It took me a while to process all this and fill a blank sheet about what we’re all experiencing these days.
What Italy is going through is common knowledge now: if at first, a rude, false and sensationalistic communication fueled the fear of contagion, now the problem is real. It’s something that knows no boundaries and I perceive it every day in the silence of the streets, in the brisk pace of men covered in gloves and masks that turn the corner of my house, with shopping bags, heading home.
We said that “It is not a big deal”
Despite the warnings, nobody would ever have expected not to leave the house, nobody wanted to imagine a catastrophic scenario even though we joked about it. I underestimated the problem too saying that it’s not a big deal, the mortality rate is low, it’s a matter of people with pre-existing diseases.
I mean, all the pseudo-optimistic motivations that everyone proposed to us, trying to balance the apocalyptic vision of the disease.
Yet, who has the time to think about an influence when life is not going as I would have wanted? Drifting projects, interviews that didn’t work, all-time low self-esteem, it’s my world that was falling apart, not the one around me.
Now, among the many adjectives that I gave myself in 30 days, I didn’t think I could even add another more: selfish.
The virus was spreading, racism was wild and targeted people with oriental features. Because after all, it’s easier to shift the blame into someone else instead of thinking about a solution. The fact is, from “Chinese people” the racism targeted the whole Lombardy residents, but this was not enough, hatred is not an anti-contagion method.
Now Italy is quiet, like someone who suffers from a fever, just wants to rest in silence.
I’m trying to picture what’s going on in hospitals a few kilometres from where I live, what all the medical staff are experiencing, facing the disease and emergency in every shift, every morning, afternoon, evening. Incessantly, hospitalizing hundreds of cases every day.
I’m writing this letter because, now, I can only sit in front of my laptop, thanking all those who are struggling every day against COVID-19, including my parents. I’ve never been as strong as they are, I’ve never considered following their footsteps because I’m aware that I wouldn’t be strong enough to work in hospitals. My mother, when I had to decide about my future, said: “Don’t do what I do for a living, don’t work in people’s pain”.
Now we mourn our relatives
And just a few mornings ago, I had to comfort her, the strongest woman I know. Because overwhelmed by stress, she needed me to get up.
“It’s chaos in the hospital, you can’t imagine what your father and I are seeing every day. They don’t breathe, they have respiratory failures and they stick their eyes on us all the time. We’re powerless, we do everything we can but we’re afraid. We fight against the invisible and our patients collapse without being able to do much. At every shift I see coffins leaving the hospital. Every day someone dies here”.
And since we had this call, several days have passed, and in the meantime, I’ve lost my grandfather too, her father, who was severely ill. I couldn’t even say goodbye to him, stuck 1000 kilometres from home because I didn’t even think for a moment to come back and risk infecting my family, my friends, my neighbours.
What is happening made me think about how I was facing a new chapter in my life: 2020 would have been a year of great work and personal changes but by January, things were not going as I would be expected. What resulted was a huge drop in how perceived my abilities, I felt lost and without focus. Two months later, I find myself unable to do anything but stay closed at home with a little to do, carefully planning what to buy at the supermarket during my “yard time” every ten days, creating activities to stay productive, cooking meals.
Only now I realize that not having control of how things are going for two months in our life was total nonsense. I found myself reassuring my mother, in tears on the phone, confessing that the job she has loved for so many years now scares her, I found myself surprisingly listening to my father’s outburst that lasted hours, and knowing him I know he wouldn’t have spoken for so long if he didn’t need support and comforting words.
My parents are afraid of me and my brother, kilometres away from our home in southern Italy, waiting for the end of this nightmare and hoping every day in our heads not to be called for the bad news. Because my parents, but also many of their colleagues with whom I shared summer evenings fight on the front lines every day and I, who a few weeks ago was whining for not having been called for the job I wanted so much, I had to help, without shedding a tear on the phone, those who everyday risk getting sick and dying away from loved ones.
A lesson from a virus
What I learned in this situation very far from home is that it makes no sense wracking your brain in small details, magnifying problems and everything that does not go according to plan in life because, oh well, life never goes as you expect.
Perhaps the slightest changes in my routine were not enough to make me understand that and destiny needed to shout it louder.
What I find paradoxical is that two months ago I was battling with a mental breakdown, forcing myself to go out for a walk. Now, when the world falls apart, the economy falls apart, and thousands of people die every day, my mind is focused, organized and supports those who face the emergency on the front lines every day.
I hope this piece could help someone during this emergency: I want to make you understand that we are much stronger than we think, this crisis is a sign to make us realise that it’s not a small failure in life that makes a difference about who we are. Being deprived of the most fundamental freedoms such as having coffee at the bar or looking at the trees blooming while hanging out with your friends is a way to make us appreciate them better afterwards.
For once, slowing down and looking at who we have next to us and reaching them out is the essence of our life. Running, consuming, prevaricating others where does it lead? At the end of the run, guys, we won’t win anything.
Once again slow down, support your companions and enjoy the ride.