On Finding Joy Where You Can During This Pandemic, Despite These Less Than Ideal Circumstances

Illustration for article titled On Finding Joy Where You Can During This Pandemic, Despite These Less Than Ideal Circumstances
Photo: Barry Hathaway

I think it’s safe to say that it’s been a challenging year.

Unlike countless others, I’ve been extremely fortunate to remain gainfully employed and have somehow eluded the coronavirus entirely as it continues to wreak havoc upon so many I hold dear. But while I’ve made it a point to count my blessings and remain positive, the fact remains that much like millions of other people, this pandemic has had a profound impact on me.

As someone who lives alone and has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect my health and safety throughout this period, I can’t even begin to describe how psychologically devastating it’s been to be deprived of something I think we all take for granted: social interaction. The casual glances at a bar, the frenetic energy of a concert; hell, even hugs have become a luxury during these unprecedented times. And as much as we hear about the lives that have been lost and the catastrophic impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy, what we aren’t discussing enough is the psychological toll this has had on society.

Like I said before, it’s been a challenging year.

For me, the first couple of months were probably the worst. I spent month after month trapped inside of my apartment, too paranoid to put my compromised immune system at risk of exposure and terrified that this virus would steal my son’s life (who lives out of state). Yet I kept my game face intact as I routinely called to check in on friends to lift their spirits, but that buoyant facade evaporated as soon as I got off the phone, knowing that nobody ever thought to ask how I was doing or to check on their “strong friend”—which meant that the only companionship to be had was with my crippling anxiety.

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Around June, as my mental health continued to erode, I began to have serious concerns about my well-being and realized that I had to do something before it was too late. That’s when I hit up one of my homies who’s a therapist and came clean: A nigga was struggling. Bad. Her suggestion? Establish a “quaranteam” of friends who were also keeping safe, and go for walks, hikes, and other outdoor activities while practicing social distancing.

This recommendation might’ve saved my life.

In the time since I’ve made it a point to explore Los Angeles—and the rest of California—in ways that I probably never would’ve otherwise. I’ve visited national parks, rode jet skis for dozens of miles across the Pacific Ocean (I still can’t believe I did this shit), floated among the clouds in a hot air balloon, escaped to Pismo Beach, rented hydro bikes, hiked countless trails, and a bunch of other shit all while having the time of my life among great company.

Most importantly, we’ve always been extremely safe while doing so, adhering to social distancing guidelines while keeping our groups small and always wearing our masks. But while this new approach to surviving this pandemic has worked wonders on improving my quality of life and mental health, there was still one thing I was still dying to do.

If you live in Los Angeles, it’s almost impossible to cruise around the city without seeing them; and the first time I saw a Polaris Slingshot, I was at a stoplight on Hollywood Boulevard and did a double-take because what in the fuck is that?!

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Illustration for article titled On Finding Joy Where You Can During This Pandemic, Despite These Less Than Ideal Circumstances
Photo: Barry Hathaway

Was it a car? Was it a motorcycle?

As I gawked in awe, the driver threw me a head nod and proceeded to peel out in the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a real-life Batmobile. As such, much like my affinity for crab legs, it was love at first sight—and I’ve been obsessed with getting behind the wheel of one ever since. So imagine my delight when the fine folks at Polaris extended an invite to test drive the new 2021 Slingshot before that motherfucker even hit the streets.

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In what sure as hell has been a trying year, the Lord heard my cry.

As someone who’s never driven a motorcycle or ever bothered to learn how to drive a stick, I was astonished by how powerful this thing was. As I peeled the paint down Pacific Coast Highway and throughout the mountains of Malibu—at speeds Marty McFly would be proud of—all I could think about was how shitty this year has been for so many of us and how liberating it felt to enjoy a momentary escape. After spending almost the entire year fortified in my apartment, at war with an unyielding solitude, getting slapped around by the ocean breeze as that Prostar engine roared beneath me is an experience I will never forget.

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Illustration for article titled On Finding Joy Where You Can During This Pandemic, Despite These Less Than Ideal Circumstances
Photo: Barry Hathaway

This pandemic has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us. It’s been a collective traumatic experience that will take us years to recover from. But in order to survive, we gotta learn to adapt and find pockets of joy wherever we can—albeit safely. For me, I’ve found comfort and joy by finding activities that I can safely participate in while getting the hell out the damn house—like pleasing our ancestors by breaking the sound barrier in a Polaris Slingshot.

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For anyone else struggling with loneliness or isolation during this time, I strongly encourage you to not only be honest and vulnerable with your friends and loved ones about your struggles but to seek out professional help if need be.

Also, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to some sunlight at least once a day. Speaking from personal experience, it’ll work wonders for your mental health and could potentially save your life, too.

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We’ll get through this together.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.

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DISCUSSION

gdtesp
StinkyTinkler

Wiping my shoulder with alcohol before administering a flu shot was the only physical contact I’ve had with a person since March.

Even this introvert needs more. I have video and socially distanced contact with friends and neighbors, but I honestly feel like I’m going to burst into tears with first hug/handshake/trip to the barber.

I’m doing good (better than many), but the lack of contact has screwed me up a little. Wilson the volleyball just isn't enough.