To those in quarantine
It’s been almost two weeks since I began quarantining. Heading into this madness, I had life completely under control. My new business was growing. I was loving living near the beach. Plans were all set for a trip to New York, where I would see my parents and talk to nine high schools and colleges about my story and the lessons I have learned along the way.
Then, COVID-19, a highly contagious virus, took hold of the country. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, everything changed.
I canceled my trip.
The economy suddenly began to crumble.
And I seemingly lost control of my life.
Now, I sit in my apartment worried about my parents, my friends and the state of our country. As someone who usually is one step ahead of even the most challenging situations, I feel 12 steps behind. My brain is rattled, as it can’t fully process the magnitude and uncertainty of the situation.
So many questions loom:
What if my parents catch the virus?
When am I going to be able to see my family again?
How will the economy hold on?
When and how will life return to some version of normal?
Despite my incessant googling, I am unable to find answers, as life feels like it is standing still. In the past, I have used the stories I have told about others as a way to navigate personal hurdles. Through people’s stories, I can remove my emotions and proceed in life with clarity and strength.
Throughout these few days in quarantine, two stories have come to mind. The first is about a young man named Michael Friedman, aka Mikey. Mikey was a brilliant and kind teenager when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer one day after his 15th birthday. It wasn’t an illness threatening the whole world, but it was certainly a disease that was attempting to destroy his world.
Life as he knew it quickly changed. He adapted to regular treatments and hospital stays while continuing to pursue his goals.
While battling cancer, he graduated valedictorian of his high school class, got accepted to Harvard University and began studying to be a scientist in hopes of curing cancer.
When the disease took a turn for the worse, he had an opportunity to make a wish with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Initially, he asked if he could start a charity of his own. At the time, the organization told him that starting a charity wasn’t an option. He then asked for a shopping spree at Best Buy. He bought a bunch of electronics, but instead of taking them home, he brought them to a local hospital and gave them all away. That’s how the foundation, Mikey’s Way, started. It’s a non-profit organization that provides new electronics for children with life-threatening illnesses.
Very sadly, Mikey passed away when he was 19 years old. But before his passing, Mikey was asked why he started Mikey’s Way. Why didn’t he just make a wish for himself?
He said, “The best gift you can get in life is to give to someone else.”
As I think of Mikey and his story, I browse the internet and see people offering strangers money. No questions asked. Others are buying the elderly groceries to lessen their chances of being exposed to this disease wreaking havoc on our country. One of my best friends, who is a psychotherapist, offered advice to my readers, helping my business and the community. I have received messages and phone calls from friends, some of which I have not spoken to in months, merely asking, “Are you OK?”
The other story that has been on mind is about a man named Adir Freilich. Adir was among the passengers on the plane that landed in the Hudson River in 2009, aka the Miracle on the Hudson.
“Brace for impact!,” the pilot said before the plane hit the water.
The impact was hard, but once they were on the Hudson River, the pilot told everyone to evacuate.
When Adir realized he was OK, he looked at the person next to him and said, “We just survived a F*ck’n plane crash.”
He said he’s been smiling ever since, as he explained, “I can see the light at the end of the deepest and darkest tunnels.”
Adir claims he is the luckiest person, but he also says he isn’t the only one.
He told me, “If you take the time every day to think about how lucky you are for the opportunities and people in your life, you will genuinely be happier.”
I hope we now realize the privilege we have every time we leave our homes. I hope we appreciate the accessibility we usually have to loved ones. And more than anything, I hope we acknowledge that life is not guaranteed and each day we are here makes us lucky.
Yes, it sucks being trapped in my apartment alone.
Yes, I am worried about what’s to come.
Yes, I am hundreds of miles away from family, who I think about each moment of every day.
But I also realize, right now, we are left with an opportunity to focus on two of life’s most precious gifts, the gifts of giving and gratitude.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home.
We are in this together. Let’s come out of this better.
With love and hope,