Grand Illusion: How the Pandemic Exposed We're All Just Pretending
Updated: May 13, 2020
Perhaps this crisis will make space for us to acknowledge that our loss and our failures aren’t our individual faults.
When I started this column in February there was no Covid-19. We know now there was, but it wasn’t yet our daily reality.
I am a fiction writer, an Ivy League adjunct professor, a mother to two kids. I was meant to write about all the ways there was no longer space for people like me to make a stable living; all the ways this country’s lack of safety net – it’s merciless adherence to late capitalism, the gig economy, the broken healthcare system – were grinding so many of us down. I wrote, both before and after Covid-19, about my lack of health insurance. I might also have written about our lack of dental insurance, the pain I feel and have for years, each time I chew.
“because you’re busy surviving, because you can’t stop playing the rigged game on the off-chance somehow that you might outsmart it, because you can’t help but feel like your circumstances must somehow be your fault”
I was meant to write about perception versus reality in what I do professionally. The owner of the New York restaurant Prune,Gabrielle Hamilton, wrote an essay about thisrecently – describing how, for so long, so many of us have been pretending that we were or were about to “make it”. We had checked all or most of the boxes we were told to check in our professions, even as our lives remained in constant states of anxiety and fear. Work – the ability not only to get it and to do it but to not ever stop it – is the attribute that is perhaps flaunted and celebrated most of all. One of the reasons many of us don’t share the ways we do not have enough money is, I would argue, because we’re ashamed to say we’re struggling. We’ve internalized that our suffering is our fault – that it is because we must not be working hard enough.