“Don’t worry, we’re all in the same boat,” my sister assured me some time back in mid-March. Way back when isolation had just started, and lockdown procedures were slowly beginning to be implemented and no one knew what the future held. We were all trying to survive the best we could in unchartered waters. Yet as I begin the eighth week of quarantine, I’ve come to discover that we are really not all in the same boat.
When I was forced to cancel plans to fly home to Australia for five weeks to spend Pesach with my family whom I haven’t seen in a year, I realised that we are not all in the same boat. While my sister and brothers spent the holiday together with my parents, I spent it alone with my husband and daughter. There are many people who have family living nearby who they were either able to spend the holiday with, or at least have a social distancing visit or two, but there were many who had cancelled plans and spent the holiday on their own.
When my two-year-old daughter’s school was cancelled indefinitely, I realised that we are not all in the same boat. Whilst I am home with one child, many are home with three, four or even ten. My daughter is still too young to have schoolwork, so we fill up our days with playing, exploring outside, taking naps and definitely lots of screen-time. But many others I know are home-schooling for the first time, struggling to keep up with multiple kids’ schedules and Zoom classes, helping them with their schoolwork and ensuring that they are staying on top of their learning. For some this is stressful and exhausting, for others they’ve totally got it under control and are happy that their kids are occupied all day.
Some parents are enjoying and utilising this extra time at home with their kids by taking them outdoors on trips, baking together, creating science experiments and doing art-projects, whilst others are barely coping trying to keep their children entertained. There are those who have newborn babies and there are those who are living with hormonal teenagers, there are those whose kids play nicely together and there are those whose kids are constantly fighting. No one is to say whose situation is easier, but one thing’s for sure we are definitely not all in the same boat.
I live in a condominium where majority of residents are over the age of 65, and when I looked around at what a change has occurred here, I realised that we are not all in the same boat. While everyone is generally trying to be careful to adhere to government regulations of social distancing, wearing masks and rigorous hand-washing, these people are scared to leave their houses. The cars in the carpark haven’t budged in days, old men and women call out from their porches every time some stranger walks by just so they can hear the sound of another person’s voice, when we go on a walk we see how everyone here is just craving basic human interaction. We even witnessed the other day an elderly couple waltzing on the street, probably for lack of anything better to do.
When my sister video called me from the swimming pool the other day, I realised we are not all in the same boat. Whilst there are some who are having glorious summer weather and can spend their days lounging by the pool, there are many of us who are stuck in the cold where rainy days prevent us from venturing outside. There are those who live in big houses with large gardens and plenty of space for their kids to run around and let their energy out, whilst others are holed up in small apartments with barely any space to move.
I decided to take to social media to find out how others are faring. My social media following is extremely small, and my followers generally come from the same background as they are either school friends, family or people from my community. Yet the varying experiences each one is having during this pandemic is quite eye-opening. There are those who have unfortunately lost family members, there are those who have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay their bills, there are those who are trying to balance the impossible feat of working from home whilst looking after their kids, there are those who wish that they had kids to look after, there are single mothers with no help, there are those who are immunocompromised and scared to go outside, there are those who feel more relaxed and are enjoying having more time at home and there are those who are extremely stressed. There are those, both young and old, who are isolating alone, and I can’t imagine how lonely that must be. There are those who are in an abusive relationship and are forced to isolate with their abuser, and there are those who are suffering with mental health issues and the stress of isolation is exacerbating their already fragile state of mind.
What I have learned during quarantine is that we are definitely not all in the same boat. Whilst we are all experiencing the pandemic, we are all doing so in our own way, with our own struggles and tribulations. During this difficult time, it’s important to think before you speak to someone, before you tell them “we’re all in this together.” You never know what someone else might be going through or how this pandemic is affecting them and their family. What we need the most right now is to be empathetic towards others. Whilst someone might look like they are having an easier time than you, you never really know what they are going through. Keep in mind that what you might find easy or think of as no big deal, others might find stressful and overwhelming. What’s most important is to remember that everyone is doing the best they can in an impossible situation.
Now is a good time to call that friend you haven’t spoken to in months or reach out to your elderly neighbour, everyone could use some comfort and a listening ear right now. Let’s use our energy to focus on all the good we have in our lives instead of wallowing in self-pity. I know that I am enjoying watching my daughter grow and spending lots of quality time with my family. Although it’s hard to imagine now, soon enough this pandemic will end and we’ll go back to our regular lives and familiar routines. For those of us who unfortunately are isolating alone, I have no pearls of wisdom to offer other than hang tight, this too shall pass. For those of us lucky enough to be isolating with family, remember that the stress and anxiety we are feeling now will fade into the background, but what will stay with us forever are the memories of long months spent together with those we love.