Given that every editorial I’ve written thus far has been fired-up and direct, some might expect that my coronavirus editorial would be instructive or angry — something about how people should be taking this more seriously, how governments around the world are failing to respond adequately, or a bleak outlook on how life will never be the same again. And while I agree with these points, I am tired of waking up every day and reading that over and over again. It’s not that it does not bear repeating, but for the multitude of people like myself who were beginning to learn methods to survive and even somewhat thrive in this world, it is utterly heartbreaking and disorienting to not only have to go through this pandemic, but every day see that it’s only going to get worse and feel attacked for wishing it did not have to be this way.
I am not here to tell you that things are going to get easier, but I am here to tell you that the people who act like it is so incredibly easy to self-quarantine or to put our lives on the back burner are callous. I agree, it is something we have to do and something that I’ve been, and hopefully all of you have been, doing. And while I am incredibly privileged to live in a financially secure home and have the ability to just sit inside all day, it does not mean that this does not suck.
I will never forget the day this all became real and it hit me that, in an instant, I’d have to suddenly abandon the flat that had become more of a home in one year than my childhood home did in 13 years of residence. That I’d suddenly have to say goodbye to some of my best friends, some for 6 months, some for potentially years. That I would not get a final print edition as EIC for The Student and that my run which I had spent so long envisioning and working towards would be unceremoniously finished after only 3 editions. In less than a week I was back to New Jersey, where I sit self-quarantined for the foreseeable future, maybe weeks, maybe months. I’ve cried and spent hours dissociating about the lack of an end date and the possibility of not even being able to go back to Edinburgh in the fall. And I cannot even imagine the pain of fourth years or those out of a job right now, worried about paying the rent which is embarrassingly still due or having to suddenly say goodbye to all their uni friends potentially for years or forever, while still having to do exams without a proper finish line of graduation.
I don’t know if I have good news. I don’t really even know why I’m writing this besides the fact that I feel I should say something. I do know this: the editors and writers at this paper are some of the most talented, genuine people I know and seeing them continue to create during this period is incredibly inspiring to me. They’ve gone above and beyond and it is beautiful to see the words, music, and art that is emerging out of people’s homes during all this.
I’ll admit I am not well-equipped for this, I am someone that defines my happiness on movement, on pushing myself to be busy and keeping life interesting every step of the way. But I am trying to use this as an opportunity to learn. The only way to not let the events of The Lighthouse play out between you and whoever is in your residence is to force yourself to not look to the future, and to take things day by day (…and to maybe hide your turpentine). I’ve always been someone who’s planned for the future consistently to feel secure. But I am recognizing that security is something I’ve been fortunate to feel as a right, and not as a privilege. We are all allowed to spend this time doing whatever keeps us sane. If you’re most comfortable keeping a tight schedule and pushing yourself to learn new things or use the time to improve yourself, that’s great. If you’re using this time to relax and are just getting high and watching anime all day, that’s also alright (note: this is surprisingly not how I’m spending my time, I promise).
Now is not the time to judge how our peers are dealing with this. These are extraordinary circumstances that most of us did not see coming and that I am sure we will never forget for the rest of our lives. There will be books written about this and children will learn about it in their history books. I am just as disoriented as you may be, and probably more so than many of you. So in the midst of it all, don’t forget that we’re in it together. If there’s someone you want to reach out to or get to know better, now’s the time to message them. What can it hurt? Don’t be afraid to say this is hard, don’t be afraid to admit when you feel like you can’t take it. It is way more of a challenge to do this then people will say.
Just remember that we’re doing this for our friends and loved ones and it is never alright to accept the risk of infections and deaths just because we are bored or because this is mentally taxing. Infection and death statistics are not just numbers, these are people, and they come before all else, even if the situation is invariably shitty for everyone. Be there for your friends, be there for your family, create, learn, rest, do what you need to do to get through this time. When it’s over people will throw the best parties you’ve ever been to, the most raucous concerts and club nights imaginable, countless late nights at the pub, and hugs and tears every time you see your pals. I’ll see you all at the other end and I promise: it is not as far away as it may seem.
Image: the author’s view of suburban New Jersey from his room (via Rob Bazaral)