Slow Burn: A COVID-19 Narrative

By: Nayeon Kim

“Not even as bad as the common cold,” they said. “The media is just doing what it always does: sensationalizing.”

You laugh, nod, agree. This virus, which happens to be trending on Twitter and serving as the hottest new headline, was surely not the big bad [monster/disease/etc] that people were making it out to be. Your preceptors reassure you, and you are reassured.

Still, the number of cases worldwide continue to escalate, as do the number of occupied ICU beds. Mortality rates climb higher and higher. You fight back a growing sense of dread. It will all be okay.

March 13, 2020. Your first online class. You don’t know yet that this would become the new normal. The transition to online learning is a bit jarring, but at least you get to stay home and wear pajama pants. It’s not so bad. These are just precautionary measures.

A week becomes two, which turn into four. Before you know it, months have gone by. You’ve watched in horror as the Italian healthcare system has collapsed under the unrelenting burden of COVID-19. You haven’t seen your family since New Year’s because your grandmother lives at home, and she is the light of your life, and you can’t risk being the one to introduce her to the germs that get her sick. You find it harder and harder to tune out the intrusive thoughts that you are usually able to ignore due to the hundreds of tiny distractions that go along with daily life.

This is just how it is now.

There are no more early morning bus rides to campus; sitting in lecture halls; catching up with friends over food; busy schedules and demanding hours. It’s just you and your thoughts, and if you’re being honest, they overwhelm you. It’s getting harder to breathe.

You feel like you’re not doing enough to contribute to society.

But you have much to be grateful for, and there are so many people who have been gravely impacted by this pandemic in ways that you will never understand. You must recognize that you are much more privileged than you will ever know.

Your friend tells you that when they went grocery shopping, a customer berated the young, female, Asian cashier for their race. You wonder about the next time you’ll need to go outside, and whether something like this will happen to you, too.

But then you think of the front-line healthcare workers, who risk their lives every day by going into work. You are grateful to them, and to the grocers, mail deliverers, bus drivers, and countless others.

You are just one person, and these are simply your experiences. Even so, there are many like you, struggling to find balance in their own changed life while also paying attention to the plights of the world. Many like you, who are just trying to figure it out. One day at a time.

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