Joy in Times of Despair

Photo by Kourosh Qaffari on

Is it wrong that I feel happy and excited in these horrible times? This quarantine has been a very shocking experience for most people, for a number of reasons. Many people have lost their jobs, others have lost a significant amount of income, many others are increasingly anxious, or depressed, or angry, or isolated, or lost.

This has been an ordeal for most people I know. As I teacher now working online, I have the opportunity of talking to many students everyday, and most of them are increasingly bored and restless, frustrated that they can’t go out, that they can’t do “anything”. And thus the first days I wondered how it was possible that most of these people felt so bad and how it could be that they really couldn’t find anything to do.

However, after some weeks, I started shifting my perspective, and looked at myself. Why am I so happy with this situation, why does it make me feel so good?

I have to clarify that I do not enjoy the suffering of others, that I’m not happy that a lot of other people are having a shitty time. And I’m not talking about bored individuals, but the people who are really struggling for survival, or health workers, who risk their lives every day to protect the rest of us.

And I do worry. My parents are in their late sixties and their greatest pastime is to go out to the market, or to buy groceries. They are part of the vulnerable population, and I worry they will catch the virus. And I worry I might catch it myself, because they would look after me if I’m ill, and I’d put them in danger.

As I said, I do worry. But I have also been feeling really good. I have enjoyed my solitude immensely. I have had time to meditate, to create, to write, to work, to be with myself. I have joyously avoided inane conversations in the teachers’ room, incessant recounts of football matches, grown people shouting for attention, people unable to be alone with themselves for two straight minutes who have to resort to superhero movie topics to kill the silence.

I don’t consider myself to be an anxious person. I have suffered depression in the past but fortunately I got over it. But anxiety? No, I wouldn’t say so.

But I feel very anxious that I will soon have to go back to work in the “real world”. I feel pain and sadness and despair, and I feel trapped. I don’t feel trapped in my house, I feel trapped in the prospect of a near future I dread.

And of course I don’t wish for this terrible situation to continue, for the sake of everyone else. But I have this powerful urge of making it last somehow for myself. And I’m afraid, because it would mean changing many things that have given me stability and comfort for many years in my life. It will mean being completely responsible for myself, for finding sustenance. I will have to stop depending on a company to give me work to do.

Yes, I’m afraid, but I’m also excited. I feel that somehow this time has been pushing me to do all the things that I needed to do to change my life and get responsibility. I want to work to find change for myself, but I also feel that what I learn will be useful in helping other people who might be going through the same feelings and thoughts than me.

I feel selfish for feeling well but I believe it is possible to feel like this. I was depressed and trapped for a very long time and I feel now that it is only fair that some light starts shining through for me.

In the process of finding the light let me be the light for others who think “normal life” was anything but normal and that change is possible, even in the worst of times, even when it hurts.


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