Crazy, right? In a very short time, we’ve gone from life as usual to something totally different. Well maybe not totally different – everything is still known and familiar – except maybe for how to tackle the virus, but we have science for that. (And yes, in spite of all the memes that claim parents locked down with their kids will get there first, there will eventually be a vaccine for this. Whether it is a one shot deal (pardon the pun) or whether Covid decides to mutate annually like the seasonal flu remains to be seen.)
And again, turning to the meme-verse, whoever thought that one person couldn’t change the world, never ate an undercooked bat… but here we are. And here I am. Up until this pandemic, I had a pretty good idea of how the rest of my life would unfold. I’d work a few more years, retire, move to another location and settle in. Maybe kayak a bit, try my hand at carving hobo nickels (no really… I have all the stuff ready in a box labelled “hobby”), continue to play with tech and cameras (X-Pro 1 for the win!), and travel. I’m probably going to be able to do most of that except for two things. Retire and travel.
Retirement is inevitable. I’ve been tired for years now. Pre-Covid, I had a pretty good idea when I’d walk away. Now I’m not so sure, but I will go. I do know it may involve simpler pleasures and a slower pace. And an iron will, since with every sneeze, the markets do a belly flop.
Travel. I’ve been very fortunate. The only continents I haven’t ‘collected’ are Africa and Antarctica. Much of the travel has been for work, so it hasn’t bankrupted me to see the world. I’m very lucky in that regard. Lucky enough that if I was never able again to see Prague (my favourite city), or hit the southern hemisphere again and really get a good look at the sky with its unfamiliar constellations, or even sit on a beach in Hawaii or Mexico, then fine. I’ve done all these things and I can be satisfied. (Hyatt Ziva in PV, I will really miss you though.)
The way I am coping with all this is kind of silly, but it is my offering in these times, for those who might need a different way of looking at this chaos. (And for those of you who are sick of the crass attempts by advertisers trying to capitalize on us being “all in this together”, this is my geeky response.)
What I think has happened is that someone somewhere turned on and off again a quantum computer, and this time we jumped to a parallel earth, one where Covid alters everything. In other words, we are on a new timeline. Period. Get used to it. Gone is our fantasy of how things were going to turn out. Gone are our plans for the future. Gone are our reasonable expectations for how we thought it was going to go. We are on Covid Earth now. Many things are the same, but everything is different. We’ve entered a parallel universe where we think we know the rules but instead, a virus has changed everything. (Seriously, who the fuck eats a half cooked bat anyways??) Makes sense, doesn’t it?
And what happens next? Sure we have the 1918 Spanish Flu to look back to. Once it ran its course, a large portion of the population was gone. Someone, somewhere (I can’t recall, I’ve read so much recently) noted that in spite of the 1918 horror, the aftermath was a rebound in the economy, and a new world order, if you will, and increased prosperity. Of course, my sparse historical knowledge wonders if we are sugar-coating the 1918 aftermath a bit. Didn’t we end up with runaway inflation in the 1920s, culminating in a stock market crash and the Great Depression, fixed only by a second world war? Asking for a friend…
Trillions of dollars are being dumped into the necessary saving of people and business (although seriously, a bail-out for Virgin Airlines?!?). I’m no economist (that’s my brother’s job) but normally a flood of money eventually = inflation. Unemployment will be high, and I don’t see how countries can mitigate that effectively. The divide between haves and have-nots will become more apparent, and those that fall into the haves will not just be the 1%, but also the middle class who manage to keep some employment during this time. When the revolution comes, many more people on the lower stratas of the class system will face the guillotine. It might be that in some near future, just having had a job to sustain you through these times might be enough to mark you.
Paranoid? Maybe. But history is a harsh teacher we often ignore. Does original Earth history count on Covid Earth? Yes, but future prediction just went out the window. Although I’d prefer a future where the things I have already seen keep happening – people helping each other, volunteering, health workers walking into the fray day after day, the “essential workers” who will check my grocery order, fix my car, make me a yummy meal – all on a very low wage, the polite hellos out in the community (from 6 feet away), and so on. Maybe, just maybe, Covid means a little bit more? (Sorry Dr Seuss.) Maybe a more communal and ‘human first’ world will emerge?
Where does that leave us right now? I honestly have no clue. As a health professional, I know I could be asked to work on the mental health side of all this, but how much help would I be if my future is as uncertain as everyone else’s here on Covid Earth? Maybe the best I have right now is to be able to say, “Welcome to the new time line. It’s called Covid Earth and everything looks the same but it’s all different. Time to start fresh. Where would you like to begin?” And maybe some of what we need is plain old grief and loss counselling – to let go of what we thought was going to happen in our lives?
I know I don’t have to save the world. That’s too overwhelming to think about right now. But I can do some things within my sphere of influence and make the world that falls inside my circle as good as it can be. And I can grieve the future I won’t now have. And I can accept the uncertainty, as much as I can. If we all do this, Covid Earth might just survive and thrive.
Be safe and look after one another.