Like any American kid, I grew up with the essentials in my home: flashlights in case of a blackout, a generator for hurricanes, and military-grade gas masks in case of nuclear war.
My dad was a military man on the verge of what some would call a conspiracy theorist. But to me, it was normal.
I was riddled with notions of how not to trust everything the government says and that at any moment, my world as I knew it could crumble—literally.
He stocked our house with rationed foods for each member of my family, gas masks that covered our faces, and a radiation detector. And just to make sure the detector worked, a radioactive rock sat nicely in a lead container in our garage.
Well, I was told it did. My 1–year-old self never worked up the nerve to lift the lid on god knows what mutant rock lived inside.
While this may have created a side of me that always worried about the worst, at least I felt prepared.
Today, on my 28th birthday, I gave my dad a call. What started with a “Happy birthday!” quickly gave way to talking about the coronavirus.
My dad doesn’t believe the severity of the situation is being told by either China or the United States. And, to be frank, that’s neither here nor there in regards to this article.
Like any virus we don’t fully understand, the possibility of contagion is always looming around the corner. And being a very anxious person—especially when dealt with a scenario in which I have no control—that isn’t something I can hear and forget about.
“You should at least stop by a drugstore and grab an air mask. Better to have them just in case,” my dad explained.
So, a few hours later, I found myself in the aisles of CVS, scanning for the little cloth masks I so frequently saw on people’s faces when I lived in Asia.
I understand where my dad is coming from; it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. But the unknown makes me worry. Hell, it makes me anxious and sad. I like my world as it is; I’ve had the privilege of growing up during a war-less and plague-less time.
As I looked at the face masks, I wondered: How do you prepare for the worst while hoping for the best?
And just like any hard time I’ve gone through—eating disorder recovery, depression—there’s no grand answer. It’s much more simple.
You go about your day. Sure, you wash your hands a bit more. You stock up on items you need in case of an emergency. You buy a radiation detector if that makes you feel better.
But you do all of this out of preparedness. You can’t let yourself live in paranoia of the worst.
None of us knows how our futures will play out. Kobe Bryant had no idea that his life would suddenly end when he decided to take a helicopter home like he did every day.
We don’t know if the coronavirus will be the demise of the human race. And I don’t know if I’ll die crossing the street tomorrow.
None of us knows. All we can do is prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Because all we’re guaranteed is the day that’s in front of us. We can hope to have more, and that positivity will do us even more good in the present.
We prepare for the worst by telling people around us we love them. We take that trip to Paris that, until now, has only been a dream. We breathe in the warm air around us. We take the time to admire the sunset.
I know how it feels to get overwhelmed by worrying about the worst. But that worry only detracts from the present. If our days are numbered, we need to enjoy the ones we have left.
Hope is really all we have. Hope that things carry on. Hope that our loved ones stay safe. Hope that things resolve.
And in the meantime, we buy face masks at CVS and send a friend a text that we love them. A balancing act of preparing and hoping.