I am writing from the back seat of my trusty Mini Cooper Countryman somewhere in Tennessee, heading home to Dan after a recital tour with my dear friends, Diane and Mark. Mark is driving, as I developed some sort of respiratory funk yesterday and am in quarantine.
This has been a whirlwind few weeks, filled with the good (time with friends and lots of clarinet and travel), the bad (shoulder procedure and a trip to urgent care from side-effects), and the ugly (COVID-19 fears, fallout, and uncertainty). In such a short time, so much seems to have changed.
During our tour we all received messages from our universities including statements of ramped-up precautions and plans for what our schools will do in the event that the virus continues to spread. Many universities have already gone to on-line class meetings only…difficult to do for studio lessons and ensemble rehearsals. Of course, staying safe and preventing the spread of the virus is the most important goal.
These are interesting times, for sure. More and more we are being sidelined from opportunities to interact with each other on a personal level, whether it be conferences or concerts. How can we teach, perform, and interact with each other in an age of non-contact? It’s beginning to feel like some sort of dystopian future world has arrived.
As an INFJ and huge introvert, I have long joked that I would be happy hiding from the world. While there is more than a grain of truth laced into my humor, it is unsettling to think of a world where we play concerts and recitals to empty halls, where athletes play to empty arenas and stadiums, and classes are taught only through computer screens. Our world becomes smaller and smaller each day, and I’m not sure what to think or feel about it.
I was supposed to board a plane to Dublin, Ireland, tomorrow that included a trip to Italy. As all work-related foreign travel has been shut down by my university due to the global impact of COVID-19, I will be spending a quiet spring break at home instead. And the world becomes smaller yet again.
Yes, I will be grateful for a quiet week at home to welcome spring to my gardens and spend quality time with Dan and the animals, but I’m sad to miss out on an opportunity to travel to other countries and experience other cultures. I know this is not forever, but it is the reality of now, and I wonder what is next.
My annual UAB Clarinet Symposium happened just under the wire of large gatherings being prohibited. Even so, attendance wasn’t as robust due to the widespread fear. So many people came up to me to shake my hand and hug me- something that I have always welcomed, but this time that physical interaction gave me pause…will human contact become a thing of the past out of necessity?
We’ve already become a society that lives through our smart phones and computers so much of the time, and I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. And yet…is it truly living if we lose that face-to-face interaction with other humans? What a difference it makes to see someone’s face and hear the inflection of their voice instead of only reading their words; it can change everything in our perception. What a difference to give a hug of encouragement instead of sending a heart emoji; it is a completely different gesture. I’m just not ready for a world that is so stark.
For now we watch and wait- and wash our hands a lot (which I really hope we were all already doing anyway). I am not giving into the hysteria, but as someone who travels a lot and typically interacts with lots of people on a daily basis, I’m taking precautions, stepping back from all but essential activities for a while. I wonder if maybe all of this will somehow shift our paradigm, making us put down our phones and treasure the gift of real human interaction again? I really hope so.
Stay healthy, everyone.