Looking at the Bigger Picture

How Individual Actions Affect the Collective in the Age of Coronavirus

Until March 13, most days looked similar. Most mornings I would wake up, brush my teeth, and get ready for school. Mornings often consisted of doing my hair, picking out “the perfect outfit,” adding accessories, choosing a perfume to put on, and selecting a pair of shoes that complimented my outfit. Getting ready helped me to feel presentable and at my best while at school. During the stay-at-home order, my routine, like most other things, looks supremely different. I often roll out of bed and put on new sweats (or throw a sweatshirt over what I wore to sleep when I’m really lazy), throw my hair into a messy bun or ponytail, and log into class. Even my day to day schedule is completely divergent from before. I have huge blocks of time during the day, I barely leave my house, and I somehow get less sleep even when my classes start later. 

The altered normalcy of life amidst a global pandemic not only looks different but creates an unprecedented view into the lives of our teachers and classmates. I no longer worry about how I am presenting myself. There are much more important issues. I don’t bat an eye when my teacher’s virtual background comes off to reveal they have been teaching in bed, because I know they are doing all they can to get through this time. 

During this so-called “unprecedented time,” the small anxieties of life have been muted while larger social rifts are divided at quicker and more evident rates. Emotional facades have been stripped and I can see the pain in my classmates’ eyes. But while we focus on our own pain and the pain of our friends, we must remember the issues plaguing our nation before this pandemic hit are still relevant. This virus disproportionately affects communities of color, but these communities and their concerns are not being addressed.  

Many upper class families have rushed to their “summer houses” or rented estates in places where they can limit the number of people they interact with as much as possible. Lincoln Park fills with teenagers thinking their social lives are more important than the health of those around them. Whatever side of the political spectrum you fall on, coronavirus is often still the issue at the front of your mind. 

I see so many of my peers more upset about missing prom than the people that are dying. Teenagers all over the country are breaking social distancing rules to hang out with their friends. We have to put aside our own emotions and worry about the wellbeing of the entire nation. While you might not feel personally at risk of the virus, the people around may be. Grocery store workers, delivery workers and others from low income communities may have to put themselves at risk in order to feed themselves or keep a roof over their heads. Additionally, those who live in low-income communities are at more risk of heart disease and diabetes, both of which compromise the immune system. 

Allowing coronavirus to be an excuse for overlooking the inequalities within our society is not right. As we focus on our own healing and getting through this time, I urge you to consider what we could be doing for those dealing with violence, illness, food insecurity, housing insecurity and more during and after this pandemic. As we focus on ourselves and our own healing, we must also work to heal the world we live in.