“It doesn’t feel real.”
I think that’s what I’ve heard the most over these last few weeks. That’s how I’ve been feeling too. It feels surreal how quickly everything can change. Just a couple weeks ago we beat UNC! Again! A week later, if we were lucky, we were moving out of our dorms (I’ll miss you Giles!)—homes in which we were supposed to make memories for another two months.
I think every day the news gets a little bit worse. The death toll keeps rising. One state after the next has closed down its restaurants and bars. The President, who spent ample time downplaying the threat of COVID-19, changed his tune, urging people to avoid gatherings larger than ten people. We are all expected to stay in our homes until some unspecified, future date. Seniors have had their final semester ripped away from them. All the plans and excitement of the spring have come to a screeching halt for us and students across the country.
So, now what? Hopefully the constant discussion has made it clear to everyone how seriously this must be taken. It has been difficult for me and all of us to deal with this crisis. The modern world has never encountered anything like this before. Never have the lives of my generation been so disrupted. Despite all of this though, we will get through it. These are dark times, and the next month will be one of the darkest, but we don’t have to all succumb to that reality.
I have seen on Twitter and then Facebook (as it usually goes) that Shakespeare wrote King Lear while quarantined during the black plague. I suppose that’s pretty inspiring, but we don’t need to aspire to write Shakespearean plays. For those of us with spare time and resources, the most important thing we can do is help one another and take the time we need for ourselves. Local businesses are going to suffer immensely; order takeout, buy gift cards online, advertise their delivery menu. Many of our international and low-income classmates have nowhere to go, can’t travel home, or are otherwise unable to return to a safe environment; support the Duke Mutual Aid fund which some amazing students have worked tirelessly to establish. If you were able to get home, see what those in your community need. Check in on your friends and family; loneliness takes a toll on everyone, and we finally can communicate 24/7, and we even have group Facetime. Make sure your loved ones, especially the most vulnerable, know how to stay safe. We will get through this. In each other, we can find some light as we do.
Our lives won’t be the same after this. Once it is all said and done—and it will be one day soon—we can attempt to rebuild our lives and this world exactly as they were before. Or, we can live differently. We can learn from the ways selfishness exacerbated this crisis and continues to do so as we seek solutions. More importantly, we can learn from the love others have shown, the sacrifices others have made, the struggles we are all going through together. Perhaps this will teach us how badly we truly need one another, both during this crisis and once it is over. Perhaps all of us sharing the exact same threat is truly what makes this feel so surreal. We are so used to fighting each other, after all. And perhaps this can be the start of us all feeling a bit more connected, even as we stay distant.
Robby Phillips is a Trinity first-year.