Every day seems like the same. The majority of us are self-isolating in our homes (or, in my case, a 450 square foot studio apartment in Manhattan). Old, comfortable routines have been disrupted and replaced with new, unusual ones. Going to work, exercising at the gym, and enjoying restaurants have been replaced with working from home, doing a few jumping jacks, and ordering food in.
People joke that we are living in Groundhog Day, a movie based on the premise of a man living the same day over and over. It’s easy to feel that way, right? As society navigates through the effects of covid19, we feel as though large parts of our lives are in a holding pattern. Careers, relationships, hobbies… Like a plane circling the airport waiting for clearance to land, as the days and weeks and months pass, we can feel as though we aren’t going anyway… that nothing is happening… that nothing is changing.
In fact, that’s wrong. Everything is changing. Including you.
You, of course, already know that on the global scale. The entire world is impacted by covid19. Even though on different schedules, practically every country has had to face this challenge and make decisions best for them. While we don’t yet know the long-term worldwide ramifications, we can expect for the foreseeable future that these systematic and societal changes will continue for quite some time. It’s easy to see the changes that are happening in the larger sense.
What about the smaller changes?
After quarantining is over, on whatever schedule that may be, prepare for the small changes too. Wearing a mask and creating more space between people are adjustments that should be easy to make. Being fully aware of how this time is influencing you may be challenging. Identifying how self-isolating impacts your friends, family, and work colleagues may be even harder.
That’s why what you’ll need the most after quarantining is empathy. Empathy for yourself and for others.
You may be quarantining with family, roommates, or friends. It is unlikely you have spent this much concentrated time with them in a confined space (no matter how large your house may be, it can still feel confined). However long the relationship has been established, during a time of crisis, people reveal new parts of themselves. We discover their (and our) true priorities, passions, and patience levels.
Even if you are staying at home alone (KEVIN!), relationships can still be a big concern. Maintaining friendships or romantic relationships virtually is a challenge. While still “face to face” via online tools, maintaining social distance from those you love presents hardships. If you’re like me, you also find that quarantining alone gives the mind ample time to wonder, and sometimes it goes into dark territory.
We are all being tested. Working remotely exercises agility. Parents must also serve as teachers. Unless we order in every night, we have to become chefs as well (some of us may be closer to Chef Boyardee, but still…). Between the added pressure on relationships (those in person or virtual), the multiple roles we play, and the lack of alone time to fully recharge, we are stretched thin every single day. We go to bed, wake up, and it repeats all over again.
However, despite how it may seem, time is not standing still.
Jobs are lost. Babies continue to be born. Doctors still diagnose patients with cancer. Proposals keep on popping. Marriages go on struggling. Addicts endure as they battle their demons. All the joyful and heartbreaking moments of life we knew before still occur. This time of self-isolation magnifies them.
For everything that still happens, other events don’t. Couples postpone or cancel wedding dates until further notice. Companies put job starts or promotions on an indefinite hold. Broadway debuts never will see the stage. For some, lifelong dreams aren’t realities today all because of this crisis.
It’s easy to see the stories on the news and feel aware. Until you experience it firsthand, you may not fully grasp the reality of it all. Honestly, sometimes it’s all too much to take in.
If not you, people you know have come face to face with covid19. They endured the symptoms and felt the fear. Others in your life or in the lives of those you know didn’t win the fight with the virus and are now gone.
In my social media circles alone, I’ve had at least four friends lose their parents during this time. The loss of a parent is profound in itself. To lose one now, in a time when funerals can’t be held and even hugs are restricted, is scarring.
All of this doesn’t even begin to address our front line and essential workers. From grocery store employees to doctors and nurses, whole professions witnessed this all from an entirely different angle. They had up close and personal experience with humanity during this time, and they will never be the same because of it.
“Normal” is gone.
A few will leave this time better for it. Maybe they took online courses, started a podcast, or learned a new hobby. Whatever their circumstances, they were able to use this period for self-discovery, growth, and improvement. They will look back on this moment in time as an enriching phase in their life.
Others will always remember the time in quarantine as a period of great personal loss. They will leave these weeks wounded, depleted, and empty. There is no vaccine that will ever help them fully heal.
After quarantining, as we eventually emerge once again from our homes, even if some social distancing is still in place, let us always remember to extend empathy to everyone. We know what are time in quarantine is like; we have no idea how this time is working for those we encounter. There’s no reason to wait until after the quarantine is over. Empathy reaches beyond all spaces of separation. When offered by one and accepted by the other, we all feel less alone.