I’ve been dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic in many ways, some better than others. Here’s how I’ve been holding up in four different ways – Physically, Mentally, Socially, and Societally.
There’s no easy way to sugar-coat it, I’m pretty sure I got the virus. Last Thursday, March 19th, I started to recognize that I was breathing, like I had to manually make sure that I was getting oxygen, which is not ideal. Over the course of Friday and into Saturday it got tougher, and it went from “oh, maybe this is all anxiety-induced, maybe it’s all in my head” to “oh maybe this is real”. I dealt with headaches and seemingly random spots of fatigue throughout Friday and Saturday, peaking eventually about Saturday night and Sunday morning with limited coughing and relatively intense feelings of air hunger and shortness of breath.
I can see how young people might not recognize this as a sickness, because my symptoms have been really quite mild. I could imagine that, in a different circumstance, I probably would’ve felt fine enough to go to work, or just go out in public in general, if I hadn’t recognized what I was going through for what it (probably) was. This is part of the reason why it’s so important to take the impetus for social distancing seriously.
I’m feeling mostly better now, but the most frustrating thing about all of this is that I will not know for sure and will probably never know for sure whether what I’ve suffered from is actually COVID or if it’s something else entirely. I couldn’t get tested for it, as I don’t know if I came into contact with anyone specifically carrying the disease, and the hospital in my insurance network wasn’t accepting patients with body temperatures under 100 degrees for testing. I am sure that there are many more people in my situation who don’t have the luxury of doing a job that they can do from home, who might have had the same symptoms as me, who also couldn’t get a test, and who had to go to work to pay rent.
I can see how it could spread on an individual level, and a lot of that is on the American healthcare system’s poor preparation for this epidemic. Perhaps if testing was available on the level that it has been in Taiwan and the Korean Republic, more people would be able to recognize symptoms and self-isolate, and the spread wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it’s projected to become in the US over the next few weeks. I am lucky to have been able to recognize it early on, and I am also lucky to have had the opportunity to work and live through it without harm.
I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment. While this is nice most of the time, I do feel lonely, and not having available the methods that I used to have to assuage the loneliness (Cafes are closed, campus is closed, I can’t go to work, et cetera) has been a bit of a strain.
I think I’ve gone through a metamorphosis psychologically in the past few years. I’m really not a fan of the whole introvert/extrovert dynamic in general, because it diminishes the complexity of one’s interactions with other people into something a little bit too simplistic. But I considered myself an introvert throughout high school and much of early college. That started to change at some point (I really think it was after the romantic relationship I had with my high school girlfriend fell apart at the end of Summer 2015 and I recognized that I had a support network of close friends). I appreciate interactions with other people, I’m not the guy from high school and college who wanted to spend most of my time in solitude anymore. Unfortunately I think the isolation has forced me to consider that.
I spend a lot of time now thinking about the present and the future in very different senses. I was in a strange situation earlier this year because I felt, for maybe the first time in my life, like I actually had some control over where my specific future lay. I was looking at job listings and recognizing myself as a qualified potential candidate for them, I was thinking, y’know, maybe a real future where I’m fulfilled and happy is possible. But this has really thrown a wrench into that whole idea, because I’m up close with the concept that, no, actually, I do not have any sense of what’s going to happen in the future anymore. How long will this isolation last? Will there be an economic recession afterwards? It’s a hell of a time to be finishing up a degree.
For now, I’ve had to put nearly all of that on the backburner, diminished to some distant point in my mind that doesn’t get considered. I feel like having any sense of a plan past a few weeks from now is almost irresponsible, I don’t really hope for anything anymore because getting my hopes up for anything in specific I know is likely going to be met with pain in the coming few weeks.
But luckily, this change in mindset has affected the way that I view the present in a positive sense. In separating the present from the future, everything that I need to manage now seems much more manageable. My priorities in my tutoring work, my priorities in teaching, and my priorities in writing my thesis are all right in front of me and I at least know that I have the propensity to do what is necessary on those fronts in the short term.
Since about August, I had thoght of basically every decision that I made in terms of my education and my work under the concept of the future. Many of my decisions – deciding to teach classes, deciding to send in conference papers and presentation proposals, attending conferences – they were in the service of a future career, I was building skills up for potentially being able to work and make a living after graduate school. Now, that future’s not really in the balance. I realize now that that was an unwittingly self-serving way to view things. While I’m sure, for instance, that learning techniques to teach classes online will prove helpful in the future, I’m not thinking about it in some sense of applying for jobs this summer, I’m thinking about it in terms of teaching this class as well as I can for the period of time I’m teaching it.
I’ve found myself thinking more intrinsically since isolation, and it’s actually making me feel happier and more secure in my accomplishments. That is a good thing for my mental health. Going forward, I want to make sure that I carry that lesson through past the isolation and into whatever world we have in the future.
The practice of socially distancing has affected everyone differently, and at different intervals and intensities. But it’s affected everybody. And that’s going to have a dramatic change in the way that people view each other going forward. I personally have found myself collapsing into a heap of emotional yearning several times throughout this. Goodness, I just miss other people. I miss strangers, I miss the little interactions, the eye contact made, the recognition that there are other people out there and that they’re going through shit just as much as I am. I miss face-to-face tutoring so badly. The feeling when I as a tutor and a writer connect on something, be it personal or emotional, and just the feeling that I get seeing a writer gaining in confidence and agency during a session is so palpable and I miss that so badly. I miss walking through the halls at SDSU, I miss the random incidents of running into people I know, I miss small talk in elevators, everything from the mountains to the pavement, I miss it so badly and I know that I can’t be the only one missing it.
