Trying and Failing to Understand the Passage of Time During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Doris Turkel

Doris Turkel ’20 longs for a time where a Saturday can be distinct from a Tuesday.

The amount of time that constitutes summer vacation has passed since we have started self-isolating indoors after March 16, 2020. We are nearing weeks 12 and 13, a fact that I, and many of my peers, struggle to wrap my head around. This substantial number depresses me of course, but more so, it confuses me. It feels like I’ve been in my home forever, but at the same time not at all. 

Within a regular summer vacation, I would go through many different experiences, see different things, and learn from them. I am still changing and learning now, but the variety of my experiences is undeniably limited. Time has felt imaginary because of the lack of a structured schedule and a clear future to look forward to in the short term. 

Existing in this sort of time warp makes it feel like we have been quarantined forever, but then reflecting on the time that has passed, we are confronted by the lack of normal life events which causes us to perceive time as passing quickly. 

Doris Turkel ’20, like many students, has had difficulty grasping this strange duality, “I feel like it was just March 13, 2020, the day that we did not know was our last day of in-person high school. All of this has just shown me how much of a social construct time really is. Yes, there is a scientific definition of time, but what constitutes a day, a week, or a month, is really so meaningless.”

All of this is made only more complicated when the weight of how difficult this time during the Coronavirus pandemic really has been. Dealing with this much loss is difficult enough, but in our world of 24/7 media coverage, bad news now seems inescapable. Being stuck inside to go through all of this more or less alone is painful and is only made more difficult when the friends who would help you to grieve are only there for you virtually, due to social distancing restrictions in effect. 

Things begin to quickly unravel, as the life we are living begins to feel fake. “Time feels fake. It does not feel like all of the time indoors is actually happening to me; instead it has somehow just sped through quickly,” Kate Petosa ’20 said. 

It of course does not help to think of what would be happening if COVID-19 just did not exist. Seniors are left thinking not only of all the big events that would be taking place, but all of the last memories and goodbyes that we would normally be having at this time of the academic calendar year. My brain cannot even fully grasp the fact that all of this would be happening right now. It seems to me that this cannot be the same June 2020 as the Junes that have passed in previous years. 

All of this of course does come from a place of privilege, with the realization that I do not need to be working on the frontlines or as an essential worker. I can stay at home and complain about how the days lack reality. 

As we wait for news about when we can take the baby steps towards reopening New York City, I wonder what normal time will even feel like, or is it just another construct that I’ve developed in my head to deal with the fact that right now everything just feels so strange. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. 

“Time feels fake. It does not feel like all of the time indoors is actually happening to me; instead it has somehow just sped through quickly,” Kate Petosa ’20 said.