I Lost Friends In 2020, But Not From COVID-19

J Free

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I'm a millennial, and my friends think I'm a bore for wanting to keep those around me safe.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, span quite a varied age group from around 24 to 39 years. Thus, a 39-year-old might not appreciate being associated with, and put in the same category as, someone in their early twenties who is just getting the hang of adulthood. And while millennials bear the brunt of anger for a number of things (people think we're lazy, entitled, obsessed with technology and social media, you name it), at least we can't be blamed for spreading COVID-19 during spring break.

Outraged onlookers at the beach and on national (and even international) television exclaimed "It's all the fault of those darn 'millennials'". But the fact of the matter is, millennials are typically not the ones still in college. They are not the ones gathering at frat parties and college bars. That's on Gen Z (sorry if that's you and you weren't part of the careless party-goers...).

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Still, my generation's people are by no means faultless when it comes to handling the pandemic and doing their part. Yes, there are people of all age groups who simply can't be bothered to listen to guidelines. People who only see their own inconveniences and not the much bigger problems others might face at their hands. The lack of care and compassion has no age limit. And neither does COVID-19.

But since this disease is widely regarded as a danger to older folks (even if that's clearly not always the case), many younger and generally healthier people don't really consider themselves to be at risk. What they also don't consider is that even if they don't directly come into contact with elderly people, they might show no symptoms and transmit the virus via someone else. They would never even find out about it. But hey, ignorance is bliss. If it doesn't affect you personally, why would you care?

Sadly, that is how many people still think, even after nearly ten months of living through the pandemic and having easy access to updated data and official information. So while I'm glad I'm no longer associated with partying college kids, I'm still incredibly disappointed in some of my fellow millennials. They, too, have played a big role in the rapid and uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus.

But the thing is, they judge me, too. For being too socially distanced. For caring too much. For being a bore.

Long gone are the days where I was invited to barbecues and game nights, large gatherings and get-togethers. Fun trips to someplace warm, since flights are currently so cheap. I mean, what's the worst thing that could happen? We're young, so we'll be fine.

After a while, my friends stopped asking me out altogether, knowing their efforts would be pointless. They grew tired of hearing my goody-two-shoes excuses.

But why did I even need excuses in the first place? Why did I feel the need to explain myself for adhering to the rules? Rules which have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic for good reason, and are not that hard to understand. My friends knew that if it couldn't be done safely, I'd be out. At the same time, even though it was frustrating, I knew I was being reasonable. So why did I inevitably feel like an outcast for doing the right thing?

Over and over, I'd kindly decline and say "Sorry, that's simply a risk I do not want to take". They feigned understanding, but I could practically hear the roll of eyes on the receiving end as I hit send on my texts.

Unfortunately, I hate offending people and often avoid calling them out for their actions (which I know is something I should work on). So, silently and sneakily, I would add to that response under my breath: "But clearly, you're not too concerned about it".

Maybe I'd be less concerned too, if my situation was slightly different. Maybe if I didn't share a household with my 90-year-old grandmother, I'd be more relaxed about the rules. Maybe I wouldn't be so anxious to go out with friends and potentially bring the virus back home. Maybe I wouldn't fully understand the responsibility many people carry when it comes to protecting others around them. People who live alone, for example, have no one to protect other than themselves.

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But don't they? Are they really only directly impacting themselves when they make decisions to be reckless?

This seemingly simple concept is something I wish more millennials and Gen Z'ers would understand (and of course, anyone else who still can't grasp the idea or simply doesn't care). You shouldn't need to live with your vulnerable grandmother to be able to understand your part in this situation. You shouldn't need to be personally affected to realize that your actions can result in greater damage than you can see or feel.

Trust me, I'd love nothing more than to go out, to see friends, to travel the world and to have fun. I want those things just as much as any other millennial, and human being in general, would. I don't love sitting at home with minimal social contact. I want "normal" life to go on. But there's a difference between wanting something while knowing it's not sensible, and doing it anyway, despite all public warnings and pleadings.

This pandemic sucks for everyone, no matter what generation you belong to. If you're lucky enough to belong to one that's not predominantly affected fatally by this disease, then the least you could do is have some sympathy for those who are.

Because fatal or not, the pandemic affects each and every one of us. Which means this whole thing is also a group effort. The quickest way to get back on your overseas flights and booze cruises is to not go on them now. It's a harsh reminder, but it's necessary.

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