Surviving COVID-19

Written by Gaden Sousa

It is a frightening time right now. If you were to turn on the news or open the news app on your phone, all you would see is coronavirus coverage, or COVID-19 depending on where you’re going. Things are changing rapidly. Last week we could still meet in movie theatres to enjoy the wonder of 24 frames per second projected on the silver screen, and now those same movie theatres are shut. Last week I could go to university to sit in my classes with my friends and chat with them about films, stories, acting, and whatever fun stuff they did on the weekend. Now, we adjust to learning in the online space: downloading Zoom, learning whatever system it is the different universities suggest to best continue our learning. Next week I was meant to see my favourite comedy duo—the Umbilical Brothers—live at the Arts Centre in Melbourne, another place that has shut its doors to stop the spread of the pandemic.

Universities close, gigs are cancelled, workplaces are shut. People are losing their social lives, their livelihoods, their education and some in Australia—but many around the world—are losing their lives as we attempt to battle against and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Right now, it is very easy to feel hopeless, depressed, or angry. Hopeless as the situation changes and we all run around like headless chickens. Depressed that we can’t see our friends, that we can’t work our jobs, that so many people around the world are hurting. Angry at people not taking the threat seriously. Angry at governments around the world for failing to protect and take care of their citizens. Even for someone like me, who considers themselves to be an eternal optimist—someone who constantly bothers their friends with their relentless search for the silver lining and the good amongst the bad. Even for someone like that, it is hard to stay optimistic.

It is a scary world out there. As I adjust to this brave new world—one that consists primarily of me sitting at my desk doing uni work to distract myself and then periodically checking the news and getting depressed—I am often struck by the strangeness of the situation. It is strange that as I sit at my computer, sunlight streams in through my windows, warming my hands. It is strange that the sky is still blue. It seems wrong that the world should feel like a warm, sunshine-filled place. It seems more fitting for it to be dreary and overcast and pouring rain to reflect the dread that most people are feeling right now. 

And yet, the sun still shines.

 Maybe this will give you relief, for a second, that all of it will work out in the end. I don’t mean to make light of the situation. It is going to be very hard. Many people will, unfortunately, lose their lives. Countries’ economic systems will fall. We will be forced to stay inside and avoid seeing our friends and family for longer than we might hope. But, inevitably, it will end. Eventually, we will be allowed out of our houses. We will mourn the lives of those lost and thank the health services, the checkout attendants, and the shopping market workers for their constant support during this time. Eventually, a sunny day won’t feel so out of place. Eventually, it will feel right again for the sky to be cloudless and blue—a big expanse of hope.

I understand feeling nothing but anguish and disappointment right now. Feel those feelings. Feel them fully. Be disappointed that gigs are cancelled. Be worried about losing jobs. Be angry about having to stay inside. Be frustrated at your university for having you change your whole way of working to work online.

But please, amongst all the negative emotions, don’t forget to be kind. Don’t forget that compassion goes a long way. Don’t forget that a lot of people are all feeling the same way. Don’t forget that you aren’t alone in your anguish, your pain, your frustration. Take this time to reach out to the people you really love and tell them. Take this time to remind yourself of the people that matter and connect with them. They will make you feel less small and less isolated. They will let you feel loved and bigger and more ready to take on the challenges yet to come.

I am worried. I am scared. I am fearful, but I am hopeful. Human beings can do the most amazing things when we do things together. Look out for one another. Make sure the people you love are doing okay. Grab on tight with words and phone calls (not hands), and maybe, just maybe, we’ll come out of this better, closer, with more appreciation for one another and the importance of kindness and compassion in our world.

Believe that one day you’ll look up at the sky and see the sun glowing down on you—the vast blue sky, the gentle breeze rustling nearby trees—and know that we got through it.  The little optimist in me that is still standing despite being knocked down and beaten over the last week—that optimist tells me that it will end. All things do eventually. Listen to that voice. Sometimes it can help. 

Be kind. Be thoughtful. Keep informed. Keep connected. And for the time being, stay inside, but stay inside knowing that soon you’ll be able to come out into a newer, braver world.

Gaden’s work appears in the Euphoria, Power, and Atmosphere editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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