My Eyes Were Opened

The Coronavirus outbreak that swept the planet showed me humanity's true colors. I saw the news stories of doctors and nurses living in their garages to protect their families. I watched interviews and live feeds across social media praising teachers for finding ways to continue teaching. I watched communities come together to take care of each other with free mini libraries and food pantries. I saw neighbors put up signs thanking frontline workers, while others put out drinks and snacks for their delivery drivers. And yet, despite all that bravery and love, I became bombarded with what can only be described as my breaking point. Videos of frontline workers being assaulted filled social media feeds. Heartbreaking stories emerged of people attacking hospital staff in parking lots. Customers fighting in shops for “necessities”. Infamous Karen videos became the norm. The world had become a violent terrifying place. Not only were we fighting an invisible virus; we were trying to survive against the losing battle of self-importance and entitlement. My parents instilled in me the belief that every single life matters and thus deserves nothing less than the utmost respect. The janitor mopping the floors deserves to be treated the same as the CEO, as one without the other could not succeed. I always held this belief in my heart, and it crushed me to see that this was not a universal belief. Being a retail worker myself at the time, I was afraid. Every time I left my house my body was preparing for fight or flight. In my head I would come up with ways I could defend myself physically if someone came at me; my go to was a pen in my hand at all times. I had only a mask at the time to keep me safe from a virus coming for me… It would do little against a fist. Taking the TTC; the Toronto public transit system, I had to keep a close eye on those around me. Backing away from those who refused to social distance, and biting my tongue until it bled under my mask when people would take theirs off. Sometimes I would speak up, but I always knew the risk I took doing so. Someday someone would come at me, and I wouldn't be able to physically defend myself. I reached a point where I no longer cared. I was tired of fighting an uphill battle. All I could think of was my family and of families like mine; who were doing everything in their power to make things safe; taking care of each other in such trying times. I would stare at the mask less, proudly smirking because no one could tell them what to do, as they would yell out in victory, “We won't be controlled.” and “I'm not wearing a muzzle!” My hatred for them grew every day; the more bare faces I saw the more frustration built. Why were they more important than my mother? My father? My sister? Why couldn't they get that this wasn't a political issue? No one was trying to silence them. They were free to believe whatever they wanted. Policies were made to prevent the spread. You don't want to wear a mask? Then don't. But then you can't complain online, or scream at employees when you're denied entry. You can't scream that your freedoms and rights are being violated when stores have the right to refuse service, while police remove you from private property. They wanted others to follow the rules so that they could be safe, but then turned around and refused to do the same for others. Time and time again I was baffled by their selfishness. Why is your comfort more important than someone's life? How can anyone be so cruel? Did they have hearts of stone? How could you see the footage of bodies being pulled out of long term care homes and pretend it's normal? How could you watch videos of exhausted nurses barely able to take off their PPE gear while tears rolled down their cheeks, from hours of calling codes? How could it not crush your soul to hear the cries of families mourning their children. We were losing mothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, best friends, and yet they still didn't care, because it wasn't them. My family should have been safe, protected by you and yours, just as we did for you. But in your eyes, we weren't worth the inconvenience. Our lives didn't matter. The pandemic not only taught me I can't trust others to do the right thing, but it stole a future from me. I lost my faith in humanity, and with it, my dreams of ever becoming a mother. There is no sense to bring another life into this world just to witness this exact scenario in the next pandemic. For them to feel the fear, disgust, hopelessness and rage I felt. That so many of us felt. This isn't a world I want to make another suffer through.. So in a weird way, I have a pandemic to thank for showing me humanity's true colors. It took so much from us; years, resources, loved ones, but, it confirmed that we will always be creatures of habit. And even in the most dire of circumstances, people won't ever change.

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