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LAUREN LINN / Margate City, NJ, USA

April 2, 2020 Margate City, NJ

IT’S MY 27 TH DAY IN QUARANTINE AND MY 24 TH BIRTHDAY. I think of birthdays as wonderful reasons to do two things: reflect and come together. This year more than ever, those actions feel extremely necessary, wildly challenging, and totally linked. Last year, “coming together” looked like me with my nearest and dearest packed into the back room of The Winslow – an East Village bar now temporarily closed – eating, drinking, and enjoying ourselves. When I was 4, it looked like my family huddling around the kitchen counter to sing over a homemade birthday cake. This year, I am grateful to be with my mother, but there is no “coming together” as I have always understood it.

We are currently redefining what it means to connect in response to jarring circumstances well out of our control.

I don’t have everyone physically together, but I still feel community. It’s in the care packages of books, candles, puzzles, face masks, and more. It’s in the FaceTime calls and texts expressing love and longing. It’s in the cards written with only you in mind. It’s in the regular check-ins to make sure you’re okay and know you’re missed.

It’s not natural for human beings to go extended periods of time without physical contact. But I see everyone in my life rising to the occasion and working to make sure we all feel care. That has been so uplifting to me during these few weeks.

As a social worker, I can’t help but think ahead to the community-ingrained anxiety and depression that will exist when this storm passes. We will come out of this, but not without great loss. How do we heal the grief of a nation? It’s a question that rings in my ears every day. What can I do? Where does the work begin on a task of that size?

To that point, I’m reflecting on how the country views mental health. This virus is hurting far more than just the physical health of those it infects. Yet, conversations are sparse regarding mental health care. Medical students are being graduated early to go fight this on the front lines. I am a clinical social work student that is ready and eager to help too, but I’m sitting here with my hands tied. Who is helping the families that can’t reach a loved one in the hospital or nursing facility? Who is there for the loved ones that cannot hold funerals? Who is supporting the individuals who are isolated in their homes with abusers? I could go on and on…

At what point will we view health as health? There are many big questions rattling around my head that I’m working to funnel into my journal and other constructive outlets. But. Sometimes I just cry. Or call a friend to scream into the void. I think that’s perfectly healthy too.

I don’t know when I’ll see my friends or my sister or my grandparents again. I don’t know when this virus will end. I don’t know if it will come back. I don’t know when I will be allowed back into my apartment in NYC again. I don’t know when I will be able to undergo surgery for my Crohn’s Disease. I don’t know if any of my loved ones will get sick. I don’t know how long it will take for me to get licensed and hired. I don’t know what the economy will look like when this is done. I don’t know if my father’s businesses will survive. I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.

None of us know what lies ahead. I’m striving to find peace in the absence of control.

For now, I will continue being gentle with myself. I will resist the urge to put expectations on what to do with this time. My only job for myself during this quarantine is to wake up every day, get through it, and do so with kindness and love. If I read a book or apply for a job, great. If I do nothing at all, great. Above all, I will keep connecting with my loved ones from afar and let them know how much I love and miss them.

I am so excited to hug again.

--Lauren Linn

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