We’re in Week Three of Quarantine. What Next?

Colleen Secaur, Managing Editor

I woke up this morning, Tuesday, March 31st, at 8:30 a.m., because that’s when my parents force my siblings and me to start our day. I ate a bowl of cereal and an apple, then took a walk for an hour at Wompatuck State Park. At the moment, I’m writing this while I’m preparing to join one of my classes via Zoom at 1:00 p.m. Later on, I’m going to work, where I’m answering the phone for take-out orders. 

None of this seems all that special; none of this seems like anything that would warrant being part of what it is sure to become a historical event. And yet, every step, every second of my day is spent thinking about what’s next, how we are going to remember this. There are flashes of our current dystopian reality throughout my relatively mundane day, from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press conference blaring on the TV as I write, to the fact that my managers won’t let me take the food out to people’s cars when they pick it up. 

And don’t get me wrong–I am one of the luckiest people right now, globally speaking, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m young, relatively healthy (with mild asthma), and have the technological and financial resources to adapt my day to my new environment. I recognize that any missed graduation ceremonies or senior activities or college tours are worth it to save the lives of those more at risk than me. The anxiety that is real and prescient for me though lies in my personal feeling of helplessness. 

It feels like an obscenity to be sharing my fears from my vantage point of relative safety, but it scares me that every time I turn on the news I see something different. I see that last year when the federal government was put through a pandemic crisis simulation, they failed to contain it successfully and safely. I see that a vaccine won’t be ready until, at the very least, 18 months. I see governors discussing sacrificing the health and safety of their own grandparents for the sake of the stock market. 

And every time I sink into a deeper and deeper sense of numbness–being a passenger on a sinking ship whose captain is deaf to my cries. For much of my young life, I’ve recognized a disconcerting dullness to events objectively described as horrifying, because there’s a nihilistic belief rooted deep down inside me that nothing will get done. What evidence do I have to disprove this feeling? The nonexistent action my government has taken to stop school shootings? Or climate change?

It’s a privilege to suggest, but I try to find some vestige of positivity in my drastically changed everyday routine. John Krasinski from The Office started a show on YouTube called Some Good News, which is a news program dedicated solely to good news. The Bon Appetit video team, known for great recipes and even better content, is resuming their regular cooking videos at home. I don’t have a Nintendo Switch, but I want one, just so I can play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which seems to be the most idyllic video game on the market. 

However, even these suggestions of things to do feel so predicated on privilege. I’m not a medical worker (nor is anyone in my family) or an essential worker. The reason why I have so much time to think is because of my status as a nonessential worker and a student–I’m someone who is safe in her own home.

My mom likes to say I’m a “Debbie Downer” when my thoughts spiral off like this, which has been happening much more frequently as of late. But I wanted to record this for The Scituation, both for myself and for others, almost as a dispatch of sorts from this very moment in history. 

I’ve found a rare respite of solace in other, far more skillful writers and their personal essays. Writers with children, writers living with ailing relatives, writers who are restaurant owners, and writers who are essential workers. I don’t have the front line view these people may have, but as of right now, I have the unique perspective of being a 17-year-old girl with one foot in my new virtual high school classes, one foot dangling into an uncertain future at an undecided college, and my head in a doom-laden fog. 

And I hope that will be enough for someone, either now, or in the distant future.

Even if I can’t offer the respite of the aforementioned writer’s work with my writing to you, the reader, then at least I can hopefully look back at this essay in a world fully recovered, where restaurants are bustling again, movie theaters are packed, and my elderly and immunocompromised friends and family can feel safe again.