COVID-19 makes daily life surreal


Ben Clark

A bright spring afternoon in an uncharacteristically vacant Triad Park, Kernersville, NC.

I am sitting in my bedroom wondering when I will be able to relax in the same room as my best friend again. Before spring break at my college, the coronavirus was no more than a passing thought, similar to ones about the common flu. “Stay away from large crowds,” “Hold your breath after someone sneezes,” and “Avoid eating out” were a few of the suggestions that came to mind when I thought about the potential impact of the virus.

Never in my life did I imagine that the coronavirus would impact my country, and the world at large, in this devastating and life-altering way. While the phrases above still apply to my life, “Stay away from large crowds,” is now enforced by law. And a new phrase, “Stand at least 6 feet away from everyone you come into contact with,” has been added to the mix. It is also being enforced by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order.

Out of all of the outcomes I could have envisioned about the impact of the coronavirus on my community, I never would have thought that it would get to the point where a government order is requiring everyone to stay home unless for emergencies or necessities. The outcome of our future lies in the decision that each person makes next. These decisions include whether or not lacking half and half for my coffee warrants a trip to the grocery store.

They also force me to grapple with the question of whether I should leap at the first mega roll of toilet paper that I spot at the shop, or leave it for the elderly woman whose health is at greater risk than my own. The next time I have an urge to go running in the park or to buy toilet paper at the grocery store, my decision becomes a moral dilemma, with the health of myself and others potentially weighing in the balance.

I have maintained a routine of driving to Triad Park in Kernersville after school and going for a hike in the woods. This routine has given me dedicated time to be mindful in nature while coping with the stress of the day. With COVID-19 having reached my community, my gut warns me that even hiking on a nature trail is too big of a risk, given that the park is public and other people have the same idea that I do.

On the days that I decide to brave the park under the guidelines of the government order to remain at least 6 feet apart from other people, I have noticed that other people do not follow these rules as closely as I do. This is a key reason why I have lessened the number of times that I go to the park. Most likely I will stop hiking there, and stick to walking around my neighborhood for my daily dose of mindfulness.

When I was on a FaceTime call with my sister, she said that a group of college-aged men laughed at her for staying 6 feet away from them while she was going for a run. It has become apparent to me that many people think that the state of the world is not as urgent or dangerous as facts and health professionals inform us. Even our president downplayed the pandemic until the number of confirmed cases and deaths began to skyrocket in our country.

My best friend and I, who usually see each other at least once a week, have been discussing how we might not even be able to celebrate her 21st birthday together, which is May 20. Our plans of me buying her first legal drink at a local bar has transitioned to plans to FaceTime while simultaneously drinking White Claw, a popular brand of hard seltzer, which is less intimate and special than a handmade drink at a local bar.

Although the stay-at-home order is not forcing everyone into full-on lockdown, it nonetheless has robbed our community of intimacy. Gone are the days when I can run at my local park and jog past someone without making sure we are at least 6 feet apart.

No more are the times when my best friend and I can go to The Traveling Bean, a coffee shop in downtown Kernersville, and enjoy the bustling town and its people. Replaced in its wake are glowing screens with the familiar faces of our friends and family, which remind us that while they are still alive and well, we do not know the next time when we will be in the same room with them. If everyone practices proper social distancing guidelines, hopefully that day will be closer than it seems.