New York City is inarguably one of the most social metropolises in the world — which may explain why it was hit the hardest during the early phases of COVID-19. However, the communal spirit and nature of the city is still alive and breathing — just through a mask and at roughly six feet of social distance apart.
I briefly vacated the city between the months of March and June while New York City wore the epicenter “badge of dishonor.” But I’ve since returned and was pleased to find that the conditions under which New Yorkers typically live had changed drastically. I was welcomed by the cleanest and emptiest subways I’d ever seen and faces unidentifiable by their masks. I immediately felt that the aura of the city had shifted into something I deemed much more favorable. This in no way minimizes the toll that the virus has taken on life as we knew it (i.e the deaths, overextended front line workers, increased bouts with racism, etc.) But just for a moment, I want to offer a glimpse of the beauty in the simple things that I’ve discovered in a “COVID world.”
Summertime in New York is always exceptional, but the paradoxical quiet essence that such a loud city has adopted as a result of the COVID-19 crisis makes living here feel like a dream. The quaint and mundane reality of suburban life matched with the vibrant annoyances of a populated city have merged together into this beautiful cornucopia of everything that I’ve ever wanted. I wake up feeling free.
Instead of going out to bars and clubs and staying out into the wee hours of the morning — which admittedly can be fun at times — most of us have taken to intimate gatherings with our closest friends in our apartments or on our rooftops, having picnics, riding bikes in the park, going for walks, and frequenting our favorite restaurants that have space available for outdoor eating on the most beautiful days. The simplistic imagery itself is beautiful, but why did it take a pandemic for this sub-level of our existence to be perpetually unlocked? Why must we wait until it’s too late to slow down and enjoy a once in a lifetime chance at life itself?
As a whole, we were brought up in such a gluttonous and capitalistic society, that the thought of a simplistic lifestyle cripples most of us beyond repair. But I’d venture to say that the life we led prior to the virus was cancerous, uninhabitable, and doomed to crash eventually (as it did). Reassessing our values on both the macro and the microcosmic level is of utmost importance right now.
What does “life” mean to you? How do you understand the difference between being alive and living? Furthermore, is there a difference to you? Why or why not? These are all things to consider as we venture through our lives, embarking on unknown or unmarked territory.
These past few months have taught me so much about my existence in the world and within myself, and I’m hopeful that some of the positive changes we’ve seen as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the important conversations that it has brought about will continue beyond the moment.
The discussions surrounding racial and political injustice, calls for a better economy, better treatment of workers, the need for a slower paced lifestyle, the realization that not all jobs require going into the workspace daily, the de-stigmatization of mental health, the healing of our ecosystem, and more have all been extremely pertinent and relevant topics during this time — all things that I fear would have remained swept under the rug had the COVID-19 crisis not happened.
However, whether you’re located in a place like New York City or not, there are still a plethora of things you can do to increase social activity in a healthy and smart way!