I felt fortunate to finally have some time to rest and recoup some energy after having a challenging time balancing school and work. I took the opportunity to go back to my safe space – a time for myself, just catching up on television shows and movies I have been itching to watch but previously haven’t had the time to.
There I was, laughing at sitcoms and crying over fictional heartbreaks. All the while, tens and hundreds more get infected with the disease. The pandemic starts to take shape, and it looms over the vulnerable and the poor.
Something was creeping in the back of my mind. It was guilt.
I felt a little more empty than usual, with the excitement wearing off as situations at home get more mundane and lifeless every single day. I took the opportunity to go back to my first love – reading. I spent my days on our balcony, flipping pages and running my eyes over words so carefully weaved together.
There I was, finishing stories that spoke of humanity and revolutions. All the while, people are beginning to experience it. The pandemic has shaken the Filipino people, with calls of mass testing and better governance.
This time, the guilt wasn’t in the back of my mind anymore. Guilt has occupied it.
I felt relieved and hopeful, as I was finally called to report back to my job at a government office. I took the opportunity to see the outside – the almost empty roads, a ghost town in comparison to the previously busy and loud streets. I observed how the very few open establishments coped.
There I was, typing away on computers and doing the job I am paid more than enough to do. All the while, some people are losing theirs. Small, non-essential businesses are forced to close, losing profits; some workers struggle with unemployment. Those allowed to operate take risks by investing in health protocols and following strict guidelines.
I thought I kept the guilt down. But it only waited until I had the opportunity to see the so-called ‘new normal.’
I feel privileged. I have a cozy bed to sleep on, I eat three meals a day, I have a job, and my family is all safe and healthy. I am taking the opportunity to reflect – at how lucky I am to have more than enough to get by, and how such luck is also making me feel guiltier than I ever was.
Here I am, writing this in a well-lit and well-ventilated room as a form of a personal pondering on the pandemic. All the while, the world is in chaos. Multitudes of it. The pre-existing problems like racism and poverty are worsened, while the number of those affected by pandemic move from tens to hundreds to thousands, and eventually to millions. People are struggling. People are dying.
Now, the guilt isn’t just in my head.
It’s about to consume me.
Everything I do, I am reminded that I am privileged, privileged enough to just think of these things, not experience them.