It has often been a symptom of my anxiety that I find myself unable to sleep at night. Sometimes my thoughts and worries prove too difficult to handle and I find myself staring, groggy eyed, as the sun peaks in through my windows. At the peak of Coronavirus, when I left my job and moved back in with my parents, this symptom eventually culminated into a full-on sleep cycle reversal. I became, after those first few days, a nocturnal being, waking up just before the sun set and climbing into bed as it dawned. At first, I was worried that the sudden change signified a loss of self-control, that my anxiety had taken that from me. But after speaking with a close friend and sitting alone to think, I realized that it didn’t. My life was, in that brief period, just different.
So I began a practice on the third day, which I kept until my sleep schedule corrected itself two weeks later, of going for a drive. I would wake up and rouse myself in the shower, making sure I was clean before I got dressed. Then I would put on clothes that smelled like lavender and Downy and reach for my keys. Then I would drive, nowhere in particular, as the sun began to set on my morning. Some days I would drive toward it, sunglasses on as wind whipped through my hair. Others, I would listen to music with my windows up, singing as the sun set in my rear view mirror. My world was different then. Not better or worse. Just different.
It’s something I feel even now, as I look back on how the world was back then. I feel it when I walk through the aisles of Jewel Osco and Meijer, drowning in a sea full of masks. The world after Corona is different. It will be, I think, for long after we’ve found the vaccine and it’s gone. The impact it has left on the world has changed it. But when I look around me, I’ve noticed something. Signs supporting essential workers have sprung up like weeds on people’s lawns. Despite hearing that wearing a mask mostly protects others and not ourselves, I still see a majority of people in public keep wearing them to flatten the curve. And I have yet to leave a store where I don’t hear someone sincerely thank a cashier for working during the pandemic.
So it’s a different world right now, sure. There are some days, like the ones I spent in those nocturnal weeks, where I’m so wildly optimistic at the prospects of humanity that it feels like my eyes are burning from its light. And there are others, where I find the sun sets in the morning and I’m ready to turn my back on it all. Change is hard for anyone, I think. But that’s what life is–it’s unpredictable, twisting and turning in unpredictable ways before coming to an unexpected stop. But if I’ve learned anything from my 6 p.m. mornings, it’s that humans will adapt.
So when the world feels a bit too different or that life is taking you for a ride, I hope you remember that there is hope. We are all living in a world that is constantly changing but this only means we are afforded with endless opportunities for growth. Nature has this beautiful ability to somehow keep itself in balance. Like plants, we grow from our education and experiences, oftentimes orienting ourselves toward whatever personal “light” guides our way. It’s incredibly promising to observe how people adapt in order to keep the world a livable place. There are still some nights where I’ll find myself unable to sleep and reach for my keys. As I drive down the highway, with streetlights streaking past, I remember those late-night mornings and smile to myself. I can only hope that the everyday gratitude we show for one another and the communal effort to keep each other safe stick around after Corona, just like my drives. From what I’ve seen in my friends and family and the strangers I’ve met, it looks like the future’s bright.
Stay safe and hopeful!