Sunday, March 15, 2020

Adapting to the New Normal

These are some of the strangest days of my lifetime. We are all living through a global outbreak of the Coronavirus, and in state after state, governors are ordering closures of schools and colleges, restaurants, local sporting events, museums, and most other places where people gather in large groups. Suddenly, I'll be teaching all my courses online, and my students are being told to stay away from campus. My husband and I have a wedding anniversary coming up (#33), but we won't be able to celebrate by going out to eat-- in fact, many folks are finding that events they were looking forward to are being postponed, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Boston Marathon (even the upcoming commemoration of Neil Peart's life, scheduled for mid-May, might have to be put on hold).

The good news about working from home is I don't have to spend an hour in traffic every day, and the number of meetings I have to attend at work has been eliminated. Without a long commute, I have more available time for catching up on reading, working on some unfinished articles, listening to the radio, or enjoying some music videos. On the other hand, I've never taught online, and I have one week to learn how to do it. I'm accustomed to face-to-face classes, where I can interact with my students directly.  I'm still wondering how my Public Speaking students will adapt to this... part of the coursework included going out and evaluating some professional speakers, but with so many public events cancelled, they'll have to do it via TED talks or other online videos-- not the same as attending a live speech, but it will have to do.

And speaking of getting used to doing things differently, some folks will find themselves more isolated than before.  This is especially true for the elderly. I have a friend who is 96, and she is worried about going out at all, since older people are supposed to the most vulnerable; in her area, most of the places she goes to socialize have closed, and activities have been canceled too. (If you have older relatives you might want to call them. Not everyone has a computer, and getting a friendly phone call can really brighten someone's day.)  I'm also concerned about all the kids whose schools have closed down-- for lots of children, school is not just a place to learn; it's a place see their friends. That daily routine is something kids look forward to. And now, it won't be available for a while. (More importantly: I hope local governments develop a plan to help kids living in poverty-- they rely on those school lunches.) 

Meanwhile, all over the country, nurses and doctors and other healthcare workers are facing the same uncertainty as the rest of us, as they try to contain the spread of the virus and help keep the population healthy.  As a cancer survivor, I am eternally grateful for the good medical care I've received, and I'm well aware of the stress these folks are often under as they try to save lives. Working during a pandemic is certainly stressful, and I applaud the people on the front lines, who are fighting this virus; I also applaud the scientists trying to find a vaccine for it. But please beware of the online scam artists who claim to have magical cures.  Every time there's a new disease, these fraudsters come along, insisting they have a cure for it. Don't be fooled. 

There will be numerous inconveniences in the days ahead, but I am certain we will find a way to cope. I must admit I'm going to miss live sports and live music.  And I'll be glad when I can take my students out for an ice cream again.  But for now, it's a good time to take care of your health (don't forget: social distancing, thorough hand-washing!), and it's a good time to reach out to your friends, in real life and on social media.  We've gotten through difficult times before, and as disconcerting as things are right now, we'll get through this too.  

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