While we were packing after a one-day notice of dorm evacuation, my roommate, keeping an audio log, asked me, “What do you think the has pandemic given you? What has it taken from you?”
Trying to keep in cheeky character, I responded, “I’ve gained some nice memes! And I’ve lost half my stocks.”
We shared a laugh and continued the impromptu interview. A few hours later, I hugged friends goodbye for the year and drove home to begin my extra week of spring break. Oh, and we also found a dead body on campus earlier on the same day. To my idle disappointment, I felt nothing. In between a friend’s suicide the week before and a global crisis, the world, as far I was concerned, was ending. I… couldn’t care.
I spent my two-week spring break obediently at home. I read the news five times a day. I drafted disgruntled letters to God. I passed by Dad in endless conference calls trying to finagle the supply chain for his hospital. I feared for my parents when they went out for groceries after reading reports of hate crime toward Asian-Americans.
I applied to a scholarship fifteen minutes before the deadline because I needed to feel something. The panic of losing precious time; the frustration I couldn’t type faster; the blistering urge to share a story.
A week later I was notified I was a winning recipient. I don’t remember what I wrote, but it was probably all lies because my “current extracurriculars” definitely do not “demonstrate my passion for energy resources.” (I feel remorse for making fun of petroleum majors I knew when oil prices crashed into the negatives.)
Rehabilitating from emotional necrosis has been challenging. It’s been two months. The remainder of the semester has passed as a monotonous gradient. I’ve lost five pounds. I’ve lost a coveted summer internship. I’ve lost my excitement for the future. This pandemic has taken many things from me. The memes haven’t been that good either.
It’s an elementary concept we share this planet together. Our world was brought to a halt by pathogenic chance and bucked into disarray by the fated fragility of our modernity. We shoulder this story in human history not as a singular narrative, but as it should be during a flashpoint of politics, prayers, and paychecks – a scattering of voices. Frontline nurses, bickering officials, idiotic partiers, struggling workers, confounded scientists, despondent students. We have composed an epitaph for whenever this era ends:
What’s tomorrow going to be like?
We’ve all individually asked this, but never together as a modern world; we share a held breath for the same unknown and uncontrollable. From that, the pandemic has given me something: the certainty of uncertainty. We may be the authors of our own stories, but life is a fickle editor. Embracing the mortality of our plans and prophesies is hard, but pretending we are masters of destiny is fatal. So, I have been given another canvas to illustrate my future. I receive this with shaking, open hands.