Pandemic Reflections from 10,000 Feet

As I write this, my plane is 10,000 feet in the sky and we have been given the okay to take out our bigger electronic devices. Sixteen days ago, I boarded a plane for the first time since March 17th, 2020. When I chose to go to school in San Francisco, 2,000 miles away from my home in Louisville, KY, it meant I would fly frequently. I came to love the experience, and ultimately take it for granted: early mornings, bustling airports, airport tea, and an underlying sense of excitement and adventure. My flying experiences have always been filled with this sense of excited anticipation; whether I am flying home after a long stint at school, to school after a long stint at home, or to a new place for a new adventure, I am always excited to be on a plane. This time was different. When I walked into the airport sixteen days ago, instead of that usual excitement, there was an overwhelming sense of anxiety and even a little bit of guilt. I couldn’t help but recognize my privilege, to be flying in the middle of a pandemic, how surreal.

After months of being isolated I wanted a change in scenery, so I left my home in Kentucky to visit a couple of friends in San Diego, California. As I walked through the airport, I couldn’t help but feel selfish. I was doing and planned to do everything in my power to keep both myself and those I was visiting safe, but I knew that everyone doesn’t have the opportunity to get a break from their quarantine blues. For so many reasons I am lucky to have been able to spend the past few weeks away from home: I am a healthy 20-year-old with relatively low risks, I can afford a plane ticket, I have friends who were willing to have me come visit, and I have access to the proper PPE to allow me to fly safely. Even with this knowledge of this privilege I had, I still found myself questioning the experience. There were a lot of people flying as well and they were wearing their masks below their nose or a face shield without a mask underneath, both of which the CDC deems inefficient. I also couldn’t help but think about March 17th and how on that day just a mere seven months ago not a single person wore a mask. At that point in this pandemic, we knew so little that people thought the masks were pointless. People were downplaying COVID-19 and what was to come. We all thought that this would last two weeks, maybe a month. On March 17th there was a building sense of urgency and fear but at the same time a nonchalant attitude.

The thing that has surprised me most about this experience, now, seven months later is that same nonchalant attitude. As though it is no big deal at all that we are traveling during a pandemic. This tragedy our world is facing is serious, yet there are those who still remain to act like it is not a big deal. As though the hundreds of thousands of lives lost do not prove that this is a serious problem and that we should be acting with much more urgency. 

Throughout this pandemic, I have felt a lot of emotions: sorrow, anger, and even glimpses of hope. My Aunt mentioned to me recently that these are the emotions within the stages of grief. I am ready to stop grieving the loss of my early twenties and my college experience. We face constant stressors on top of a lack of socialization which has become exhausting over time. These times are weird, nothing is normal, even when we attempt to make it like it was in pre-pandemic life. We are forever changed from this experience; I hope for the better. Until this pandemic comes to an end and we can collectively stop grieving the loss of our “normal” life please remember to be kind to each other. Hopefully, even after the end of this crazy time we can remember that we are in this together and continue on with kindness. 

Oh, and WEAR YOUR MASK!!! (It goes both over your nose and mouth and, yes, it is necessary to wear it under your face shield) (: