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I Feel Guilty | Writing During The COVID-19 Outbreak

It goes without saying that the state of the world is precarious. We’re in uncharted territory trying to navigate through this new normal resultant of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I want to put a disclaimer out right away. I am not showing symptoms of the virus. I am okay as are most people in my life as far as I know. Please do not misconstrue the title of this post as being written by someone in a hospital room who is experiencing this first hand.

Like so many of us, I’m trying to figure out how I feel because to be frank, I don’t know. There are so much to sort through that it can be overwhelming at times.

Since I can’t shake them, I’ve decided to put these feelings out into the open. Maybe just to write them down, maybe just to feel less isolated. Less alone in this. This post will no doubt be a disjointed mess and read as though I’m rambling on because I’m writing it in one sitting, no editing. I know that. But it’s not about good writing this time around, but authentic writing.

My workplace has shut down. Before that point, there was hardly much for us to do apart from wiping down every surface hourly per direction from the company and occasionally having somebody come into the store. The closure was inevitable. In a matter of days we went from having a regular week on the schedule to working on a “skeleton crew” basis that resulted in our hours being cut by half, to shutting down entirely until further notice.

At the time of writing this post, it’s been roughly two weeks since my last shift. These circumstances have pulled the rug out from under me while turning the tables. I’ve gone from wishing I had more time to write and focus on my various projects to suddenly having days on end. I should be taking advantage of this and enjoy myself, but it can be hard to at times because of the reason for this taste of full-time author life.

If it weren’t for the virus, I wouldn’t be here.

I feel guilty for even writing this post, as I feel like I’m stealing the spotlight from people who are actually suffering because of COVID-19 while I’m essentially hanging out in my writing room waiting for a Fragrant Jewels candle to burn down enough for me to pluck out the ring inside. It’s the same feeling I had last week when I posted on Facebook to let people know my betta fish died, and for some reason I kept Damien’s eulogy significantly shorter than the ones I wrote up for Alpha and Salvador, with little more than the “He was flushed in a private ceremony” line that I have always worked in.

I feel small. Like I can’t do anything about the situation but accept it. Except I know there are people who have it so much worse.

My mother got a call from her cousin the other night. He lives in New York and from the sound of what I overheard, he could very well have it, and he is one of thousands. There are people abroad who were supposed to be home by now but are trapped in foreign lands because they can’t go home. People in hospitals unable to see their families. Thousands of them unable to recover.

People who are getting it simply because other people just don’t get it. Because they disregard so many of the warning their government has put out. Because they aren’t thinking, or don’t think it will happen to them.

Because they can’t go to work so they might as well go to Central Park. Because the cherry blossoms are blooming in D.C. Because they need to keep up their traditional Friday night happy hour margaritas at a dive bar that isn’t closed and they literally have nothing else to do.

I want to believe I’m doing my part by staying home, but at the same time I feel like I should be doing more than hiding myself away at a rolltop desk in the laundry room-turned-writing space. Where the worst of my issues is having to go upstairs to replenish my mug of cocoa without interrupting my cat’s fourth snooze of the day.

I tend to consider myself the kind of person who can see the good in most things, or at least tries to. Maybe that’s the reason I feel so guilty now. Because I’m finally getting a taste of living as a full-time author, something I have dreamed of for most of my life, but the reason that opportunity came to pass was not because of my own success leading me to a point where I feasibly could make that change, but instead came as the result of a pandemic.

Maybe I’m taking the blame for this because there is no one single person to blame. There’s no clear answer right now, just a looming pall of uncertainty worldwide.

I’m trying to do as others have suggested and try to see the good in this, including my own chance to write more and do something I enjoy at my leisure.

And there is some good in this. Videos of communities in Italy singing traditional songs from their balconies. Dogs who are so excited to have their humans home, even though they don’t quite understand why. Pictures of my hometown’s schools sending a bus around to deliver free meals. Long-term homeschool parents and even students taking to social media to offer advice and opening their inboxes to those who need guidance.

But the bad cannot be ignored. Colleges sending their students off campus without much warning, canceling graduation ceremonies and all of those milestones the senior class worked so hard for. People cramming themselves into airports because all they want to do is go home, only to find out they’ll be stranded for God knows how long because of travel bans. A skating rink in Spain being turned into a substitute morgue.

How this is all going to snowball with far-reaching effects we cannot even imagine at this point in time.

The fact that so many other issues in our country and others are being overshadowed by this. They way those things are getting pushed aside as though they don’t matter anymore. The thing is, they don’t just disappear.

I hate that this is the thing that is getting me riled up. When there is so much else wrong in the world and with it. That I try to be reserved on the rare occasion that I do get involved in political discussions but this is the thing that is getting to me. I can’t go even a few words before I’m snapping at and my voice is creeping up to a shout. And I end up shaking and on the verge of tears. That I get nauseated watching the news after too long a time but cannot look away out of fear that I will miss something vital. Some new piece of information. Some small glimmer of hope in all of this. Someone to say that we are going to be okay and be saying not just to say it and reassure viewers for their own self-gratification, but because they sincerely believe it to be true.

Maybe because this is a matter of life and death, and there are so many people who do not seem to care for those around them.

I want to believe this will bring out the good in people, that this will make us come together despite and through social distancing. People have compared this to WWII, to September 11, 2001, and other times we’ve been threatened as a nation and made it through together.

But this is different. It’s not being taken as seriously by a lot of people. The enemy is unseen. People are taking advantage of it and being inconsiderate, when the fact is compassion is what will help us get through this.

Thanking all of the medical professionals who are putting themselves out on the front lines of this, but also thanking the people working at places like grocery stores and pharmacies making sure their supply is stocked so that we can continue to live as normally as we can.

Supporting small local businesses praying they can stay afloat after this.

Thanking the teachers who have been thrown into such a bizarre and unfamiliar way of teaching online and are working so hard for their students to make sure they can still get their education in spite of this.

Supporting the parents who are now homeschooling, many of whom are doing it for the first time and are learning as they go, and might even still be going to work.

Checking in with our loved ones who are adjusting to working from home.

Checking in with those students who had their routines and plans thrown out the window. Some too young to understand why, others old enough to have their celebrations stripped from them while the finish line was just within reach.

I want to hope for the little things. That it will warm up enough for me to write out on the deck while my cat lounges in his catio. That at the end of August I’ll be donning the traditional red flannel and perfecting my eyeliner even though I know full well I’ll cry and sweat it off during the 5 Seconds of Summer show that night.

That soon enough, I will be going to work where it will be too busy for me to sneak into the back room to press the Skip button on the stereo so I can spare myself from having to listen to “Love Shack” for the umpteenth time that week.

That I will be wishing I had more time to write.



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