What We Can Learn from America’s Mishandling of the Coronavirus Pandemic

This essay was originally published on Medium.com. View it here.

The other day, my best friend and I were discussing the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. I rhetorically asked why this is all happing right now, which is to say during the pandemic, and she made a great point: Because most Americans are spending a lot of time at home, reflecting.

By calling it a hoax (before calling it terrorism and encouraging xenophobia), neglecting pandemic instructions left by the previous administration, ignoring warnings from and silencing experts, demonstrating against mask-wearing, and failing to invoke the Defense Production Act to acquire ventilators and PPE among other myriad issues, the current presidential administration has failed to control Covid-19. As a result, over one hundred thousand Americans have died — a steadily rising number — and millions more are spending the majority of their time in their homes.

Reflection, especially self-reflection, isn’t often regarded as a major social skill, but understanding yourself is a crucial aspect of understanding others, and understanding others is a crucial way of understanding the world and how it works. The continued threat of the novel coronavirus has given many Americans time to reflect, myself included. I’ve learned that:

a. Working remotely truly has some notable upsides. Aside from not being able to be in the same room as animators, designers, and other creatives with whom I’m working alongside on projects, my remote-work journey has been relatively smooth. As a freelance writer, producer, and resident millennial (aka, social media manager), I’ve been lucky enough to continue to work part-time since the climb of Covid-19 began. Because most of what I do is digital, I’ve been able to communicate with my clients and coworkers and create the same quality of work I would have created had I been in an office. If anything, I work more efficiently (and more frequently) in my apartment because it’s easier to focus without the burden of office politics and a depressing commute to midtown Manhattan. Also, my dog lives here, which is important, because my lifestyle preference is to be next to him at all times.

b. There are no innate differences between weekdays and weekends. Every day is the same, and this is a good thing; The sun rises and sets, the tides rush in and flow back out, and the flowers bloom and die. Spending so much time at home has offered me the freeing perspective that our jobs, deadlines, and everyday problems don’t need to rule our lives. This realization comes from a place of privilege, another thing I’ve been able to reflect on. While many people are complaining about having to stay at home (I am not excluded from this demographic), I’ve learned that it’s a blessing to be able to do so while many others are working essential jobs like taking care of sick and injured people, carting away our trash and recycling, stocking shelves in our grocery stores, and so many more that us non-essentials don’t even realize.

c. I haven’t been appreciating my loved ones enough. My boyfriend and I moved in together in early March of this year. Before that, we primarily saw each other on weekends because of our schedules. Quarantine switched our relationship to hyperdrive, forcing us to iron out every minuscule aspect of our relationship from how to build the Ikea couch to where to put the Ikea couch to Should we allow ourselves to eat on the Ikea couch? Just kidding, here’s your Indian food. We joke now that we have nothing left to argue about because we’ve had the time to smooth everything out. I realize that not all couples have had this experience, and I feel lucky to have been stuck with him all this time. I’ve also learned that, despite my social anxieties, I can call my maternal grandmother any time I want to be in a good mood. A New Yorker who grew up in poverty in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with her seven brothers and sisters, she is now in her eighties and living in Delray Beach, Florida with her beloved, freakishly intelligent cat, Gia. She spends a lot of her time on her own, reading novels, cooking delicious depression-era recipes, and watching everything on television from Impractical Jokers to CNN. She is one of the most politically-engaged people I know, always calling Trump a “lying son-of-a-bitch” and a “schmuck,” and she doesn’t mind when I use the F-word. I mailed her a copy of my not-yet-published novel and two days later she called me to discuss it and review the grammar. I will admit that I didn’t realize how special this woman was until this year, and for that, I am grateful.

