I’m one of the last three people on earth who hasn’t written a post about the Corona quarantine. I’m not sure there’s even anything left to be said—though perhaps what’s left is what we’ve left undone.
Like many others, I received an impromptu vacation from my job in the middle of March. I admit I was happy when I found out. I’ve wanted this for a long, long time—to have an extended amount of time away from my job so I could detox myself from it and think, really THINK, about my life. It’s so hard to do it when you’re right in media res. I never expected that this opportunity would come without quitting my job or getting laid off entirely. I’ve been able to almost remember what life was like before I started the job that sucked all ambition and hope out of me.
Before we consider the use we’ve made of our time so far, please remember this: the chance to be lifted out of your life so you can examine it from afar is a gift. But why, oh why, did it have to be on the backs of Coronavirus victims?
I feel so guilty that what brought me freedom is bringing misery and even death to other people. I hate how callous I sound and it isn’t my feeling or my intention at all. I am sure that someone with a wider scope than I have, more wisdom, more empathy, more compassion, is justified in giving me a slap across the face. I have an inkling about how self-absorbed I am, but I quake at the thought of how self-absorbed I truly must appear to other people.
I suppose all we can do, those of us who are still hidden away in our homes, is to accept the opportunity and use it wisely, especially those of us whose financial situation is not dire thanks to unemployment, because we are the lucky ones. To squander the time is stupid and disrespectful, in a way, to those who have suffered. I imagine that if I were suffering from some serious illness or another sort of terrible situation, I would resent healthy people who were wasting their time, because if I were made healthy for just a day, I wouldn’t waste a second. Yet we do that all day long, don’t we? Or some of us, at least.
Right now this choice is forced upon me even more pressingly. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place, dwelling here in an uncertain moment of my life. I’m not sure what the way forward is going to be, yet I don’t want to go back to my work-life. Forgetting what day of the week it is, I feel like I’m outside of time. But time keeps wasting. It’s my own fault and I can hear the clock ticking, and not knowing when the hour’s going to strike makes it all the easier to put things off, yet all the more urgent not to.
When I analyze myself, the current result is not exactly what I hoped for when this began. I wanted self-transformation. I started out pretty well. I began reading again. Writing again. Exercising. After a week and a half I began feeling the positive effects of detoxification from my job. You read often of negative effects on the mental health of isolated individuals, such as increased anxiety or depression, but for me it’s generally been the opposite.
But that novelty is fading and I’m getting angry at myself because I am not making a wise use of my time now. My original intentions were shallow without having a goal, a solid vision, in my mind. In fact, most days now I just plain squander my time, which is downright criminal when other people have to work and risk getting sick themselves. At the end of the day, though, each one of us is only given one life. What else are we supposed to do but live it out in the most meaningful way we can?
I know that people contribute through monetary donations and activities like making masks and assisting the elderly. How I wish I were like them, people who give up their time to serve other people. I can’t get out of my own navel for some reason, just gazing into it like the whole universe were contained in it… But then just think how I must look to other people.
Even in life in general, during “normal” times, we should be making a thoughtful use of our time, because we have so little of it. But I think, in the day-to-day routines, we forget to take stock, because our days are somewhat regimented with our work schedules or other activities. These activities, though necessary to exist, drain away time we could use to separate ourselves and think. It isn’t until something completely unprecedented (in our lifetimes) that we suddenly find ourselves with the time to do what we put off. Time off from our lives, provided we actually use it, is allowing us to see what our lives actually are.
It’s interesting how not being able to do things reveals how important they really are to us. It can be disturbing, too, to have our perceptions of ourselves called into question. It’s food for thought, though—and now we have some time to eat.
Judge for yourself: now that you still have some time, are you going to do all the things you said you would, or were you just all talk? Were you lazy? Did you contribute? Were you happy? Did you make other people happy?
Is it too over the top to ask if this something like dying and being held to account for what we’ve done? If we don’t take it seriously now, even having been given a wake-up call, when will we? After all, we are talking about our limited time here on earth, time that we’ve been given that other people have lost entirely. Use it wisely; and gratefully, too.