There is a certain symmetry to how this pandemic has unfolded. The sixty-plus community was harder hit than any other, yet are the first to help neighbors in need; not this time. Shelter-in-place has been the most potent tool we have had to battle this monster of contagions. Learning to wear a mask effectively, using gloves appropriately, and choosing which activities to forego for the time being have all been new experiences as we reevaluate the importance of these actions we have always taken for granted. Some education was necessary to understand why distancing and sharing space are suddenly essential considerations. But people are not talking about what sheltering-in-place has done to the choices we once had but no longer.
For starters, we just missed spring. For the entire spring, March, April, and May, we have been sequestered at home, indoors. On the cusp of the next chapter in our lives, the pandemic has thrust us ahead without an Evite. Whether from college student to working stiff, from high school to college, from work to retirement, from stay-at-home mom to working, or from working career to retirement, we find ourselves in that next phase, whatever that is, without any preparation. Boom. One day you wake up, and you’re retired. It’s Monday, and you’re suddenly no longer expected to be at work or in school. It’s Friday night. You have two tickets to Hamilton on Broadway; only you and your friends can’t go to the canceled show. We’ve all become what we were looking forward to becoming one day, but we didn’t expect it to come to pass so soon. You’re a high school grad. Welcome to the gap years. You’re a retiree. How’s your 401k? You’re a college grad. Welcome to the unemployed generation. So many people are in the same situation.
How long we must shelter-in-place or in lockdown, as some call it, is not yet known. Estimates range from another month to three years. Chances are the reality will be somewhere between those two extremes. In some ways, what we do to avoid covid-19 never ends. We may be avoiding shaking hands, no longer taking books from the library, or using the towel in someone else’s bathroom anytime soon. Social distancing forced us into making profound changes in our lives; only we don’t know it yet. Many of us aren’t aware of what we’ve given up or suddenly lost, but we have.