Most people didn’t foresee Covid-19, and even fewer foresaw it wreaking havoc on our country as much as it has and currently is in the Sun Belt. However, through our outrage and frustration over the deaths of loved ones, the blatant misinformation spread by the President of the United States on live television, and the permanent socioeconomic damage to our country and its people, we as individuals still have power. We have the power to call our family members and friends, especially those who live alone, and ask them if they need anything, even if that thing is nothing more than another conversation. We have the power to donate to causes we feel passionate about, whether that means donating money to Get Us PPE.org, donating time by volunteering to deliver groceries to elderly folks, or taking action in another way that incites positivity. We may not feel like we have much control right now, but we do have the power — and the opportunity — to take a step back from our own lives, observe the bigger picture, and create change. And you don’t need to go outside to do that.

Oh, and by the way, kids are still in cages.

Featured image by Tyler Gardon

Being an Asthmatic Stoner During a Respiratory Pandemic

Why I’m forcing myself to stop smoking weed during the Coronavirus outbreak

This essay was originally published on Medium.com. View it here.

As a kid, I was short, chubby, nervous, and asthmatic. (To anyone who knows me: yes, I am also these things as an adult.) From capture the flag to the Presidential Physical Fitness Test to running the dreaded mile, gym class felt like a bespoke hell. One time I even walked out of a kickball game. It was my turn. I left school property.

It wasn’t just that I didn’t want to let my competitive classmates down and was afraid to be humiliated while attempting athletics; it was hard to breathe. Even the slightest amount of participation used up all my breath and I had to sit out.

Even though I seldom show symptoms as an adult, my asthma is still apparent whenever I hit a bowl or puff on a joint. Now, in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, I’ve realized that I am compromised. Since my adult asthma is mild, I don’t consider myself at high risk, but the realization that I am more at risk than, say, my live-in partner catalyzed a dialogue in my head with a most prominent concern: my breathing has worsened since I’ve started quarantining, and I have a good idea why.

I don’t think it’s because I’ve been infected, but rather because I’ve been smoking more weed than usual. And it’s not just that I’ve been at home more; the abrupt, strange, all-doorknobs-are-suddenly-the-enemy world we’re all living in is starting to freak me out. While I don’t smoke 24/7, I partake relatively daily as a steady part of my “nighttime routine,” which seems to be starting earlier and earlier each day. However, I do occasionally go through non-smoking periods for various reasons such as traveling, having a cold, or working twelve-hour days. During these breaks I notice my body reverting back to it’s smoke-free, slightly healthier version: the tightening in my chest subsides, my allergies are less intense, it’s slightly easier to breathe, and little random coughs sneak out less frequently.

Because of the potential dangers related to the pandemic, I’ve decided that, until it passes, I have to stop blazin’ every time the clock strikes four-twenty. As an asthmatic, even a mild one, if I do become infected with COVID-19, I am more at risk than people without preexisting respiratory conditions, says WebMD and the CDC. Even if I don’t end up on a ventilator, if my breathing worsens at all it will scare the living shit out of me (and my parents), so I want to be careful.

This said, I don’t want to stop getting stoned, and frankly flat-out refuse to — I’m one more celebrity “Imagine” video away from losing it and I need an avenue to sanity that doesn’t involve the liquor store. My advice to asthmatic stoners such as myself is this: use the flower you currently have to whip up treats that will get the job done but not impair your lung health. I’m lucky to have stocked up on edibles the last time I was in Colorado, but when those run out, I will be heavily perusing Bong Appetit while my loving, frightened boyfriend looks on.

When my stash runs out, though, I will be counting my blessings and meditating on the things in life that make me feel whole: my beautiful friends with whom I am constantly video chatting, noticing moments of kindness like when someone takes a bag of hot dog buns out of their basket and gives it to another person in the bread aisle who looks stressed out, the ability to read and stream unlimited content online, and the stunning, unmatched, iconic beauty of my terrier. I’ll also probably continue to drink a fair amount.

The point is: take care of yourself, look out for others, occupy your mind, nurture your friends and family from a distance with phone calls and texts, stay inside, and, most importantly, stay positive, though — as someone whose quarantine schedule comprises only “10 a.m. – take antidepressants” — I know that’s easier said than done. I’m not a scientist or a doctor, but I really do think that if everyone is mindful and courteous, we can overcome this thing together.

By the way, I wrote this on the toilet.

Featured image by Dima Kosh