The anxiety we feel

 

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art by frances cannon

Like probably so many, I have been incessantly checking the news and my email and Twitter for updates about the coronavirus—its spread, its death toll, what it means for my college and classes.

I am so, so sad (‘sad’ is a vast understatement) that I have to finish my last semester at PLNU via online classes. I am sad that my favorite philosophy and writing classes now somehow have to happen through a screen. Will I even get a graduation ceremony? I don’t know.

Fat snowflakes are falling outside my Colorado home as I write this. I am so disappointed. I am angry. But who/what can I even be angry toward? This is out of all of our control. It is good that we are being more careful and taking into deep consideration the most vulnerable.

But I am wondering about not just the sicknesses from the virus, but the collective depression, loneliness and isolation that will happen from canceled in-person classes and events, especially events that people work hard for and look forward to—the things that keep us going as humans and give us hope.

This is something we should think about. How do we create community and connection through a screen? How do we care for one another in a time when we can’t be physically present to one another? Physical presence and contact with other human beings is not only important to my mental health personally, being someone who is more prone to self-isolate and cave in on myself, but it also gives my life meaning and purpose to connect with others and share ideas and have life-giving, face-to-face conversations.

How, then, do I care for my neighbor in a time of (needed) isolation? The rhetoric has been that screens and social media divide us and make us anxious. But this is an unprecedented moment we are living in. So much collective anxiety verging on panic. Is there a way we can use our social media for communal care? Can we learn to love through these screens?

Can we still say ‘Here I Am’ to our suffering neighbors, even if we can’t physically be in their presence? What are the existential/ontological questions raised in this moment? What does it mean to be in a time of social distancing and pandemic anxiety?

I think this is a time we will learn a lot about ourselves as human beings. I am lucky that I am going back to an apartment with roommates who are good friends, and I will still have my physical connection with them there.

But I am worried about the mental health of so many people I love, in my classes and those I work with. I want to stand in solidarity with all those who are feeling a sense of anxiousness and loneliness already.

We have to be very careful with our thoughts in these coming weeks. We have to be kind to ourselves and not let the voices in our heads drown out the good and true things in our lives. This is hard if you are forced to spend time alone. At least for me, words I am reading through a screen right now aren’t as assuring as I want them to be. I still crave hugs from people. I still look forward to face-to-face interactions.

Another question on my mind is: what is my role as a healthy young person in all of this, especially as someone who is a writer and loves philosophy? I am really fighting back thoughts that all I am doing and studying for is meaningless. Even though I love it, even though it has given me so much purpose in life.

Now, in the midst of a crazy pandemic, it feels meaningless. Why? People don’t really need pretty words right now (though they do help a lot). They need assurance and hope, they need the government to care about their health instead of capitalism for once, they need good news. But there is too much we don’t know, and we can’t be lying to ourselves in this moment.

It also feels weird to be sitting here and typing these words. I want to say something important, but that is meaningless too. I guess I just want people to know that I’m feeling the anxiety. I’m feeling the concern about what this will do to us collectively—including the mental health of college-aged students.

It all happened so fast. It’s all disorienting. We are grieving because we love our classes, we love being with others and sharing ideas which can really only happen face-to-face. I know for me, even when I might seem disengaged in a class, I still crave that routine and act of just sitting in a room full of other human beings. There is something much needed in that.

I don’t know what all of this means or what will happen. I will try to keep writing even though these words seem so meaningless right now and unnecessary. I will keep reading, keep loving, keep caring, keep advocating in any way I can for justice.

I will try to be better at texting and FaceTiming because I think that is just what we will need to do moving forward. Maybe we can try setting up routines for ourselves where we call certain people at certain times, just to check in and hear each other’s voices? At least for me, I think that is what I will need.

I don’t seek to offer a solution. I just know we crave human connection and this will be very hard. Maybe we can have conversations about how to find hope in these lonely and scary times. It is messy to try and process this much disappointment and sadness and anxiety all at once. But I also want to know how everyone else is doing. How are you doing? How are you processing?

The snow keeps falling outside. There is a lot of love and concern in my heart right now. Love is the one thing I know for sure is not meaningless. Maybe that is one thing I can hold into right now.

Praying for doctors and nurses and healthcare workers. Praying for those who have died and whose family members have died. Praying for the workers who can’t get paid leave and what they may be facing. Praying for the most vulnerable. Praying that our leaders will take this seriously and that we would create a more just society with healthcare for all. Praying for everyone. 

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