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I was listening to a spoken word performance recently and one of the lyrics went something like “Feeling like the person we’re supposed to be really isn’t us.”
I completely understood that line. Or it understood me. I feel that everyone is swapping tips on how to stay positive and productive right now—on how to maintain some sense of normalcy throughout all of this and keep our heads up. And I’m doing it. At least I’m trying to. But it feels like a lie.
In those few minutes a day when I’m not busy, something bubbles up inside of me. It starts as an urge to cry. But then I have to stop it because I can tell that if I let it come out in full force it will consume me. I try to be positive and productive because I’m supposed to be but I know it’s not who I am right now—like the lyric said.
What we are going through as a nation (and world) right now is not normal. Our psyche has never dealt with this before.
And I think many of us are suppressing our real emotions because, honestly, we have to. They are too much to process now if we are going to continue to keep our heads up. But I just want to say here that if you’ve had certain thoughts of which you aren’t proud during this pandemic, it’s okay. We all are having them. It’s the brain’s normal reaction to a very abnormal situation.
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All my progress was for nothing
Wherever you were in your career when this happened—however far you’d come and however much work you’d put in—you could be saying it was all for nothing now. You may be having thoughts of “Why didn’t I just party and have fun all those years instead of work? The work was for nothing now.” But it’s not true. When your industry reopens, people will remember you. Even if you need to send out some refresher emails.
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At least my competitor has stopped
It’s alright. We’ve all had this petty thought: that we are glad that person we were competing against or who was even ahead of us now can’t move forward. It’s only human to have those thoughts. You don’t cause real harm by having them. I bet you the person you think that about is thinking it about somebody else.
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I hope that one person gets it
This is dark but please know that everybody has had that little moment they aren’t proud of—that moment when thinking of someone terrible they know and thought “I hope that person gets the virus.” Then you felt really bad. Relax. Everyone has thoughts like that. You don’t give the person COVID-19 by thinking that. Here I’ll confess mine: I thought it about my Dad’s girlfriend who slept with him while he was married to my mom and had drained his bank account on her luxurious spending habits, leaving him now in financial strains.
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I wish I’d just get it already
Sometimes we turn the weapon around on ourselves. We don’t really want to have COVID-19 but we are all tired of living in fear and living life in such a fractured, limited way. There can be moments when you think “I would rather just have it and get it over with than keep living in fear of it.” That’s a very normal thought.
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Taking a break is kind of nice
You feel you’re supposed to be kicking and screaming about being furloughed or having your hours reduced or even losing your job. But maybe you find yourself thinking “Taking a break from work is kind of….nice.” Then you feel bad because the circumstances surrounding this break are awful. But, you know what? A lot of people work incredibly hard and would not have taken a vacation if it weren’t forced on them. It’s okay to enjoy the break. It harms nobody.
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Maybe humankind asked for this
Were the doomsday tellers holding the street signs, yelling that punishment day was coming—were they right all along? Did we ask for this? Did we as humans get too cocky? Too sinful? It’s only human to have those thoughts but, nah. Science happened. Biology happened. This was a genetic fluke and not something written in the stars.
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Quarantine will never end
On some days, it may feel like quarantine will never end. And you will become as negative and dark and depressed as if that were true. You’ll want to snap out of it because you know quarantine will end and it’s not fair to your housemates when you’re this dramatic. But we all have those moments when it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now.
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I’ll switch to an “essential job”
If you did lose your job or lose hours due to the pandemic, you may be making fear-based decisions such as: I’m going to leave the industry I love and get an essential job like doctor or pharmacist when this is over so my job is secure during the next pandemic. But you know what? Your job is essential. I promise. No matter what it is—it’s essential to someone. And more importantly, a society full of dynamic professions and happy people who do what they love is essential to humankind’s wellbeing.
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I’ll never feel safe again
It can be hard to believe that we will ever feel safe sitting in a restaurant again, using glasses that were once used by others and touching menus and using public restrooms. It can be impossible to imagine ever doing that again without fear. But we will. Remember this isn’t humanity’s first pandemic and people returned to the restaurants and the movie theaters and the bars. Even you. You forgot about the last pandemics, didn’t you? Or at least your psyche recovered. And it will recover from this one.
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This showed the truth: our goals are pointless
We are probably all feeling deeply humbled right now as we are reminded how fragile we are, and how quickly circumstances beyond our control can bring all of our ambitions to a screeching halt. And it’s easy to let humility turn into darkness where we think “Well all my dreams were always pointless and we’ve just been animals trying to survive this whole time. Dreams are just a distraction from that.” I don’t know what to say to that, other than the fact that your brain will rebound when this is over. It’s human nature to want to build and aspire for things and invent and create art.
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Shouldn’t we let it run its course?
You probably feel guilty after thinking this but it’s okay: many people have thought this. Because it seems right now that the cure is worse than the illness, but the truth is that the cure isn’t worst than the illness. If this ran its course, an immeasurable number of more people would get sick and die, requiring an even stricter lockdown and a longer economic shutdown. This is the moderate version of the cure. If we let this illness run its course, then we’d really see a version of the cure that felt like it’s own version of hell.
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The elderly have to go somehow. Wait. No.
It was even hard to type this one because it is such a shameful thought but I hope to alleviate some guilt in everyone by showing that our minds work pretty similarly. With many of these precautions in place to protect the elderly, you may have thought “Well they are old and something had to take them…” then you may have felt sick to your stomach. The reality is that something has to take ALL of us eventually. And if we are going to treat some human life as precious we must treat all human life as precious. That’s literally what it means to be human.
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Damn countries who eat bats
So it all started because somebody somewhere ate a bat. Apparently. You may have had some judgmental thoughts about places that eat strange animals and how they’re irresponsible or even dumb and how this is all their fault. Again, not an uncommon thought right now. But then remember that some places eat those animals because they are terribly poor and have to eat whatever they can access. Also remember the perfect environment creates a virus and that can happen anywhere. An infected bat in a New York zoo could poop on the candy stick of a child who waved her candy stick in the cage and then the kid ate the candy and bam. Virus.
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Well why didn’t people save money??
If you have some savings you may be shocked to see how many individuals lived paycheck to paycheck and need financial aid now. You may have a judgmental thought like , “Well why didn’t they save? I sat out a lot of things I want to do like going to the movies or on trips so I could save. Why didn’t they?” Then you remember that those individuals probably never did anything fun like that, only bought the bare essentials, and still couldn’t save because they had families to feed and were underpaid. You just don’t know their stories.
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Nothing will ever be the same
We all have scary thoughts like that sometimes—thoughts like “This is the new normal and we have to kiss our old reality goodbye.” Then you feel bad for being so pessimistic. But, look, it’s hard for many of us to see how we will return to normal. And you know what? That’s because we aren’t the scientists and the policy makers who will get us there. We don’t know what the path would be so it’s hard to imagine one.