The Coronavirus Chronicles – Catharsis

I should be fielding frantic Facebook messages on behalf of my clients, but I can’t focus because of the nagging headache I have. I’m not sick, but it’s definitely coronavirus-related.

Like most Americans, I’ve run the gamut of emotions this week and have pretty much made it through the five stages of grief. First, there was denial: everyone’s overreacting, of course, we can keep traveling, this toilet paper shortage is ridiculous, it’s just business as usual, yada yada.

Then it was anger. Angry events were being canceled and travel bans were being put in place. How could you upend my world? It should be up to me whether I put myself at risk. Our freedom is being compromised, which felt exceptionally unsettling as an American.

Then there was bargaining. I guess we all have to do our part to be good global citizens and be more conscientious of how our decisions affect others. Is it better to take that trip or stay at home? What are the potential effects on the Uber drivers, hotel staff, and restaurant employees we come into contact with or the lost wages from those gig workers if we cancel unnecessarily? What’s the trickle-down effect?

Now I’m left somewhere between depression and acceptance with a pit stop in dejectedness. But really, I’m just emotionally exhausted. With everything around me shuttering or canceling, it seems there is nothing to do but stay home with everyone on unofficial quarantine. I had domestic trips lined up that I had every intention on taking until it became futile with attractions, restaurants, and bars forced to close. Even before that, my friends were getting backlash and threats for traveling.

I was shocked when they canceled SXSW. I was shocked when colleges like Harvard started sending students home. I watched in disbelief as one by one March Madness, the NBA, NHL, and MLB were canceled or suspended. When Disneyland, Broadway, movie premiers, and major festivals like Coachella delayed openings or got pushed back, it became more and more apparent that this would be our new normal at least for the foreseeable future.

I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would see any global event that would halt as much of the world as this has. Much less a pandemic threatening to cripple the world as we know it in just a span of a few days. It’s defeating to feel powerless. It’s surreal….and slightly fascinating by just how fragile it all is.

The worst part about everything is the uncertainty, and the people in power aren’t doing anything to remedy the growing unease. The situation changes daily and is so touch and go with every city and state reacting differently. Misinformation and information overload are the norm, and my brain is fried from trying to keep up. I don’t know anyone who has the virus (excluding Tom Hanks), but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Still, this dystopian fear feels far removed.

All week, I’ve been crafting thoughtfully worded messages for my clients as to why local events are being called off. Every post is met with mixed reactions from the villagers – don’t cancel nothing’s wrong or thank god you’re lifesavers. There’s no winning – it’s just disappointment all around. Displaced emotions are being taken out on anyone and everyone who will listen.

Do you think these companies and cities want to lose millions of dollars for you not to be able to drink that beer or go to that parade? Of course, not. They poured hours and hours into planning and their heart and soul into making these events great. And I know it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.

I got into social media so I could share funny memes through storytelling. Never did I think I’d be doing crisis management and mitigation. But here we are. I can only imagine how the nurses and medical professionals feel getting thrown into the fire with a disease so little is known about. Can we all give them a round of applause? Because god only knows when they’ll get their next vacation.

A lot of people are going to lose a lot of money in the upcoming year. Whether that’s your 401K taking a nosedive, loss of wages from having to stay home, gigs being called off, that mom and pop restaurant no one is going to anymore. There’s no better time than to exercise a little empathy – both in-person and online.

As someone whose job it is to write about whimsical travel and experiences, there’s a fine line between looking insensitive by continuing to show pretty pictures of far-flung destinations and giving people a much-needed distraction from the constant stream of media coverage. I’m choosing to carry on as usual – not because I don’t care but because I don’t know what to say otherwise, and everything else seems like overkill.

Personally, a few positives have come out of this:

  • Social media has become more vital than ever as businesses utilize it as a primary source of communication. Sadly, it took this kind of event for companies to realize why interns and entry-level professionals shouldn’t be on the front lines of corporate communications and that it’s not a lowly “pink collar” job after all.
  • If anything, my work has gotten more secure. Social media’s a pretty recession-proof job as more than ever, companies need constant communication. When travel picks back up, I imagine I’ll have more work than ever as soon as destinations need help showing they’re safe and open for business. Unfortunately, I know not everyone is as lucky in their industries.
  • If nothing else, this incident has shown how interconnected the world really is. The government can try and paint it like a foreign illness and close the borders, but rational humans know we’re all in this together at this point, and we’re better together.

While by no means a medical professional, here is my best common-sense advice for survival.

If you’re traveling:

  • Make sure you have travel insurance that includes a “cancel for any reason” clause. I have an annual plan that covers all my travel, which I highly encourage all frequent travelers to get regardless of this instance.
  • Stay informed about the region you’re going to avoid disappointment if major functions or attractions end up being canceled or closed.
  • If you’re feeling sick, stay home.
  • Fear and misinformation are a bigger epidemic than the actual disease. As they say, opinions are like assholes; everyone has one.

If you’re staying home:

  • Unless you’re ill or under official “shelter in place” orders, “social distancing” doesn’t have to mean locking yourself at home and never leaving. Support your local businesses. Take that road trip you’ve been putting off. Visit that state park and get some fresh air.
  • It took a national pandemic to get two capable 30-somethings to buy a thermometer (after searching four stores). Take stock of your emergency preparedness kits and act accordingly. That doesn’t mean go crazy and buy a 30-year supply of toilet paper, but have the essential pantry items on hand: cold and flu meds, soap, hand sanitizer, and shelf-stable goods like Easy Mac, pasta, and ramen. I also highly recommend these dehydrated dinners that taste really good and require no effort whatsoever.
  • That said, there’s nothing wrong with having fresh produce and groceries. There’s no better time than the present to practice baking or try out that new recipe.
  • You can finally binge watch that show or book you never got around to. But also sign off and put down the devices down. The constant barrage of media coverage is overwhelming.
  • As someone who’s worked remotely for a while now, it can be very isolating. Make it a point to pick up the phone and stay in touch with friends, family, and co-workers.

Only you know what’s right for you and your situation. Here’s to hopefully getting back to normal or at least adjusting to the new normal sooner rather than later.

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