By Mitchell Drake
On the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, I took a short walk around Downtown Pittsburgh. In Market Square, I saw groups of intoxicated people laughing, taking pictures while clad in green party-wear and cheap beads to celebrate the holiday.
Beside the groups of howling cheerful people, I saw frightened and red-eyed older people wearing face masks briskly hurrying to their destinations. An elderly woman on Smithfield Street was struggling to wear a face mask while trying to use her oxygen tank simultaneously. I only felt confusion to a degree I had never felt before. How am I supposed to be reacting to the pandemic?
I was forced to consider panicking as my fellow students and I were prompted the next to leave our dorms with roughly a month of classes left to complete online. The past few weeks have been a series of tackling issues with online instruction, stir-craziness and fatigue. Some of my professors adjusted well to the online instruction-only method of teaching, while the less tech-savvy professors struggled, and their classes felt the effects. I prefer attending lectures and meeting with professors in-person, so I have not really enjoyed this experience. If social distancing keeps us safe, then I will do it regardless of how socially depriving the situation may become.
Being somewhat of an introvert, the stay-at-home order has not been entirely torturous. My only sources of agony arise from the odd visit to my local Giant Eagle for groceries and trying to deal with my mother’s views of the pandemic. Since the stay-at-home order, I have only left for groceries once, and it was unsettling to see face masks and fear on the faces of other shoppers. My mother subscribes to a right-wing view of the situation, which entails downplaying the death tolls by comparing the numbers of the number of flu deaths and opposing the quarantine methods chosen by Gov. Tom Wolf. Being apolitical, I choose not to engage her and find myself silently enduring her talking points, but I recognize that the situation is serious and should not be downplayed.
Hobbies have been a major aid in coping with the lack of spending time with friends and exciting Downtown life. I have been biding my time with gaming, keeping company with my three dogs, and getting a significant amount of work done on my post-apocalyptic anthology series – which feels increasingly appropriate as each new day comes. Having something to focus my mind on has greatly helped to distract me from the awful situation spreading across the world.
For others, I would suggest finding a hobby. Distracting myself with hobbies have led me into new interests and new friends by association. Hiding under the covers and being scared by the news can only be fun for so long. Take up journaling, go on jogs, marathon some old movies, learn a new recipe online, find a new book to read and do simply whatever it takes to keep yourself occupied. Be aware, but stray from any apocalyptic thoughts.