Brief Reflection on Coronavirus, or: Realizing The World Is (Slightly) Falling Apart

March 13, 2020
3 min read

Talking with a friend about how things are falling apart, how we might not be able to return to campus for the rest of the term; me realizing just how many opportunities are vanishing — again, me suffering the absolute least of it, everyone below really having their trajectories blown into turbulent chaos. It just feels bad now. Maybe even worse that I’m not the one taking the hit. I’ve escaped. Some of my friends have escaped. But many of them, most of them, the ones I maybe viscerally wanted to do better than me and do what I couldn’t, who I was invested in as someone attempting to be a mentor and who I looked to with awe and admiration, are the ones suffering most.

This realization came in two parts, both of which happened approximately today. The first part was just that, woah, this is a real, lasting problem. I realized that not having school is the default state of things, that we can’t take structure for granted, that external structure and society is conditional on a remarkable but ultimately frail stability to human life. At first, though, the tone was completely different:

So I’m at home. I ran a 10K PR earlier, but then my sleep habits slipped and I haven’t run, or left the house, in a bit. I’ve cooked a few meals: learning how to make curry these last few days! Cauliflower has been the best so far. I’ve spent lots of the day staring at my laptop, or my desktop. Lots of texting people on Messenger; pretty much a constant handoff between that, and writing something, this reflection or my TEDx talk, or plucking at the keyboard next to me, or some snack that I shouldn’t be eating. My sense of lunch has died; I woke up at 11, had a trickle of food — strawberries, half a banana, a quarter of a bag of roasted cashews — until now, and I guess that’s my lunch. It’s a vibe shared by some others I talk to; “embrace your inner lazy,” says Irura.

It’s a somewhat familiar vibe — lots of breaks go like this. But this is almost not a break; this is the uncertain, somewhat indefinite future. When class resume, I won’t get to escape this house; rather, the classes are just infused with my computer, the feverish, passive but incessant claustraphobia I am experiencing now.

Only later did I have the second part of the realization. A friend texted me as a conversation opener:

What to do when you don’t know what to do

Life feels kinda trapping rn

It seems like things have changed so much today. Earlier today I was excited to write, to reflect, to take my time and find myself and sail forwards into uncertainty, sure, but uncertainty that felt like it would ultimately be fine. But today has been that turning point, when I realize, maybe, that things won’t be fine, that I, and others far more than me, are going to suffer and lose things because of this.

I wrote at one point in my doc of musings:

The city doesn’t start for you, and it doesn’t stop for you; it goes on, as urgent as ever, as cynical and dismissive of any threats as ever. This is the spirit I want in my own life. The world moves continually forward. You can hide from it, try to ignore it, but you will be falling behind. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Take it slow, spread out your interactions across a longer time period, take in less and live for yourself more. But for now, the city is nice. Churning forwards. Dangerous, sprinting down a tightrope above a pit of chaos, but resilient, never stopping, never doubting.

But maybe it can choke. Maybe we can fall off the tightrope, and have to climb back up. Stop for a second. Doubt a little. Maybe that’s where we’re at, or headed, now.