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Fear & Loathing in Nashville

Nearly a month ago I wrote a blog post about reinvention and fear. I specifically wrote about my own fear over reinventing myself and concluded that a little bit of fear is a good thing because it keeps you on your toes and thinking about your options.

I’m still afraid. Now my fear has taken on a much more ominous feel.

When I first heard about the strange, new (novel, in scientific terms) coronavirus that was discovered at the end of 2019 in China, my interest was piqued simply because I remembered the SARS epidemic several years ago, then the H1N1 scare a few years after that, and casually wondered what would happen over there as a result of this new virus. Over there. I didn’t consider that anything would happen here, because I, like most Americans, live in a bubble where REALLY bad things happen somewhere else besides here. Then we heard about people being infected outside China, and then someone in Washington state who’d been to the Wuhan province was infected. It was officially in the U.S.

A few days later the Wuhan province was closed off by the Chinese government. Then the WHO declared a global emergency. All hell began to break loose: the outbreak in the Seattle nursing home, growing numbers of infections and deaths overseas across Europe and Asia, a rampant outbreak in Italy… by the end of February, coronavirus had an official name – COVID-19, was found on 6 of 7 continents, and had claimed its first U.S. victim, not to mention thousands of others outside the U.S.

And then it was the evening of March 2, the night before Super Tuesday.

At 12:37 my cat woke me up. I rolled over and checked the time; before I could roll back over, I heard the first tornado siren. I got up and turned on the television in time to see local meteorologists running back and forth in front of their digital maps, screaming for people in West Nashville near Centennial Boulevard to take cover. Anyone in Nashville knows how the rest of those early hours of Tuesday, March 3rd played out. There was a path of destruction from West Nashville to Putnam County.

A close friend of mine from middle school had flown to Nashville from her current home in Rome the weekend prior. She was at her father’s home on Ed Temple Blvd. when the tornado blew through. Though his home sits right between TSU and the Ted Rhodes golf course, they only had several days of no power to contend with – no structural damage to his house. K stayed at my house a few days so we could watch the Super Tuesday returns and sit in awe and horror while we watched live feeds from piles of rubble that used to be neighborhoods and places we loved.

In the midst of our analytical political chatter and tornado sorrow, K was also worried about how she’d get back home to Italy. First, the Lombardy region of the country was locked down. A week after the tornadoes, on the day she was to fly home, they locked down the rest of the country. Her husband called and said she needed to stay put here in Nashville because he didn’t know how long it would take her to get home, or what danger she was putting herself in trying to get there.

During the additional 2 weeks she stayed in Nashville, more and more incidents began to occur in the U.S. and here in our own city. She finally decided to try to get to Rome when it looked like things were about to get just as bad here. She arrived in Rome on March 26th and went into a mandatory 14-day quarantine at home.

Before K left, the stock market took a nosedive and universities around the nation began shutting down and converting all classes to online versions. I was lucky to have an extra week of spring break, but it seems like all I did was watch more and more virus-related things happen on the news.

Now we’re in a full-fledged pandemic, thousands have died, and the U.S. now has more COVID-19 cases than anywhere else in the world. K was right – it did get worse here. We’re now all living in a state of uncomfortable flux where we don’t know really what to do. We want to help others, but we need to remain safe and healthy ourselves. Do we or don’t we wear masks and gloves? Is this headache I’m having right now stress or something more sinister? Am I having trouble breathing or is it my imagination?

I’m definitely afraid.

I’m afraid of how the pandemic will affect my family, because I’m afraid that we’ll all know someone who is impacted by it by the time everything settles down. I’m afraid of not graduating in December as I’d planned. I’m afraid of not having a job right now, but I’m also grateful that I don’t have a job. I’m afraid of how long it will take the stock market to rally, because I was counting on using some investment money to keep me afloat while I finished school. I’m also afraid that I won’t be able to go to graduate school now. Things have changed. In the span of a month, it’s a completely different world.

I re-read my first blog post. It reminded me that a month ago I put a positive spin on fear and uncertainty – that it keeps us thinking. It helps us reinvent ourselves. I may have to reinvent myself again before this is all over and life returns to our new normal. Maybe it will take another semester to graduate. Maybe I’ll need to find a job afterwards instead of going to graduate school.

I’m afraid right now. But I’m also resilient and adaptable. That’s the trick to reinvention: you can’t reinvent yourself without being resilient and adaptable. I’m still in the middle of my reinvention, but the end result might not look exactly like I wanted a month ago.

Check back with me in another month; I doubt our lives are done being upended by this pandemic. When things change again, I’ll probably still be afraid and uncertain. But I’ll just adapt and move forward just a bit more. Can’t stop, won’t stop. I can see the finish line from here.

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