On Turning 27

Last Wednesday I turned 27. This morning I called out sick from work because I coughed twice. I’m not infected, but I am scared.

I’ve never done this before. I don’t think any of us have. I’m used to living with a certain amount of uncertainty. It’s par for the course when you are trying to write for a living. I’ve moved across country solo to a place where I had no housing, no job, no friends. I’ve traveled alone through Europe. I’ve quit jobs with no safety net in place. I’m not a stranger to the unknown.

But this is something else entirely, and it has much more to do with other people than with me. I don’t understand how and why people are acting the way they are acting. As someone who is extremely sensitive to other people’s emotions, right now is like living inside a blender. Whenever I leave the house, I’m overwhelmed by waves of panic and anxiety. When I stay in my house, I can feel it radiating through the walls. There’s a tightness in my chest and jaw.

It’s odd. I don’t know anyone who has contracted this virus. I don’t even know anyone who knows anyone who has contracted the virus. I just know what the people around me are feeling, and for once I don’t know what to say or do to make it better.

I want people to know that things will be okay, but I don’t know that. I want to share my love and strength, but right now I’m feeling tapped out and angry. I think I’m going to make it through this. I think we all will. But I don’t know how to shield myself from the psychological damage of a population in terror.

I can take courage from a memory, though. I remember when I was seventeen, and I thought the world was going to end. At least for me. I couldn’t imagine a way out. I couldn’t imagine that a tomorrow would ever appear. Thankfully, it did. And then another one and then another, and now ten years later I am twenty-seven.

Last Tuesday, the night before my birthday, I took the bus out to Ocean Beach and walked along the shore. I watched people playing with their children, fishing, surfing, walking their dogs. I sat on the side of a dune and watched the sun set. As the last rays dropped below the horizon, I realized I had tears in my eyes, not only because the sunset was beautiful, but because I knew in my heart that it would rise again.

I walked into the ocean – baptizing myself as I do every year – and welcomed in the cold. Tomorrow may be uncertain, but I’m so grateful that it’s coming.


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