Covid-19 Stories: Navigating our new normal
Shanu Pant is a Data Analytics professional in Miami, Florida. Want to contribute? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s 4 am on a Saturday morning, and I am trying to pen my thoughts before sunrise; find focus before the distractions begin.
Shanu Pant is a Data Analytics professional in Miami, Florida.
Want to contribute? Write to us at email@example.com.
It’s 4 am on a Saturday morning, and I am trying to pen my thoughts before sunrise; find focus before the distractions begin. My house is still and tranquil. I still have traces of crusty sleep lingering in my eyes. The nutty, bittersweet plume of steam rising from my coffee cup awakens me. In this viral age, I am grateful for the luxury and beginning of a new day. I am an Indian living in the United States for over 12 years now. As I sit down to reflect on this past pandemic year, and how I have tried to navigate through it, I am reminded of something Bruce Lee said: “Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.... Be water, my friend.”
The coronavirus pandemic has become one of the biggest disruptors of our times. We are constantly trying to find these moments of progress – with lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, masks, sanitizing, Zoom, antivirals, vaccines. But with the rise in new rocky variants and rough surges in cases across the world, we are going to have to keep manoeuvring, like water, and navigate our way out of this stony pandemic. It was February 29, 2020 when the United States reported its first death and the direness of the situation started sinking in. My parents were going back home to India, and I worried and fretted until they reached home Covid-free. They were visiting us to see their then six-month-old grandson. After struggling with infertility for years, I had finally started my journey to motherhood. I was yearning to jet off with my new baby, feed the travel bug in my DNA, and take a vacation from work. Covid-19 came and threw a monkey wrench in all these plans. The speed at which life came to a screeching halt was shocking and one year into it, the ensuing uncertainty is unnerving.
This past year has been uncomfortably isolating even for an introvert. Juggling work with a new baby comes with emotional and physical challenges. Add the pandemic seclusion to the mix and you are cut off from the village that you are counting on to help raise your child. I remember days when I have been exhausted, overwhelmed, and yet, fearful of viral transmission, not letting anyone into the protective cocoon I built around my family. But there are also days when I am grateful; grateful for all the medical personnel, frontline and essential workers who are risking their lives so that others, like me, can live in some semblance of normality through these difficult times. I am thankful that my husband and I could work remotely; that even at the height of the lockdown, I was not wanting of any essential needs, and most importantly, we have our health. Just a few hours ago, I was checking up on my sister’s family in India who have been nerve-rackingly sick for the last two weeks. The recent exponential outbreak there is painful. All I can do is pray for my motherland. I am also grateful that my parents are vaccinated and so are we. On this last note, however, I feel a bit guilty.
We are privileged that we are eligible for vaccines because of our chosen home in the United States. People more vulnerable than me, living across the globe, are nowhere close to getting one. I console myself with the thought that I am contributing towards herd immunity, and therefore, being responsible with the privilege afforded to me. Without vaccine availability, accessibility, and equity on a global scale, we will end up playing the old arcade game of whack-a-mole with this viral enemy – no matter how fast we adapt and react, it will pop right back up.
For me, like many others, the pandemic has changed the way I work, learn, and live. It has been difficult tending to family and work while trying to quiet my own fears; to wake up optimistic day after day and not feel jaded by all the problems in the world that somehow feel amplified in the backdrop of the pandemic. But the biggest impact it has had on me personally are the unprecedented restrictions on travel.
Before the ‘viral age’, we were soaring across crowded skies, making the world feel close and connected. I am one of those who dipped their feet in different lands and depended on human mobility to stay physically close to my friends and family. With travel restrictions, and Covid flare-ups, the tyranny of distance has started affecting me. My family and friends are scattered across the globe. My parents, a sibling, my in-laws, and most of our extended families live in India. A sister lives in Canada and a sister-in-law in London. This past week, the U.S. state department expanded its “Do Not Travel list” to cover about 80% of the world because of the recent alarming spike in Covid cases. My dream of globe trotting seems frivolous. All I long for these days is being reunited with my family. My father just turned 74 a few days ago and I hope I can be with him next year to celebrate his milestone birthday.
Never have I realized, more than now, how much the freedom of movement is a fundamental part of my human existence. This pandemic has been a fierce teacher. I am learning to slow down and feel more. This past year has reminded me to live for small pleasures, joys, and all the little surprises that life bestows on me. You cannot spend your life in constant fear. But above all, it has taught me the importance of being resilient. If we can flexibly adapt in times of adversity and have patience, then with time, we can rejuvenate and continue pursuing our hopes and dreams.
The sun has just started spilling over the horizon – it is 6 am here in Florida. The air around me is starting to heat up, its molecules fluttering with golden energy. The reflection of the sun in the little lake outside my window is striking. It looks like the water wants to catch fire and, like the phoenix, become something anew. I can feel a new normal emerging within and around me. I am hopeful.
The view expressed are personal.