At the time of writing this, I've spent about a month in quarantine with my family thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When I look back on the early news stories of this pandemic, I couldn't help but think about what this would mean. What could the virus do to us here? What could it do to our country?
I didn't have to wait long for it to reveal itself. I started to make the transition to working from home and finishing my degree in total isolation. I tried to convince myself that this was a passing thing.
But about a month later, here we all are. And in the grand scheme of things, a month is nothing. It is a drop in the bucket. What's more, I have no idea when this will end and when we will go back to 'normal'.
This changed a lot of things for my family and I. As Catholics, the order to stay home hit hard. Since this came partway through Lent, we knew that it would have an impact on the holiest part of our year. Easter, which we recently celebrated, consisted of a vigil at home. We watched the mass on our TV in a dark room, with our baptismal candles lighting the darkness.
Apart from religion, apart from work, and apart from school, this month felt long. It rivals wintery January, where I said to myself that that was the longest month I'd ever experienced.
In short, this quarantine sucks.
I said what I said.
I've had a lot of things cancelled on me — talks I was supposed to give, in-person meetups with friends, a retreat I was excited for, a roadtrip with friends I hadn't seen in a while, and now convocation.
I've started to feel extra self-conscious as my family and I sit in the car. I miss meeting up with friends in real life. I miss the sounds of a coffee shop and watching the world go by as I ride the train. I miss the wooden pews of the church and hugging my friends when I see them.
While spring is always associated with renewal and new life, the time spent inside is like death. We've only stayed inside for a month. How am I going to keep this up? But perhaps some good can come from this.
I can’t go too far, but I've started to do a lot more walking. On those walks, there's a lot to notice. Rich colours on the trees, cloudless blue skies, birds singing unique songs.
Praise be to God, my family and I are not starving. But I’ve been savouring my food much more. There's a lot less availability, but at least there is availability. Meals around the table were difficult to come by, but now we have this unexpected time to come together.
If there is anything this has taught me so far, it’s that nothing is forever. The things we mindlessly do could be gone in an instant. That’s exactly what’s happened here. We’re always in a rush, always impatient, always hopping from one thing to the next. We should be used to the whole quarantine thing. We've been doing it for years as we scroll through our phones, put our headphones in, or stare at our computers. We're masters at self-isolating.
But once we got the physical order to stay away from everyone we love, we woke up.
This fact hit me the hardest when I went for face to face confession during Holy Week. After confession, my priest, God bless him, gave me Communion.
I cried during confession, and I certainly cried after receiving the Eucharist. Throughout quarantine, I filled my heart and mind with so many useless things. I didn't realize that the one thing I craved was Him.
St. Augustine says that our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord. There is no amount of quarantine snacking, episodes of The Office, or time spent on Animal Crossing that can fill us. When returning to 'normal', there is no amount of busy-ness or time spent with loved ones that will fill us either.
This is not to say that we should hate all things and stay isolated in our rooms forever. All these things are good. But God made us for more.
I'd like to propose that there’s more to life than a packed-solid Google calendar. As difficult and stressful as this pandemic is, maybe it’s a call to slow down and think about what matters in your life. Because pandemic or not, the world keeps spinning and time keeps on ticking.
You have nowhere to go and you have all the time in the world. What are you doing with your life right now?