By Buddy Early, February 2021 Issue.
Let’s dive right in: we did not become better people. I thought we would as we navigated Coronavirus. I even wrote a column about it. But since that column (just a few months into the pandemic), we’ve proven that we have no patience for what is required to defeat Coronavirus, and our primary loyalty is to ourselves; we do what makes us happy, and apparently what makes us happy is doing whatever the fuck we like whenever the fuck we want.
I always seem to trigger people when I use the collective “we,” as some are quick to point out that they don’t fit the narrative being described — not to mention they don’t actually understand what it really means to use the collective term. Having said that, I am most certainly not referring to myself since I have had years of training in the arts of isolating and social distancing. This would be a breeze for me, I thought. It was also aided by a paranoia of contracting a serious illness, induced by the knowledge that I am a huge baby and have been known to take to my bed for days to deal with a bout of eczema. I’m a better person for the concern I’ve shown.
I definitely did not want to lose my olfactory and gustatory senses — I’ve been working on using more five-dollar words throughout all this, by the way. It’s been suggested to me that I need not worry about losing my sense of taste since I have none, but I think that may have been a read, and I have decided I don’t like that one bit. Sure, the other symptoms are unappealing, as well, and probably worse; but not being able to taste or smell Kung Pao is what scared me most.
The notion that we would become better people and a better society after COVID may have been a pipe dream, but I’m going to continue to do my part concerning personal growth. I’ve learned things about myself in lockdown, such as: how much body hair I can tolerate; the number of days in a row I can wear the same pair of underwear; and there is a limit to the number of times I can watch repeat episodes of Law Order. I’ve been discovering things about my body — and not in the good way where you want to share this new discovery with a friend or someone you meet online or at the park. I’m a better person because of this knowledge.
I’ve been expanding my horizons. Last summer, I finally joined Instagram and have accumulated over 150 followers. And soon, I might even post my first photo. I learned how to make memes, although the process is entirely too complicated for my impatience with technology, so I decided I’d keep simply using my words to describe funny scenarios. I’m a better person because of this growth.
A popular bit of advice circulating last spring was that we should utilize our time at home by taking on projects. Write that book you’ve been putting off. Build that treehouse in your backyard. Split an atom. Whatever. But before I could put to paper “It was a drab and rainy night,” we started getting admonished for suggesting that people accomplish anything at this time. (Because that’s how the internet works—a positive suggestion one day is a negative one the next.) Apparently, for some people, it’s all they can do to not face-plant into the toilet every morning because they are having such a difficult time with quarantining. So, obviously, being productive was out of the question.
My conclusion is that asking — or even hoping — that we all come out of this pandemic as better people was a bad idea. What I can say is that I’m working on it for myself, and no one will deter me. When the world returns to a place where we can socialize safely and resume the activities that make us happy, I’ll be ready to show off my new and improved outlook on life — no more self-isolation when it’s not necessary. No more putting off catching up with that old friend over coffee or inviting that Facebook-only friend to meet for coffee or asking a romantic interest if he’d like to get coffee. (I’m starting to think I need other hobbies besides getting coffee.)
And I am ready! If someone holding the vaccine comes within a half-mile of my location, I will seek them out. I’m ready to push down an 80-year-old candy striper with emphysema if it means I get mine. With the multiple versions available (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, etc.), I’m feeling optimistic about getting pricked soon. I don’t care if it’s made by Pantene — give me that vaccine.
These are small steps to me becoming a better person. But I was pretty close to perfect to begin with. At least my mom says so.