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Let’s race towards each other

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A few weeks ago I asked to take a step back from COVID-19 writing. 

As I’m sure you can imagine, every article that I’ve written since the start of March has had an element of the pandemic woven into it — understandably so. For months, COVID-19 has been at the forefront of our minds; from casual phone conversations to monumental life moments, every facet of our lives has been impacted by the virus — again, understandably so.

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Personally, I brought the anxiety into my own home as I obsessively refreshed multiple breaking news apps, and plagued my thoughts with irrational, “click-bait” quotes from elected officials on both sides of the aisle.

Phrases like “unprecedented times” and “new normal” have been thrown around so casually as of late, that I’m pretty sure Merriam-Webster will be choosing one of them for its 2020 word of the year.

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If I’m being honest — and bear with me here — I’m exhausted.

To clarify, I’m not “over” this pandemic; in fact, I’m far from over it. My parents and siblings in New York are far from over it; my sister and her family in Los Angeles are far from over it; my best friend, a frontline nurse in New Jersey, is far from over it; the families who lost a loved one so suddenly are far from over it. Need I go on?

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What I’m over is feeling diminished in the shadow of this virus, and I’m tired of suppressing my usual optimistic outlook to make way for this pandemic pessimism. I’ve been down this road before, and trust me, this type of nonstop negative thinking doesn’t get us anywhere.

In 2013, I was a witness to the Boston Marathon bombings. 

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To this day, it’s still difficult for me to talk about it. I don’t like the look of pity that crosses someone’s face when I mumble that I ran it that year. I don’t like that my first Boston experience will always have an asterisk because of a horrendous and cowardly terrorist attack. 

Most of all, I’m heartbroken that three innocent lives were taken during an event that showcases the beauty of the human spirit. Anyone who has run Boston knows it’s a race characterized by strength, resiliency, and above all else: community. 

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Crowds of spectators line the entire 26.2 mile course cheering athletes onward. Runners, despite their fatigue, high-five at the top of Heartbreak Hill, and hug each other as they stumble across the finish. This camaraderie alone makes the Boston Marathon every runner’s unicorn race — and on April 15, 2013 it was changed forever. 

Years after the event, I was unhealthy and unhappy. I felt afraid and powerless, and instead of seeking help and acknowledging my pain, I isolated and adopted destructive coping patterns because it seemed easier. Today, I wish I could go back in time and reassure my former self that we don’t have to close off when life becomes unpredictable and scary.

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After Boston, people talked of the helpers — the first responders and spectators who stepped in to carry survivors to safety. There was no politicizing of the event. Even when intense safety measures were enacted the following year; people simply did what was innate: they rallied together.

The unknowns of this pandemic have stirred up a lot of emotions in everyone. From politicizing pandemic protocol, to social policing on the internet, to arguing over rights and restricted physical contact, it’s no wonder society is, quite frankly, a mess.

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I think about how suddenly everyone knows best, and can hardly handle listening to someone with an opposing viewpoint. Friends, right now we don’t know much, and we might not for years.

Our community is relatively tight-knit. We don’t have to look toward the federal government for support, because I don’t know if it’s even there; but maybe, as we navigate these inevitable transitions, we can look towards each other.

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Moving forward, I strongly urge everyone to be graceful and gentle with one another — regardless of your personal pandemic opinions. Try saying “I love you” more, reach out when you are ready, and let yourself laugh. Let me repeat myself: friends, it’s okay to laugh.

We can get creative; we can recreate responsibly; we can whirl through a multitude of thoughts and emotions at any given time and still be decent human beings. And we can think about how we want to be remembered; will it be partisan arguing or connective growth?

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I choose connective growth. What about you?

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