So, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. What now?
I’m not going to pretend to have any answers. I’m a 20-year-old third-year college student. I don’t have a real medical background. Sure, I was pre-med for five semesters, which my mother seems to think makes me a doctor, but I certainly don’t know the first thing about highly transmittable viruses. All I know is what I’m told so, for now, I’m staying at home and doing my due diligence.
In the middle of a global crisis, it’s difficult to see the distinction between self-care and sloth. According to entrepreneurial Instagram, we should all be starting workout plans and founding online businesses and learning new skills. But let’s be real, that’s not realistic (at least, not for all of us). Also, using productivity as a basis of worth is a tool of capitalism! The machine we are supposed to be raging against!
I’m not saying that lying in bed all day is the ultimate “fuck you” to capitalism. Certainly, you are not sticking it to The Man™ by shirking all responsibilities in lieu of binging Tiger King on Netflix. But I think there’s a balance to be struck between capitalism-driven productivity and self-exploration for the sake of enjoying existence. Now is time as ever to delve into a new hobby, to do something regardless of whether or not you’ll be good at it. Three weeks ago, when this all began, I ventured to Michaels (the craft store) for the first time since elementary school, probably, and bought a sketchpad, Micron pens, and watercolors. As it turns out, I’m not as bad of an artist as I thought.
The purpose of this essay isn’t to stand atop my soapbox and tell you that you have to start crafting or gardening or writing or whatever it is you might feel slightly compelled to do. I don’t think that picking up a hobby will magically transform this literal pandemic into an inspirational era of growth. It’s okay to acknowledge that this sucks. It’s okay to be disappointed about missing a concert or a vacation or your college graduation. You can feel those things while still being sensitive to the gravity of the situation and recognizing the privilege that you might be experiencing within it.
Yes, I said it. The P word. Privilege.
I know it gets thrown around like a football in the hands of frat dudes, inexplicably shirtless on a college quad. You might be tempted to roll your eyes and shove me aside as another liberal SJW, desperate to blame my plight on somebody, anybody. But I’ll be the first to admit that I have privilege, too. Exceptionally so. Honestly, I consider myself incredibly lucky in this present situation. For the first time in my life, I have relative financial stability (meaning that I know I can afford rent for at least one more month). I have my own place in New Orleans, meaning I don’t have to fly home and live with my family for an indefinite length of time. I’m babysitting a friend’s car, I have food for groceries, and I inadvertently stocked up on toilet paper long before the shortages began because I unintentionally kept buying more than I needed, forgetting that I had some hidden up on a shelf at home.
The next time you go to the store and complain about the lack of produce or toilet paper or cleaning supplies, I implore you to take a second to think about the fact that you could have bought whatever you needed, had it been stocked. Yes, it is exceedingly frustrating that we cannot purchase the resources that we need. But I imagine that it would be even more frustrating to be unable to access those resources at all, to have running water and a hot meal be something that only exists in your dreams. I’m not here to tell you that “someone has it worse” because, well, of course they do. If you’re reading this, you at least have access to the Internet, an invisible privilege that most of us mindlessly overlook, distracted by the endless scrolling that consumes us. But again, it’s okay to have the things you have; you aren’t a bad person for having more resources than someone else. Unless you’re a billionaire, in which case, you are a bad person.
My point is, there is much to think about. I hope to use this disruption from regular programming to reflect on myself and on the state of society; I hope to educate myself as much as I can. I know I’m not going to be the person to cure any of our great downfalls, but I pray that things don’t simply return to normal at the end of this, whenever that may be. Now is the time to radicalize. Now is the time to learn. Now is the time to come into yourself. Now is the time to read those books and listen to those podcasts and watch those documentaries you’ve been putting off. Now is the time to learn how to crochet or draw or paint or whatever it is you’ve always told yourself you could never do. You’ve got nothing better to do, do you?
I certainly don’t intend to tout myself as an exemplary model of self-motivation or radicalization, but I do hope that I’ve said enough to get you thinking. These are unprecedented times, as far as our lifetimes go, and the world can be a scary place. But in knowledge and in the arts, we might find some solace.
If you need some resources, check out this massive reading list, put together by @queersocialism on Twitter.