I saw a news article the other day with the title, “After the Coronavirus passes, your world will not go back to normal.”
This seemingly straightforward sentence rings in the back of my head every night. Right around 10 p.m., when my dad switches on the news one last time before bed, and I hear the latest jumbled conversations on masks, ventilators, vaccines, and quarantine. Words I will never be able to look at the same way again.
Your world will not go back to normal.
Six weeks ago, life was simple. So simple in fact, I hate myself for taking a single hour of a normal day for granted. I hate myself for dreading the long walk to class, for saying no to hanging out with friends, choosing to stay in for that night. I hate myself for having ever wished life could just stop for a moment.
The way I used to live my life was a blessing. Five weeks ago, when someone asked whether or not I thought our school would shut down, I thought they were joking.
It makes me wish I was still that unaware.
Because as my mom leaves to drive into Boston to work as a nurse for a 10-hour night shift, I am so very aware.
She has spent the last 3 hours before she leaves trying to rest. But she can’t. She runs around the house with a laundry basket, moving from room to room like a ghost. That’s how I know she’s anxious.
I ask her if she’s okay and I only get a quick response, “Yeah.”
That’s how I know she’s scared.
I know she’s afraid of what might happen. If she’s at the wrong place at the wrong time, if her hospital becomes overwhelmed (when it does) what will happen when equipment becomes scarce and her job becomes harder and riskier to do.
I know she’s afraid of bringing it home with her. Afraid of what will happen if she passes a currently incurable and virtually unknown virus onto my dad or me.
I’m scared too. Scared of what my future will be because of this. Because they’re right—the world will never truly be the same.
We will always remember this time and place, and the way our living room walls seemed to blend with the horrible things they talked about on the TV.
We will remember the way the world used to be alive. Lighthearted at times, serious at others. Now, everything is scary and unknown, and incomprehensible.
I’ll remember painting, reading, even cleaning—anything to keep me from checking my phone to read the latest drop of news.
I will remember the anxiety and frustration in my brother’s voice as he said to our parents over the phone, “This isn’t going to just go away.”
He was right. This was never something that was going to go away after a few weeks.
I can’t help but mourn the way life used to be. I’m nostalgic about when I could lay in bed with friends and laugh about our day without being afraid.
I wish I could turn back time and relive certain moments from the photos I have acquired over the years. The ones that contain memories almost too good to be true.
I wish pandemics only existed in textbooks as echoes of history, and the idea of shutting the world down was still laughable.
Because nowadays, I rely on taking pleasure in the things only I can control. Like the way my room is arranged or the movies I choose to watch, even my morning routine, and the way I brush my teeth. Normal and easy to remember.
I watch the news and the screen on my phone and mourn the time I have lost. The time that now consists of days that feel like minutes, and weeks that pass like hands turning on a clock.
I watch as our President gives us a false sense of security, government officials make sure not to provoke irrationality, and doctors who, in a time of the unknown, scold us for not taking it more seriously sooner.
I am starting to feel as though we are trapped in a world that we are no longer welcomed into.
All I can hope for now is a future version of myself. One that has found her sense of ease and reclaimed the go-with-the-flow attitude she once prided herself with. I hope that she has reunited with friends and acquaintances and remembers the months she spent wishing for nothing more than this moment right here.
Moments are the only thing I really want.
I want to squeeze into a bed together like we used to, retelling stories we have already told before. Sharing each memory while triggering the next one.
I want to dance in a crowded room of strangers and hug my best friends without fear, only letting go when I can fully appreciate what I had temporarily lost.
I want to travel the world, meet people and learn their stories. I want to write about them all. The ones who kept themselves company with only a book, a cup of tea, and hope that the world would get well soon.
I want to sit on a park bench in the sunlight and watch as people laugh, and children chase each other through the grass and thank whoever let us bear witness to what came after.
I just want to live. Even if it’s in a world still reeling from the worst, a world trying to place the pieces back together again.