For me, nothing's changed.
How could I say such a thing? Because I have long looked into the void for most of my adult life. It's not one I chose to reflect on by choice. The past decade of my life has been clouded with a +$100k student loan total. It has necessitated consideration of what I must to merely survive, what I must give of myself in order to pursue the dreams I have, and the dreams I didn't know I've had all along. Early on, I realized I didn't want to chase them. My response? Headstrong denial. I had to. I felt no hope but I had to. Forge ahead, make myself do something I told myself I had to complete in order to survive. "Things have a strange way of working out," they said to me, and then I said to myself. And yet, I didn't want to survive. I wanted to end it all. Why did I have to work so hard for something so uncertain? Somehow, I made it to the other side. Somehow thing worked out, and then... nothing. Nothing changed, and everything changed.
I made it to the other side. I had money, a job, and a means to support myself. I clawed my way to safety, only to find a treadmill, that I quickly found out I did not want to run on. I slowly decompressed: I was safe, but was I really? The threat of climate change grew every day, the threat of the Trump administration grew every day, the threat of an inverted economy grew every single day. Everything seemed so fragile. All it would take was the slightest breeze and everything would come crashing down. Life was no longer about merely getting to the end of a lifetime of school. It was now about surviving in the world until you are done. Surviving in a world I did not want to be a part of. I would have to run on this treadmill forever? What... what kind of life is this? Last year, the stress of it all broke me. The existential pressure of this all, all that it would take to keep myself safe from forces I could not control, all of the work I would need to do just to meet the bare minimum. I didn't see a future for myself. It seemed impossible and beyond my strength. I quit my job due to failing mental health, and have been drifting back home with family ever since.
Nothing changed. Being home with family I did not feel any safer. The same threats remained, the same fears remained. I still had debt, the world was still fragile, I was still surrounded by people insistent on denying reality. Insistent on denying your reality, should you dare point out the threats we all faced. It felt as if what I needed wasn't an escape from the life I had, but an escape from life itself. When the coronavirus emerged, I watched and listened to people around me and the world write it off as not a big deal, it will work itself out. "Everything has a strange way of working itself out" until it doesn't. Things only work themselves out when you face reality and the threats we face, and make the necessary changes to adapt. As each day passes the divide between those who accept reality and those who don't continues to grow and widen.
In the middle of all of this, I have figured out what I want to do with my life, right at the time where no one can move forward at all. The world has utterly come to a halt. The treadmill I clawed myself to has stopped. I have a family that can keep me safe, and I can keep them safe. I finally feel safe to reflect, at a time where the world is at the most unsafe it has been in for nearly a century. What does this say about me? What does this say about my pursuit of life itself? What irony have I found myself in?
I still have little hope for the future. As time goes on the world appears to be going into ever-larger hell in a fascist handbasket. I don't have confidence I can avoid it. I don't have confidence the world will be able to avoid any of this. The coronavirus is just the unexpected beginning of the challenges our world faces after decades of sitting on a narrowing rose glass foundation. All I can feel is "it's finally here". Yet, as humans, we must press on. We must try and find our resolve and get through any challenge we come up against because if you are alive, that is what you have to do. I know what I want to do with my life. I want to pursue art. I want to pursue expression. I want to be off the treadmill. I will spend the rest of my days doing whatever it takes to pursue a life filled with art and creativity. I know not how many days I have left. None of us do, but if these days are numbered they must be spent doing things that bring you a sense of hope, and a desire to move forward in life. I have an opportunity to do so, so I will take it or die trying. Nothing has changed, because I still feel a push to keep going forward, while still fearing I may die any day. But perhaps everything has changed, because now it is towards pursuing something I want, instead of what the world says you must. Perhaps that is what it means to survive. Not merely to keep oneself alive, but to strive to be alive.
This, our urge to survive, has never changed.