I still remember the morning I first heard about the virus. I was browsing Drudge Report while sipping my first taste of coffee, a routine morning ritual.
At the time, the main story gripping the world was the killing of a top Iranian general, and how we all feared that Trump had just started World War III. It seemed as though 2020 was already shaping up to be a tense year. My gut told me something was coming.
Of course, we now know that there was indeed something coming our way. But this wave was not one of hatred or violence. In fact, it seemed to come out from left-field, effectively silencing our international discord in a way that only a pandemic can.
Still, the foreshadowing of the headlines to come is burned in my memory of that morning. Just under the main headlines about US-Iran missile stockpiles was a small snapshot of people in masks, and an ominous headline stating: China Pneumonia Outbreak Spurs WHO Action as Mystery Lingers...
There was no twisting in my stomach when I saw this. After pausing for a few seconds, I wrote it off as nothing to worry about.
3 Months Later
In the weeks and months between then and now, my wife and I have been glued to the latest developments on the virus.
I began calling out the virus long before it ever left China, sounding alarm to my close friends and family. Most shrugged it off as nothing to worry about. Why wouldn't they? It was in China, on the other side of the world.
I'm not sure what gave them that sense of confidence; whether it was denial or trust in the never-before-seen scale of quarantines that China had blanketed over its entire nation.
Ironically, the scale of the quarantine is what caused my internal "this is different" radar to start beeping faster and faster, more than any other crisis had. The Iran-US tensions came very close, if only because it was a prime setup for a global conflict.
Little did I know that the world would indeed be engulfed in a conflict of once-in-a-century proportions.
About a month ago I began to stock up on some basic needs and supplies. The tables turned when the US got our first case in Washington, a state that borders Idaho.
I didn't hoard, go crazy, or buy all the toilet paper (in fact, I'm running low on my normal allotment).
No, I just bought some extra food, sanitizer, Lysol wipes, and gloves. Regardless of whether or not we got COVID-19, I've had the flu enough with 3 little boys to know that the best way to keep everyone healthy is to meticulously sanitize the puke.
Still, COVID-19 was always in the back of my mind — so I grabbed two bottles instead of 1.
An Optimistic Realist
The best way to describe my personality in times of crisis would probably be as an optimistic-doomsday-prepper. I have enough emergency food to feed my family of 5 for 3-4 weeks. I buy bottled water during times of uncertainty, and extra batteries and flashlights — just in case things go from bad to worse.
But through it all, I always hold an optimistic view that we'll come out alright. That isn't to say that I don't feel anxiety. I feel it a lot; especially in light of recent events.
But what I'll never do is deny reality. I've always felt that there was going to be challenges in my lifetime — call it intuition, a hyper-sensitive sense of self-importance, or just plain resistance to the mundane. But to say I have a rosy outlook on the rawness of life would be completely inaccurate.
So it's hard for me when people I know and love and respect still cling to a false sense of hope that things will "go back to normal".
The New World
COVID-19 is not a blip on my radar; it's an EMP that took out the power. And you don't have to know how this ends to know that our way of life — our culture, society, economy, and faith — are all going to have lasting and residual impacts from this virus.
Take stock of what has happened globally in 3 months (the majority of which happened in March alone):
- 300,000+ cases
- 13,000+ deaths
- Total economic mayhem
- Complete lockdown of countries
And in the middle of this, people are saying "everything will be back to normal" in a few months!
Of course they would say that. No one wants to hear that life will be like this for around 18 months, even if we get occasional breaks. Keep in mind that a large portion of those months are winter months and prime time for COVID-19 to re-emerge.
If you abruptly stop a train, you don't have to just get it going again (a feat in itself). You have to clean up all the carnage and destruction that was caused from stopping so much mass in such a short time.
I want to say things will be better next year, but I don't know if they will. The truth is, no one knows where this ends.
Thankfully, I don't have to know. I simply have to handle the crisis. Now. As it is. And do my absolute very best to avoid making it worse. That's why my family and I have self-isolated for the last 2 weeks. We've left our house twice during that time, to get some final yard-work supplies (so we have something to do when we inevitably get a shelter-in-place order), and some food.
I don't know where this goes. But I know we're in for the fight of our generation, and that if we just recognize the time we are in, that we can do it.
We don't need life to come back to normal so we can get on with how things were. We need to let this pandemic define and mold us, because it's entirely possible to come out the other side a better human being; more resilient, kind, and gracious.
It's up to us, the younger ones and the able ones, to take on the mantle of self-sacrifice. To avoid crowds and all the fun things we use to do, and to embrace the simple life.
To protect the weak and the high-risk.
To do the hard thing for the right reason.
(I'll write a follow-up post to this in a month or two)