By Rachel Stroia
Many of us probably remember the headlines in late February highlighting the moving yet distant story of quarantined Italians coming together in song from their balconies. “How touching,” we said. “What a way to find beauty in suffering,” we said. “But that will never be us,” we said. This was merely an opportunity for us Americans to find some solace in the solidarity of another country, looking at the faded stone and wrought iron railings in the Italian sun. “How nice it is that they can find some community in their quarantine. But what a shame that Italy has it so bad.”
Yet two months later, we found ourselves in almost the same position. The idea of quarantine was no longer a distant and foggy fear, but our new reality. I hesitate to say “new norm” because that seems to suggest that this is the reality that is here to stay. But we all know that everything is temporary. Yes, this is going to change things, but it is not going to last forever. But maybe we should evaluate some aspects of our past few months of isolation and distancing and think about what in fact should become the “new norm.”
At the beginning of our quarantine a few months ago, I am sure many of us began to see self-help articles circulated in our news feeds. How to create a stable routine during quarantine. 10 habits to beat the quarantine blues. How to take advantage of your extra time in quarantine. While it is easy to cast these off and say “I’m not one of those people who needs to be concerned with mental health right now” or “I won’t be affected by this,” many of us have found ourselves to be in grave need of our lost routines and habits. With the stability of our lives crumbling, it is only natural that our interior lives fall apart with them. However, in this place of vulnerability and crisis, we are given the challenge of discovering ourselves and realizing our true priorities.
I would like to take a moment to address those of us who have found ourselves with the new task of living almost entirely at home, even though I know this is not the case for many people, especially essential workers who have been affected by the pandemic in the totally opposite way, overworked and even exploited. We have been forced to schedule our own lives and to really face ourselves with many of the distractions of our everyday life taken away. I believe that the reason for all of the articles about staying sane during the quarantine is not just that we are “bored” but that we are faced with a new king of freedom that many of us have not experienced previously in our everyday lives. We are living during a time when many of us have to ask ourselves who we are when all the things that we normally do are taken away from us. We have been forced “to be” not just “to do” and must decide what sort of person we are within that being. This is what we found so touching about the Italians singing on their balconies—we see that these people, stuck in their homes and separated from their loved ones, used their forced isolation as a way to create a new sort of community and connection through sharing music.
Music possesses this special quality that draws people together. We find ourselves doing this now: our neighbors are having porch and lawn concerts, the North End residents are recreating the Italian singers scene, adults who learned to play music as children are picking up their instruments again. I would like to posit that it is not just because we “have time” for more music in our lives now, but it is that those who have turned to music have rediscovered the power that it possesses to channel emotion, expression, and community. We have been stripped of so much else during this time—our sports are canceled, our theaters are closed, and our daily activities are interrupted. But music has found a way to stick around and even grow stronger.
Many of us are going back to work and our States are beginning to reopen, so as we begin to reshape our daily lives, we can either sigh in relief that our quarantine is finally ending and hastily put it out of our minds, or we can examine the challenging reality of asking ourselves what we learned from it. What did we look like when all our routine was stripped away, and what kind of people are we when we have time to self-reflect?
Rachel Stroia is the Office Manager at Note-worthy Experiences Music Studio. She recently completed her degree in English Literature, is an amateur writer, and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.