Quit complaining about quarantine

Graphic by Gina Hsu

Don’t get me wrong, I know the novel coronavirus is not something to be taken lightly or something to be mocked.

I know a disease that has claimed over 152,800 lives and affected 737,700 people globally is no cause of celebration. But what you fail to see is the other side of it. As someone who is on her 14th day of self-isolation, take it from me when I say it isn’t all pins and needles.

What are pins and needles, though, is the endless complaining and ranting I’ve been listening to from everyone, everywhere. Social media forwards, mindless politicians, psychics, grown men and women who believe they have a right to pass judgments and complain when someone mentions COVID-19, and those special breed of teenagers who feel it’s all hypedup and only an inconvenience because, how will they party on every Monday, Tuesday, Friday, weekend night?

Yes, it is painful to stay indoors all day and night. Yes, it is torture to stay put with the family 24/7. Yes, we won’t be able to see our friends and other family members for a while now. Yes, the supply stocks are running low. Yes, we might be heading into a global recession. Yes, yes, a million other yesses.

But I ask you, for a minute, just think about one good thing that has happened in your life since this outbreak began. Amidst all the chaos, I ask you to think of one moment of calm. For someone who has been counting the days to go back home, getting to go back a month early could be the best thing that could have happened to me.

The moment I left the airport and got that eight-month overdue hug from my mum, everything felt calm, solvable, fixable, doable. If you ignore all the things that have become harder and just focus on the one good thing, you’ll see what I’m talking about. My mum always told me, “Complainin’ got no one nowhere.”

She’d tell me to think long and hard about the problem, for as long as I wanted — half-hour, an hour, two hours — and then make a list. A list of all the things that I had complaints with. Then she’d tell me to go find a distraction, and after a while, she’d sit me down with the list and tell me to sort what I could fix from the list and what I couldn’t.

The things I could fix, I should find a way to fix, and the things I couldn’t fix, I had half an hour to rant about and done — no more mention of it. If it’s painful to stay indoors because there’s no fresh air, open the windows, sit on the balcony, take a walk in the backyard — fixable.

A little bit of patience, a little bit of kindness, a little respect for space and maybe a little bit of ignorance, the family isn’t all that bad — fixable. FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp, Zoom, Hangouts; temporary alternatives we can be grateful to technology for — fixable. Supply stocks, global recession — not fixable. Not unless you are the president of a country, a part of his/her advisory, or a high ranking member of some government body.

A few days back, I came across a meme that read, “Climate Change should hire Coronavirus’ publicist.” I don’t need to go on about how on-point that meme is. Since 2020 began, floods and mudslides have drenched Southeast Brazil; earthquakes wrecked Iran and Turkey; the ‘Dragon Storm’ swept the Middle East; Australia burned for months on end.

Do you hear people complaining about all these things as much? Do you see a whole lot of people going out of their way to up-cycle, recycle, reuse, or even reduce? Now ironically, with everyone contained at home, they are being forced to resort to careful use of their products to keep them from running out. What’s more?

Satellites orbiting Earth have observed that air pollution in Italy has significantly reduced. In China, NO2 emissions have lowered. Venice’s famously congested waterways are the cleanest they’ve been in years. Hong Kongers had six days where they could see the blue sky — something to be grateful for no matter the situation.

I don’t need to give you facts from the internet. I can tell you that even from my 20th-floor balcony in Mumbai, I can see above and beyond what I could see before I left and even a few years back. And I have pictures to testify to it.

I can hear the birds instead of honking. I can hear the music playing from two floors below, and somehow there’s a strange comfort in the fact there is someone else who shares the same taste in music as you.

The point is, this whole situation isn’t all that bad. Over the past 14 days, I got to spend quality time with my mum, catch up on the 16th season of Grey’s Anatomy that I’ve wanted to watch for the longest time, eat home-cooked food, catch up on some well-deserved sleep, paint (God knows it’s been months since I’d touched a paintbrush), tick off a few books from my reading list, finish assignments, and even managed to get my hands dirty with some gardening — all from the comfort of my home.

So maybe, instead of being miserable about it, we might as well embrace the situation we are in. Because complaining to every Tom, Dick, and Harry out there isn’t going to protect us from the disease, end our problems, and it most certainly won’t provide a solution.

I think it’s time we realize how privileged most of us are to be complaining about trivial things that we can fix ourselves and be grateful for whatever we have. The sooner we make peace with it, the more likely we are to find ways to deal with it, and the more likely we are to come out of it all. Distancing, states of emergencies, and lockdowns won’t save all the world, but amidst this crisis, we have a chance to make it a better place.

Quit complaining and start embracing.


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