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Remembering This Moment: Life in Quarantine Part 1

Today is April 30, 2020, while in years past it may have seemed like another day now it marks over a month of quarantine for many. There has been so much I have learned from this experience. While we are constantly in the moment wondering when all this will be over, we forget that this too shall pass. As states around the United States begin to reopen, I want to share my thoughts about the past 4 months.

I said earlier in the year when the fires in Australia, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the sudden death of Kobe Bryant happened, that I hope more people will know how valuable their life is and that the "me me me" mentality is not sustainable. While those events came and went, we continued to consume everything at the same pace thinking "Sending thoughts and prayers. I'm sure someone else will help take care of it" then we quickly went back to planning the next event that would benefit us. I too am guilty of it. The "you can have it all if you hustle" mentality caused me to always think about the future and not be 100% present in the moment wondering if there was something I forgot to do in my long to-do list. How often do will fill our calendars until we barely have enough time to sleep? We have work, then rush to a kid's sporting event, or happy hour with friends, or making food at home, or a hair appointment, or nail appointment, or getting our car fixed. You can't forget to squeeze in the networking event to help grow your career or the church event because you do want to do good in your community. Don't forget we have to visit our family on the weekend or go to the doctor for dialysis. We ask ourselves how much time do I need to factor in when driving through traffic to all of these events? How much gas am I using? Do I even want to go? Can I afford this? These were the constant thoughts we had in our heads trying to keep our lives filled with events to show that our lives, especially on social media, was going really well. It was the constant Keeping up with the Jones' mentality that we thought we needed to validate our lives.

When the evident cry for change fell on deaf ears, here comes COVID-19. How quickly did we realize that we are part of a community and that the "me me me" mentality hurts everyone? They said we have enough toilet paper and food for everyone but not enough for everyone's greed. How quickly did we learn what businesses are essential? How quickly did we realize how much we depend on sports or entertainment to help distract us from our reality? How quickly did we learn what teachers do all day is extremely difficult when teaching our kids from home? How quickly did we learn that staying at home with family would be the mirror we needed to show how good or bad we have it? How quickly did we learn that by staying at home by ourselves, that our inner thoughts can be maddening and without distractions or proper ways to address them, that anxiety or depression grows beyond what we could have imagined?

When my sister passed away last August, people asked me "Why did she have to go? She was the one always cleaning, eating right, being kind to everyone. Why her?" As a person of faith, I told people that sometimes it takes the person you least expect to pass away first so that others can make the changes necessary to better their lives. As we all sit here pondering "Why is this happening?" I say maybe this is what was needed to awake then souls of billions of people who were going through the motions of life but not feeling alive or truly living. That we needed a reality check of how valuable life is and how selfless we must be to help others. That at the end of the day we are all connected no matter how much we think that we are secluded in our own convenient, individual worlds. There are many things I learned during these past 4 months and will continue to learn as this pandemic continues. This is what I have learned so far.

What have I learned?

1) That we do not have a good system in place for a pandemic.

I watched the documentary on Netflix called Pandemic when the coronavirus cases started to increase in the United States. I recommend watching it because it follows how viruses originate and how they would impact people all over the world regardless of their economic background. Syra Madad the Senior Director, Special Pathogens Program, NYC Health & Hospitals is amazing. Watching her do something she is passionate about that will help mankind made me want to search for something that ignites my soul the way her passion for minimizing illness around the world makes her feel. She demonstrates that you can be an intelligent, forward-thinking professional, mom, loving wife, and a person of faith all at once. I won't go into more detail about the documentary so that you can enjoy it for yourself.

After watching the documentary, I decided to learn more from experts about how this pandemic was inevitable, and instead of reading all of the bad information on social media, I decided to read more medical articles. What most of the experts predicted years ago came true. How quickly people around the world became ill and/or hospitalized showed how varied each country's health system is and how globalization has made viruses easy to spread.

Based on my own experience here in the United States, where measures to lock down the country were done later than they should have, my Facebook feed was quickly filled with posts about the number of deaths or cases around the country. I will not go into detail but this past month multiple people in my networking groups lost a loved one to coronavirus. A family friend's entire family was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and her mother is in the ICU. It never really hit me until people I knew personally were being affected by it. These were people ranging from their 30's to their 70's. These are loved ones and it made me want to do my part to stay home as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus.

As people started protesting to open up the country, more and more of my nurse and doctor friends posted on social media asking people to stay home to help flatten the curve. Many of my friends were working long shifts and were getting sick. We have to remember that they are human too. Reducing the number of patients was essential to help protect our frontline workers. We all learned that our healthcare system does not have enough equipment and trained professionals to properly take care of multiple sick people at once. What we only watched in movies became reality in densely populated areas such as New York and my hometown of Chicago.

The lack of PPE in our country to keep our healthcare workers safe was something no one realized would happen in a country of abundance. As healthcare workers were called heroes, here they were trying to do their job without basic supplies. With states having to bid against other states to get the medical supplies they needed, it showed the dark reality of how our healthcare system works in this country.

As my state of Texas begins to open non-essential businesses tomorrow, my hope is that people continue to stay home and if they do go out continue to wear a mask and gloves to protect themselves and others.

While we are still in this moment of uncertainty trying to find a balance between helping keep others safe while restarting the economy, one thing is certain, this moment was the shock we needed to see how lacking our healthcare system is. I hope that we will finally listen to the experts and find creative solutions to better our system for the future.

Stay tuned to read part 2 of my 14 part series of what I learned during my time in quarantine.

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