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How to see the Light at the End of the Tunnel

I am not an optimist. Far from it, in fact. Anyone who knows me even a little bit is all too familiar with my tendency to assume the worst. Given the current state of affairs in the wake of the Coronavirus, my less than sunny disposition has led me to some dark places. I’m still processing everything that has happened the past two weeks. We have all been thrown into the deep end with no warning at all, and I somehow find myself feeling completely overwhelmed yet woefully underwhelmed at the same time. It sucks, and there’s no getting around that. Life this past week has been miserable. I’ve had trouble diverting my attention from the bad news, which seems to be the only news as of late. I am not here, however, to reiterate how crappy the current situation is. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Instead, I want to challenge myself, and, everyone else, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is no small feat. In fact, it is quite revolutionary for me, the self proclaimed “world’s greatest cynic”, to find good in anything– which is exactly why I want to try. If I am going to be stuck in my house with little to no face to face interaction with people (outside my immediate family) for what’s shaping up to be months, my predisposition to succumb to darkness will not serve me well at all. With all the time I now have, it feels like it could be productive to at least try to see some good that can be taken away from this moment in time.

Since leaving campus and going  our separate ways, it’s been easy to give into loneliness. I find myself lost in my own head far too often, as my thoughts spiral out of my control. But, as cheesy as it sounds, High School Musical got it right: we’re all in this together. We may not be physically together, which is, by all means, incredibly painful. We do have the internet, which gives us so many ways to communicate that I could easily call a friend in Australia right now and see their face on my screen in real time. Over the past week, social media has become a goldmine of supportive messages, encouraging everyone to reach out to loved ones who they have been separated from due to the pandemic. Social media is a  great tool to help us keep in touch while we try to keep our distance.

 Now that social media is our only means of communication with the world , many people are beginning to pick up on the limitations of building virtual connection, which probably wasn’t as clear when we still had the option to knock on each other’s doors. With new gadgets and modes of remote communication surfacing everyday, there is increasingly less emphasis placed on actually being in each other’s presence. Back on campus, I would gladly use FaceTime to catch up with friends after a long day of classes, rather than walk five minutes to their room. Now, all I want is to walk across campus and show up at my friend’s room unannounced. Sometimes, it takes losing something to understand how vital and nourishing it really is. There is no replacement for actually being in each other’s physical presence. I know I at least have a newfound appreciation for the energy my Bates friends bring to a room, and the way I feel when we are together. It’s hard to be apart from people I love right now, but what I have learned from the experience will only strengthen our relationships in the future, and I am grateful to the Coronavirus for making this so clear to me.

Life moves fast. The Coronavirus has forced us to slow down and reflect. We often forget that as individuals we are simply parts of a whole, intricately webbed and interconnected to each other in ways we may not completely understand. The threat of the Coronavirus has made this more clear than ever. We all have a part to play in mitigating this situation. If one person messes up, the consequences are felt by everyone. Actions have a ripple effect, whether that be the intention or not. This truth was muted before the corona crisis, but the pandemic has opened our eyes and our hearts to the reality of our interdependence. It is refreshing, honestly, and does give me hope when I think about the future, and the change I want to see throughout my lifetime. The world after Coronavirus will likely never be completely the same. But we can take these lessons, and learn to value each other not as means through which to acquire personal gain, but as people whose company we need to feel human. 

While there is much to take away and learn from our current historical moment, the way we are living now does not have to be our “new normal,” because, quite frankly, there is nothing “normal” about it. We don’t have to get used to it, and we don’t have to accept it. It’s ok to resent the situation, resent the Coronavirus, and resent the entire world right now. All feelings are valid feelings, and sometimes, “making the best” of a crappy situation just isn’t possible. We are, afterall, only human, as COVID-19 has so graciously reminded us. It’s important not only to acknowledge, but to make room for sadness, anger, and grief. Negative feelings can be healing. We have to be able to see the bad inorder to recognize that there can also be good, and help us understand that our situation is only temporary– because there is, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel.

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