A Letter to Myself Three Weeks Ago

March 30, 2020

If I could go back in time and talk to myself three weeks ago, I'd say this:

You’ve always been a very sentimental, empathetic, “big picture” person. It is both your greatest gift and your biggest burden. You have the gift of stopping yourself every now and then when you’re about to make a frustrated remark to your parents (okay…or lose your shit), by reminding yourself that so many people wish they could fight with their parents, and you need to appreciate that yours are here right now. You decide against complaining any more about living at home, because you know that in the long run, you will look back on this time with love and gratitude that you spent some of your adult years back in your childhood home with your parents and sister. You stare at the people you love a little longer, and hug them a bit tighter every time you say goodbye, knowing life can throw a curveball and any moment could be the last.

All of this makes you very appreciative. It also makes you incredibly anxious.

And, although you’ve always been good at taking the time to look around and appreciate everyone and everything in your life, you have no idea just how much you’ll appreciate it all three weeks from now.

Three weeks from now, you’ll miss being stressed at work. You’ll miss being restless when you get stuck in a bad traffic jam. You’ll miss getting irritated at strangers for spilling their drinks on you at a crowded bar or blasting their music next to you at the beach. You’ll miss being dragged out on a night when you’d rather stay in. You’ll miss ordering popcorn at the movie theatre only to find it tastes stale. You’ll miss being at the mall for hours, only to find there was nothing you liked in your size. You’ll miss feeling stupid when you screw up a position at a yoga class. You’ll miss the auditions you know you bombed. You’ll miss long lines at airports, the crying baby on the plane, the smelly uber you ride in on the way to your destination. You’ll miss the long waits to sit at restaurants, the mediocre food you paid too much for, and the drink that made you do regrettable things. You’ll miss the shows that were disappointing, worrying about getting a parking ticket, getting off at the wrong exit, and realizing the barista got your coffee order wrong. You’ll miss the moments that didn’t go as planned, but allowed you to be a human, next to other humans, out in the world and ready to seize the day.

You’ll really miss being able to hug, kiss, and curl up on the couch with the people you love without wondering if it could hurt them.

You’ll miss the days when the endless face-to-face conversations, handshakes and cheek kisses at a packed event overwhelmed you. 

You’ll miss simply saying “bless you” when someone sneezes, and not having to worry every time you hear a cough. 

You’ll miss knowing what life was like before you felt wildly helpless as you learn that tens of thousands of people around the world are dying - and more will die - from something you fear is already lurking in your neighborhood, in your home, in your body and in the bodies of the people you love.

All of this will terrify you, confuse you, anger you and break your heart. It won’t feel real, and yet, the changes and losses will be palpable. 

But, in all this darkness, looking past the things you miss, you will discover a newfound gratitude for so many people and so many things. These are all people and things you’ve taken the time to appreciate before, yes - but never like this. 

Three weeks from now, you’ll be living in a completely different reality. So will most of the world. Fear will creep up along with every cough. You’ll worry, as you often do, for the health and safety of your family. You will be horrified by what you see and hear on the news. The economy will start to crumble. So many people will lose their jobs. Many will lose so much more. Life is about to feel like an episode of Black Mirror, and it's going to break your heart. 

But, you will also be inspired and comforted by the love, unity, courage and kindness you’re about to witness. It will be unlike anything you’ve experienced before in your adult life. 

You will have never appreciated your family, your friends, your pets, your home, your neighborhood, your backyard, your neighbors, your bike, your job, water, food, doctors, nurses, PAs, hospital workers, first responders, truck drivers, grocery and factory workers, bankers, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, pharmacists, product manufacturers, researchers, technology, social media, streaming services, WiFi, books, and so much more the way you will in three weeks. 

Right now, you're dancing and singing the night away with the majority of your family. You know this monster is on its way, and that this will likely be the last time you see your whole family for weeks. But you don't know just how many weeks that will eventually grow to become. My advice to you? Put the phone down (you’ll have plenty of time for that later) and take a look around you. Savor every single thing you see, hear, and feel. Know that, despite the ugliness life is about to throw your way, you have so, so much to be thankful for - and let that keep you hopeful in the weeks and months to come. 

When the fear and sadness of it all overwhelms you - and it will several times - just breathe. Allow yourself to break down and cry. Step away from the sad news every so often. I know it's hard. You often feel those who suffer deserve to have their stories heard and felt, but you can only control so much, and sadness won't serve you well now. Focus on what you can control. Laugh. Enjoy this time with your family and pets, all gathered safely under the same roof. When it gets tough, remember how lucky you are to have each other. FaceTime the people you miss most. Call your abuelas. They're going to be struggling with this more than the rest of your family. Express your gratitude to those on the front lines. Make donations. And now, more than ever, remember to say those three important words to the people who mean the most to you. Because what the world needs now, is love. 

“Always look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” - Mr. Rogers.