I am an optimist. I always have been. Even in the darkest of days, my brain has been wired to find the silver-lining of the situation and make the most of it. That’s just how I function. And that is how I always will be.
When the Coronavirus started sinking into our everyday lives, I tried my best to keep a level head. I was monitoring the situation, saw how scary things were getting, but knew that panicking would do nothing but add stress to the already stressful situation. I self-quarantined, I wore (and still wear) facial protection whenever I left my apartment, I bought a bike to avoid public transportation, and, most importantly, I actively made the decision to put my physical, social, and mental health first. I knew the following days, weeks, and months would be some of the most difficult times we have ever faced as humanity, and in order to come out the other end in one piece, I knew adjustments to life were necessary.
I have come to look at these last several weeks as a break from reality, or a pause from normalcy, never really allowing myself to accept that this may be the new norm. I’ve been patient with myself, indulging in habits and activities that have helped me stay calm and not panic, whether that be numerous 1000-piece puzzles or facetiming with friends and family, or a bottle of wine at noon or perhaps never even getting out of bed on particular days. I find creative ways to exercise to keep up my physical health. I reach out to my friends and family, however distant, to maintain my connection with others. It feels like the weirdest summer vacation I never had during college–nothing to do, no responsibilities, just an ample amount of time. I started to wait for signs of normalcy to return. And because I was waiting, I myself went on pause.
As this “pause” continues, an uncomfortable feeling has started slipping into the pit of my stomach. A voice that I’ve have always had, a voice that has motivated me to get to where I am today, and a voice that was amplified ten-fold during my time at school, is telling me to take advantage of this time, get to work, and CREATE SOMETHING!! And the louder the voice gets, the more uncomfortable I become because I know I am in conflict. Part of me knows I am tending to my personal health and needs. I am making sure I am okay. I need to take as much time as I need in order to maintain my sanity and health. But at the same time, with two, three, four weeks of no creation or work, the feeling of uselessness has begun slapping me across the face. I feel lazy. I feel hypocritical. I feel a series of emotions that are not helping my mental health.
So, what do I do? How do I alleviate these feelings? Something about being in unfamiliar territory in life has somehow convinced me that since nothing is familiar, I myself am not familiar. This pandemic is new to all of us, so I too am new. As the world changes around me, I fail to see familiarity. And that in itself has terrified me.
But despite it all, I am still me, just as you are still you. So, I turn inward. And reflect. And remember all the things that still remain true in these maddening times. I know I am an optimist. I know I am emotional. I know I have big goals and dreams that both inspire and scare me. I know I have beautiful friends, and I know sometimes I take them for granted. I know I cherish my family, and they cherish me. I know that this will not last forever. I know that despite how I currently feel, I am an artist. And I know that no matter what happens, nothing can change that about me.
Covid-19 has forced me to address many aspects of my life–where I’ve been, where I am now, and where I am going. With nothing but time, all those thoughts and ideas I never had time for are finding their ways to the surface. Finally, I have space to address the issues in my life that may not have had time to be focused on pre-pandemic. This reflection, this internal growth, this examination of who and what I’ve become, all of this is the art I’ve been missing out. I cannot worry myself about the success of my career or the moves I’ll make once we’re all free. We cannot thrust ourselves into the future, ignoring the overwhelming pandemic that has plagued our present.
I am actively creating something despite the lack of a product. I am making something out of nothing here, and I’m discovering that this art is personalized for me. There is endless beauty all around and within each and everyone of us, and I’m finally seeing the silver-lining. Art never takes the back seat. It thrives on. It is a part of us all. It travels with us and gains experience as we see and learn and understand more about the world around us. There is art in everything that we do.
Yes, I wish this was over. Yes, sometimes I wish I did more with my days. But each and everyone of us are doing what we can right now, and that will be different for each of us. The art that I’m creating is found in the resilience and the love that humans share. It is in the longing to hold hands and to march in the streets and to dance with a stranger and to love and to connect and to be with each other, in person, face to face, one day soon.
This pandemic will end one day, and when that day comes, I cannot wait to gather in masses, share our stories, comfort each other, and remember what really matters: each other.
See ya on the other side.
Zach Fifer is an acting graduate from the School of Drama currently living in New York City. Outside of the arts, he occupies his time with finding as many dogs to pet as possible, and diving into as much nature that can be found in the confines of New York. You can catch him serving tables at Central Park’s Tavern on the Green (whenever restaurants open again). A few of his favorite credits include the American Premier of Things I Know To Be True (Milwaukee Repertory), Confidence and the Speech (Off-Broadway), Twelfth Night (Pioneer Theatre), If On A Winter’s Night… (The Brooklyn Generator), Cindy (Project Y), and Lord Of The Flies (Dir. Caden Manson). See him on YouTube in the coming-of-age horror short Lucy’s Tale (Chelsea Lupkin). Learn more at zachfifer.com or on his instagram @zachfife.