Full disclosure: I have always been anxious. In the Before Times, I lived with the constant hum of nervousness, like a gnat buzzing around my ear. I’m terrified of cliffs, snakes, trees wider than two feet in diameter, and any medical procedure that is even remotely invasive, to name a few.
And then 2020 happened, and my anxiety gnat became a murder hornet buzzing like a jet engine. My list of fears grew to include my aging parents getting sick, overcrowded grocery stores, job loss, public transit, private helicopters, armed militias, wildfires, earthquakes, and the biblical flood that will likely decimate California (shoutout to my colleague, Tom Philpott, for that one).
Now, after eight months of sheltering-in-place, I’ve managed to get anxious about my anxiety. My latest fear is that the world will go back to normal, and I just…won’t. I’ve adapted to life indoors, where things are safe, albeit a little stuffy. I imagine myself 30 years from now, writing articles from the tiny desk I panic-built in the early days of the pandemic and Zooming my loved ones during their IRL happy hours. If they ask why I won’t join them, I’ll mutter something about inadequate ventilation, then make an excuse to hang up so I can feed my sourdough starter and water 50 half-dead houseplants.
What if I never shake another person’s hand again? What if I never eat in another restaurant? What if I never go to another concert or wedding? What if I stay home until I die? And what if I don’t mind?—Laura Thompson