The Coronavirus May Put Things on Hold, But It Won’t Get the Best of Us

I don’t know where to start an article like this. I’ve been thinking about it all day, as I watched the coronavirus death toll rise once again and daydreamed about a time when this pandemic is all ancient history.

I’ve been spending a lot of time daydreaming lately.

2020 has been the most visceral year in recent history for folks in the heartland. Several of our staff reside in Kansas City, and our hometown Chiefs won the Super Bowl a little over a month ago. But we went from high to low faster than any of us could’ve ever dreamed — faster than a second-quarter comeback from 24-0. Like the Texans, we were blindsided by it.

I’ve been grieving a lot in the past week, and I’ve guilted myself for doing so. The grief seems so personal, but it can’t be personal: I haven’t lost a loved one, and I haven’t seen my community ravaged by this highly contagious sickness (not yet, at least). But I grieve for the things all of us here at Mind Equals Blown cherish so dearly.

We are living through an unprecedented period. Our very way of life has changed in the course of a week. For the first time ever, we can’t cover shows for the site, because there aren’t any shows.

For all of us music fans, sports nuts, and restaurant patrons, it’s almost as if our passions have been stolen away from us. We’ve lost something close to us, and we don’t know when it will be back. Preparing for this pandemic has been this weird sensation of slowly ripping off a band-aid before the scrape has even occurred.

We know the cancellations, the postponements, and the closures are the right thing to do. These decisions are designed to save lives, and we have faith that they will.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have an emotional reaction to them, that we should grin and bear it. Crises shouldn’t make us accept our reality, at least not so quickly. It’s okay to be sad, angry, confused, or depressed, because that’s to be expected when your world suddenly turns upside down.

After all, a lot of enrichment has evaporated. March is when show season ramps up. It’s the month of the NCAA Tournament. It’s also the month of MLB Opening Day. We were all looking forward to these things — hell, I even hoped to attend the Mariners’ home opener during a trip to Seattle later this month. When our jobs aren’t fulfilling and our days are full of monotony and bureaucracy, music and sports are what get us through.

They’re not simply entertainment either, like fast food we consume and discard later. Rather, they have a different kind of value to us who cherish them at a deeper level. They’re comforts for the broken, hubs of conversation, and initiators of togetherness. We rely on them so heavily that we often take them for granted. There’s always a concert going on somewhere in the world, and there’s always a sports season in our midst.

Now, they’re on hiatus, and you realize how fragile our cultural and social ecosystems are. We should be grateful they exist at all, thanks to the artists and athletes who sacrifice their blood, sweat, and tears. They do so to provide us with this outlet, this place where we can be ourselves when the rest of the world has failed us.

This outlet connects us with others who we come to realize are just like us, and that’s enough to mend any broken heart.

No wonder I’m so heartbroken. My concert schedule was set. It was a jam-packed one, too. I was going to see We Came As Romans, a band that I interviewed on my first assignment for a music publication back in 2011. Without them, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. I was going to see Third Eye Blind, whose self-titled album means more to me than almost any other album in existence. Without them and without Stephan Jenkins, I wouldn’t be writing this right now.

As fans, we don’t simply crave these things for consumption. I’d like to think we crave them for our sanity. People can call me insane for going to hardcore shows and for having such a vast knowledge of college basketball, but those things have kept me afloat when I’m on the verge of collapse (it helps that I’m a University of Kansas alum).

When you spend so much of your life reigning in control, from your routine to your income to your expectations, you start to go insane when all of that shatters. Let’s not let that happen, even as cabin fever settles in.

Over the next few months, we must press on. Perhaps the coronavirus threat is a wake-up call to all of us walking comatose. We take so many things for granted that it’s time we start to become conscious about our passions again. It’s time we start living on our toes again. Make music your therapy. Dig into your record collection that’s collecting dust. Open up a book that usually sits on your shelf while you’re out with friends. Be creative: It’s times when our backs are against the wall that the best art comes out.

But I understand that artists out there — as well as everyone in the gig and service economies — have it much harder than me. We need to rally around these people like we never have before. They’re not simply putting a passion on hold; they’re pausing their entire livelihoods. If you can afford it, buy some merch from a band you love, or simply send them a donation. Imagine how far your money goes when they’re struggling to stay afloat on tour, let alone when they can’t tour.

The first few days after our scene started caving in, as events and tours were pushed back or abandoned altogether, my chest grew tight. I wasn’t sleeping well. Still, we’re not near our peak in spread of the coronavirus yet. Trust the science and know that the numbers of the infected and deceased will continue to rise for a while — and exponentially, too. Anxiety is completely normal.

But even if I can’t find peace yet, these past few days have made clear who we are. We are human beings, and we come together for the greater good. Whether it’s at concerts, sporting events, or — when all of that is on hold — during a crisis, we are constantly affirming our identities. We’re helpers, and we’re at it through our art, our performance, our compassion for one another.

Tell your friends and family you love them. Give them virtual hugs. I’m not in the demographic most at risk of dying from the virus, but my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. At some point (if not already), you may know someone who lost their life to the virus. We will mourn those lost, and we will remember how they touched our lives.

I keep telling my parents how the end of this pandemic won’t be a literal moment of dust rising but rather a time when we’re able to look back and say, “Remember that ordeal?” It could be a few weeks, a few months, or maybe even longer. I’m done worrying about that part, because that part is out of my control.

But whenever that time comes, when basketball is back, when Third Eye Blind and other artists return to Kansas City, we will remember a simple fact: We got through this, and we got through this together. After all, as fans, it’s togetherness that defines us.

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