You may or may not have read my most recent post about being a traveler surrounded by coronavirus concerns and not being fearful. It’s OK if you didn’t; a lot of it is irrelevant now anyway.
I have been slightly complacent during this whole outbreak until the last few days–cautious while traveling yet still not letting it deter my trajectories too much. Lots of hand sanitizer on flights and whatnot. While I did listen to scientific warnings, I, like many, was fairly convinced that people were severely overreacting and completely letting fear derail them into chaos. While I still think people are derailing into chaos, I will be the first to admit that I was partially wrong.
No, you don’t need to buy enough toilet paper to last for a year. No, you don’t have to fill your back porch with potted garden plants because there soon won’t be any canned goods left. Believe it or not, no, you don’t actually have to share every single article, meme, joke, argument, press release, reaction video, or empty shelf photo that pops up on Facebook.
People have been overreacting in several ways; one of them is agreeing to completely sit this one out while doing nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, you need to buckle up and ride it out, but you also can’t sit on your couch for the next few months watching one tv series to the next, not exercising, not being in a normal routine, not creating, not having any interaction, or not allowing yourself to experience joys that we quite frankly need to live healthily. More on that in a moment.
But for as many people overreacting, there are as many underreacting. Despite schools, offices, restaurants, and in some cases, entire cities closing, people continue to congregate. Up until a few days ago, I thought that was OK too. But each day, it seems that we learn more and more. Each day a larger measure is taken. Each day, the virus spreads exponentially.
I’m still seeing college students post photos on their (now extended) spring break trips. I’m still seeing people leave for cheap vacations. I’m still seeing restaurants and bars full of people in areas where there are still open establishments. I’m still seeing people hosting parties and get-togethers with far more bodies than the CDC recommends.
It’s conceited and insensible for us to think that surely we can’t get this virus–that it can’t get as bad here as other places. It’s also ignorant for us to keep interacting normally just because we don’t have symptoms; the virus can take two weeks to develop symptoms. It’s also ethnocentric for us to think we can’t end up like Italy. We can. We will… if we underreact.
It doesn’t take much to combat this. We don’t have to brave trenches or fight soldiers. We literally have to chill out in our own houses.
I won’t sit here and write that social distancing is as easy as just couch-sitting though. I get it. People are undoubtedly losing their jobs. Families are being separated. Major events like weddings and graduations are being canceled. On smaller scales, it’s not very fun being cooped up. I’ve been self-quarantining alone for a few days now after arriving back from Ecuador, and I’m already going a little nuts. I’ve spent hours looking out my windows, I’ve annoyed everyone I know by sending them dumb videos, and I’ve deleted my Facebook app on my phone because I’m tired of seeing negativity, only to re-download it because I want to be informed.
But the basic principle that I discussed in my last post, although slightly different now, is still what I want you to do. Don’t. Stop. Living. No, we cannot roam freely while just being slightly cautious right now. We absolutely need to stay at home as much as possible and not gather in crowds. But we also don’t need to sit in misery, suspense, and most of all, fear, waiting for this to either devour us or pass altogether which–let’s be real–probably won’t happen very quickly.
It’s important to work out a routine so that you’re still getting work done and that your body/mind are still holding a sense of normalcy. But aside from your daily shower, food, work, and exercise needs, make this time fun, extraordinary even. Have hangout sessions with your friends via video chat. You can even do a virtual game night. If you want to do a movie night, there’s a new Chrome extension that allows people to watch Netflix together virtually while chatting. For local restaurants that are still doing delivery/curbside service, order food, pay without being near others, and TIP your restaurant workers who are definitely going to feel this time hit them economically. Take a walk in the park. Make a couch fort with your roommates. Bake something you normally wouldn’t have time to bake. Write that novel you’ve been wanting to write. Paint your shutters. Give your dog a silly haircut for a few days. Learn to knit. Practice stage-fighting. I don’t care, but… Don’t. Stop. Living.