There will be an end to this. I know that there will. I know that there will come a time when I will be able to walk through a crowded street again, and come across friends out of the blue. I just, my goodness, I never want to take that for granted again.
Over the past few days I’ve been texting people just to check in with them and let them know that I care about them and I’m thinking about them, and I know and appreciate others who are doing this as well. I received a message via Steam the other day from someone on my Steam Friends list. I hadn’t spoken to this person since high school, but via this text chat we were able to learn about each other, where we both were in life and how things are going for both of us.There was a mutual solidarity between the two of us despite being states apart and years apart in time. It was a special experience, and one that I want to extend out further.
This will sound cliche, but I care about you, whoever you are, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve spoken last, and I’m going to be reaching out to more and more people in the coming days and weeks. If you need to ignore me, I understand completely, but if you want to reconnect, to just talk, to just know that somebody’s out there who remembers you and values you, I would like to as well.
Yeah so everything’s different now. I feel like I’ve seen cracks in the foundation of so many of the United States’ social structures over the past few years. I know that I wasn’t watching them form, they’d formed years ago and I was simply noticing them for the first time. But I can’t go back to not seeing them. What I could forgive earlier as ignorance would simply be pretending now. In the span of a few weeks, those cracks in the foundation of American healthcare, mass media, electoralism, and in particular government and economics have expanded to the level that I think I would either be lying or covering my eyes if I said I thought everything on a socio-poltical scale was fine.
Obviously I don’t think the healthcare system is effective. It’s been linked to employment for so long, and the growing unemployment rates due to the necessity of people staying home should show the faults in that system, faults that have always been there. The fact that so many people are simultaneously losing healthcare coverage and losing their jobs, putting them in a situation where they’ll rack up debt and have no income at the same time has made it absolutely clear that the US healthcare system must see significant change.
It’s going to happen again and again this year: Many people are going to bring a family member suffering from COVID to a hospital, be separated from them as they die in the hospital, and then get slapped with a bill they can’t afford because they’ve lost their job. Many people are going to get treated for this, suffer potentially permanent damage to their lungs and throat for the rest of their lives, and then go into debt for it. How many people are going to get a death certificate in one hand and a bill that bankrupts them in the other? How many of those people are going to adopt an absolute cynicism and hatred towards not only the healthcare system but the political establishment that sat on its hands and not only let it happen, but encouraged for it to do so?
Because I know I have!
Both my representative in the house and one of my senators saw it coming and fucking profited. Senator (D) Dianne Feinstein sold off $1.5 Million in stock she had in a biotherapy company. Representative (D) Susan A. Davis sold off thousands in stock that she had in Alaska Airlines and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Both in early February after congress was briefed about the incoming threat. How much of a fucking rube would I have to be to recognize that two-thirds of my representatives in congress profited off of advanced information they had about a pandemic and not have anything but cynicism and hatred in my heart for them? Probably about as much as I’d have to be to believe that they’ll receive any punishment for their corruption.
And that’s a ‘D’ next to both of their names, too. That’s supposed to be the ‘good’ party, the ones #resisting the Trump regime. What a fucking joke, man.
That’s just what it’s felt like over the past few weeks here. It’s like a long joke at the expense of every decent person in this country. I have friends who care about people. They’re teachers, they’re artists, they’re laborers, they’re people with genuine good in their hearts who care about others. They’re simultaneously struggling to figure out what they’ll do if they contract the virus, what they’ll do if they lose their jobs, and what they’re going to do to continue helping others through it despite that.
For the ruling class, these congresspeople, the people with the actual power to change things, to slip off their masks figure out how to get just a little bit richer off of this while still finding ways to make sure the poor continue to not get help in the face of a pandemic like this, it’s absolutely disgusting. I hate them, but I will not ever let myself be disappointed by them in the future.
And for the news media stoking racism against Asian-Americans and prompting the panic that’s led to the abuse of grocery store and restaurant workers, your mask has slipped. For the economists weighing how many people we have to sacrifice for the sake of the economy, your mask has slipped. To the party establishments pushing people to stand in line to vote on an arbitrary date during a pandemic, your mask has slipped. I will not forget this. To the billionaire “philanthropists” continuing to sit on their hands and put your employees at the grindstone through all this suffering, your mask has slipped.
And what this says about the country – that those of us who care desperately about the well-being of others are suffering while the greedy and powerful are profiting – is damning. The pandemic has only further revealed this country to be one that values only greed and selfishness.
As disgusting and nihilistic as these past few weeks have been, they have at least confirmed to me that I have to do as much as I can for the good of others for the rest of my life. This pandemic has confirmed that the only thing that matters to me is the well-being of others. Education is the method through which I’m going to undertake that. For all of that anger I feel, there is a greater love I’ve felt towards all of the people suffering through this at the same time.
We will get through this somehow. And when we do, when we are together again, I know that I’m going to appreciate every moment, every interaction, and I believe in my heart that you will as well.