilet paper, milk, and hand sanitizer. I wonder if they’ll remember that we knew (and were told) that this is unnecessary.
This time has brought out the best in people and the worst in people.
This week, I’ve seen people try to sell a $12 pack of toilet paper for $100, but I’ve also seen others sit in their cars to give toilet paper to those who might need it most.
That juxtaposition extends to many areas of life right now. We are more physically apart than ever, but for once, we are collectively praying for a miracle. While there are a diversity of experiences which divide us, many of us are at home discovering new ways to connect while social distancing…together.
Our museums are closed, our performances cancelled, and we can’t go to the movies. But for the first time in a long time, we’re trading book recommendations. Some of us are doing art (virtually) together.
Our churches can’t meet in buildings anymore, but some churches are welcoming more people than ever tuning in from home.
To some of us, this time is full of anxiety and we’re busier than ever. To others of us, this is a season of unprecedented free time. There isn’t one corona virus experience, but somehow, we’re all in it together.
Spring is here
Yesterday, I went on a hike with my parents. I watched as strangers took photos for each other from more than six feet away and then added each other to share them.
Over the last week, I’ve spent so much time inside my house, I almost forgot that the world outside is still changing around us, even if we’re not there to see it.
There are things I wish I could put in here. The odd solidarity I feel with people who are also staying home, the disorientation of seeing familiar places empty, and the uncertainty that the future never preserves.
We don’t know how this will turn out. We don’t even know how long this will be. I guess this forces us to just take it one day at a time.