I don’t want to describe my experience from the point of view of things you see on the news. I don’t think that’s the right approach for me since I’m not a journalist.

One thing has been on my mind and it’s something I’ve been noticing more and more since I’ve become entrapped in my charming tiny apartment in Milan during the outbreak of COVID-19 – how much negativity we are filtering through ourselves, especially through the news and through fake news you see on social media.

I have always enjoyed a good dystopian story; I just didn’t think I would feel like the supporting character in one of them

An interesting thing I’ve discovered is that so many people in my friend list have suddenly become conspiracy theory enthusiasts, expert virologists or seem to have a friend working in the government. They all seem to have the latest news, reports, charts, photos or stories. Not all of them true, not all of them negative, nonetheless all of them start slowly occupying my consciousness. Maybe this has been going on much longer in my head, but I have been choosing to ignore it. We don’t actually see the disease, the people suffering.

I do find happiness in the little things more now. The light streaming through our half-transparent curtains that we definitely did not choose ourselves, hugs with my boyfriend, my neighbours occasionally singing or clapping on their balconies. Going outside now seems like some sort of celebration of life; well it feels that way until you see the first person wearing a surgical mask rushing somewhere. It feels surreal to see a city you’ve called home for more than two years so vacant. I have always enjoyed a good dystopian story; I just didn’t think I would feel like the supporting character in one of them. Of course, that sounds very dramatic, but weirdly it doesn’t feel dramatic in my head – just another small anecdote of day to day life during the quarantine.

it was a kind of macabre ritual, refreshing every day the number of deaths and infected people

At this point I’ve been at home, self-isolating for more than 3 weeks. To be honest I’m not even sure that’s the right amount of time and I’m definitely not sure for how much longer this will continue. I am grateful for many things: that I’m not a very extroverted person always rushing to get out of the house, and that I’m not alone. We are all, I think, discovering new ways to communicate, to actually use social media for connection. Another thing that I love is how people all around the world are finding humour in the whole situation, but it still feels strange reading jokes about an actual pandemic that’s all over the world at this point. I can pretend that I’ve used this time for deep self-reflection, education, and bettering myself in general, but I’ve become somewhat of a hermit crab, doing my thesis and looking at funny things on the internet. This is my personal way of coping with this new reality.

I do not see any deaths and I am fortunate enough not to know any people who are COVID-19 positive. I get most of my news updates from my parents back in Russia calling me every day and reciting to me the latest statistics from Italy – I stopped looking at the numbers on La Repubblica about a week ago. Before that it was a kind of macabre ritual, refreshing every day the number of deaths and infected people. Then I realised I cannot change anything anyway; I can only be as responsible as possible by staying home.

 

The disease doesn’t feel like something at my doorstep, a bogeyman coming to get me, but a faint negative echo in the distance.

Architecture student from Russia, currently finishing up her master's degree at Politecnico di Milano in Italy.

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