The Way We Have to Live Now

“I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6: 8. As the world was rippled by an unprecedented crisis, in terms of government responses and civilian confinement, my thriller-hazed and overstretched mind repeated this verse as the soundtrack for this out-of-body pandemic (coupled with Lux Aeterna and World War Z reassuring melodies). However, thanks to a mental slap by my remaining brain cells of logic, I came to my senses and buried the verse deep down in the coffer of my existential worries. Officially 649,662 people have hitherto perished from the novel coronavirus, a mind-boggling number and heart-wrenching reality which has exposed our health care deficiencies and, specifically, the dilapidation of our nursing facilities for the elderly and the vulnerable. Low and behold, despite school physically closing its doors, my life did not take a drastic turn for the psychologically worse. Due to school work, my general preference for snuggling in my bed watching movies or reading books instead of going out to rejuvenate my body with fresh air, my micro-phobias, and my tendency to over-analyze human interactions, I was never really an extrovert nor did I enjoy the outdoors. With the lockdown, suddenly my lifestyle became the norm. While I was pinched sometimes by bitter-sweet school nostalgia, I communicated with my friends every day, even though video-calls. This is a little embarrassing, but skipping the harrowing process of dusting my skin flaws with makeup every day was a liberating experience. The stress of catching the metro every morning and sharing my personal space with people from all different backgrounds of breath aromas, body odors, and perceptions of personal hygiene, the adrenaline of running like a headless chicken from one class to the next and having to socialize during the breaks, was gone. The extra time I gained was channeled towards creative activities, projects that I actually enjoyed. I worked more on my assignments, wrote more, read the books that had asphyxiated on my dusty bookshelves and learned more on global events, like the Hong-Kong protests, the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, climate change, how China is exactly governed and why the coronavirus happened there, problems whose gravity eradicated my amoeba-sized complaints and caprices. I reconnected with old friends, tried some online art courses, participated in online MUNs, studied more music, and experimented with the baking recipes, rampant on the Internet for intrepid lockdowners (yes I almost destroyed our oven). Regarding school, our final exams were canceled, a fact that my 5-year-in-exam-preparation psyche has not digested. I feel greater anguish for the canceled trips of the youngsters, which in my time created the most profound, inspiring, and memorable experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic brought an undecipherable hiatus to my 6-year old secondary-school marathon, by deconstructing, on the one hand, my deterministic worldview, but also by re-affirming my pesky peradventures on human relationships; laconism in the number of friends and mental solitude have become an oasis while meandering the wasteland of social anxiety, complicated friends and companions. This bunch of friends, however, becomes often invaluable. My best friend fell gravely ill, the grandfather of one of my most beloved classmates passed away. On my way towards home, one lady slapped the hand of her child when he touched the handle of a door at the bus stop. “Do you want to never see your parents? To stay alone in a hospital room without your friends?”, she screamed not to her child but towards the sky. I felt helpless, visualizing endlessly the grandfather of my friend trying to survive the abyss while being agonizingly alone. While many people reveled in the serenity of loneliness, million others were slowly scorched by its flames until they perished. In Greece we say “ουδέν κακόν αμιγές καλού”, meaning “every cloud has a silver lining”. Millions of other people are faced with the emotional paralysis of death, the uncertainty of unemployment, the phantom of depression, the anxiety of overwhelming bills and obligations. I hope that we will be able to recover stronger, united, and willing to start fixing the fissures that render the foundations of human happiness and well-being teetering and shaky. (the picture features the Grand-Place, the most famous landmark in Brussels, deserted during the peak of the pandemic in Belgium)


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