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Remembering We’re In This Together

Wow… where do I even begin?

As I write this, we’re in the heat of the Coronavirus pandemic, and it’s hit harder than I ever would have suspected. On a call with a coworker today (because my company has generously allowed us to work remotely for the time being), somebody equated it to this generation’s 9/11. I’d personally agree with that, if not believe it to be even more than that. Being a 30 year old now, I was 12 years old when 9/11 happened. I remember school letting out early that day, but that was more or less the direct impact 9/11 had on my life.

But this Coronavirus situation… this is something else. In addition to working from home these next two weeks, my home state of Illinois has shut down schools, forced large events to cancel, and now asked that all bars and restaurants close dine-in options. I’ve never seen anything quite like this in my time. Heck, I totally forgot today was St. Patrick’s Day in the midst of all this craziness.

This whole situation has me feeling very… off. I’m not necessarily afraid of contracting the virus nor being substantially harmed even if I do. I recognize the impact it can have on folks like the elderly, so I’m definitely playing my part by engaging in social distancing and the like. (Truth be told, I have some BAD cabin fever as a result.) Despite this, I feel displaced.

If I were to sum it up in a word, I’d say I feel hollow.

Hollow because the rug has been swept out from under our feet. Hollow because it’s hard to know what life is going to be like after this. No, I don’t mean I think this virus is going to do us in. I’m optimistic we’ll get through the virus itself, but much like 9/11, what ripple effects will there be? How will this change the face of business as we know it? What new measures will be fully cemented to hopefully prevent this from ever happening again? How will this change schools? Universities? Collocated office workers?

I imagine if you’re like me, you probably have some of the same questions in mine. Or you might have a stronger anxiety about the virus itself and how it could affect you. Or you might be worried about a loved one who might be more susceptible to the virus.

We in Western culture have a tendency to squash down these feelings and instead put on a strong face for others. And in a sense, there is some nobility to that. It can be great knowing there is a “rock” when these stormy seas get choppy. Parents staying strong for their children is a very loving act.

But sometimes, it can be really hard to wear that mask. It weighs on you, especially in these times when, truth be told, there’s not much you can do. After all, social distancing is a pretty passive move. Even as I type this post, I’m simultaneously practicing social distancing. But I’m not on the front lines helping create or distribute a vaccination. I’m just… sitting in this room behind a keyboard. (Being an introvert, I generally practice “social distancing” regardless of wild virus times, anyway.)

What’s very comforting to remember is this is one of the very few times in history when we all globally are experiencing the same thing at the same time. My cousins in Ecuador are under some of the same restrictions that we are in the United States. Don’t get me wrong — if I could push a magic button and make the virus disappear in a heartbeat, I’d do so in an instant. But that’s not the reality we have before us right now.

Instead, the reality we have is one where everybody is impacted on some level by this virus. And I hope you find that a comforting feeling. I don’t know why, but when I drive in my car, I often wonder if the person in the car next to me is having the best or worst day of their life. Great happiness and great suffering are generally solitary experiences. When my sister died in 2009, the rest of the world kept turning normally. By no means am I angry by that, but by and large, most people won’t be able to directly empathize with your situation at hand.

Not so with this case. Everybody — from the office worker in the big city to the restaurant owner in a small town — is feeling the ripple effects of this virus.

So if you’re feeling anxious or scared or nervous, remember that there’s probably somebody close to you that’s going through the same thing. Don’t be afraid to lean on each other for comfort. If you need to talk to somebody, know that you have a whole world full of people who can empathize with what you’re going through.

Know you are not alone, friend.

We’re all in this together.

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