By Hawthorn Kirkbride

The world has stuttered to a halt. Communities are told to shelter in place, socializing in person has been canceled, and workers are moved online.  

Yet with all the change that has occurred, we are somehow asked to continue our daily lives.  

Within this pandemic, however, there also exists a unique opportunity to find a different, brighter sense of community within our new digital households. This community brings focus and joy in a time of deep worry and confusion. 

That’s not to say that there haven’t been several hurdles. For some students this means to wake up at the crack of dawn to attend a class on time, or others to spend the entire period unplugging and re-plugging the internet modem in an attempt to increase their bandwidth.  

Despite issues with time zones and the occasional drop of the internet, I attempt to be attentive and contribute within my classes, but the online transition has not been seamless. With sometimes complete silence, there exists a unique pressure to communicate within the online context, learning via a pixelated torso of a professor, and staying concentrated while watching a classmate’s cat roam around their room. 

These distracting issues may be inherent in a remote-learning format, but I personally find that the circumstances that have forced us all here are the much larger distractions at hand.  

As each day lurches forward within our tight isolation, my thought constantly drifts toward the news: Are there enough masks? Enough hand-sanitizer? Will the number of cases ever stop growing so dramatically? 

In fact, you, too, may be asking the question that keeps coming to me: How is it possible to remain focused in a time so unlike anything that has happened before in history? It appears to be “tough enough to be productive in the best of times let alone when we’re in a global crisis,” says Chris Bailey, author of “Hyperfocus: How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction.” 

I believe we all find it much easier to remain worried, annoyed, and completely in subliminal awe at the situation.   

It’s important to watch where our thoughts lead us, because there is a definite temptation to be paralyzed by the numbers, updates, and issues bombarding us even in isolation.   

In spite of this, there is an opportunity to recognize that we’re not alone in this situation: there is a beautiful coming together of a community that has been physically split apart. 

It’s been transformative to recognize the ways that Principia has tied us together. One of my professors created an Instagram account for extra credit problems, and another made sure to take a picture of the classroom before they left to set as their Zoom virtual background. While they are small instances, they are excellent reminders that a little work can go a long way. 

If you’ve somehow missed it, individuals across the globe have come together to create one of the most humorous and lighthearted eras of social media. With memes, cat videos, Kitchen Quarantine (a semi cook-along with a master Italian chef) and home experimenting like never before, there now exists a unique solidarity that connects people as we understand what to do inside of our own homes.  

As the contagion mounts, it’s important to find some light to hold onto; the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus offers this comfortingly wise advice as well: “Try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious. Get your information from reliable sources once or twice a day.” 

As a community – in fact, as a world – we have the option to give in to fear and hysteria as many across the globe already have. But, we also have the opportunity to connect and flourish in a way that has never been done before. We may find out that we have been woken up to the fact that there is nothing more important in today’s world than the communities we nurture. And if this is what we can learn, it doesn’t sound like a difficult decision to me. 

Feature photo by Tania Malrechauffe (Unsplash)