In December 2019, life changed: COVID-19 first appeared in China. In the beginning, Europe wasn’t affected. People kept on travelling and living their lives to the fullest, and why wouldn’t they?
But then, in Europe, things also changed around March. The virus started spreading rapidly in our small corner of the world. We had to apply temporary measures for our safety. Masks became our reality. We stopped being able to smile and talk freely. Some felt like their freedom was being revoked. People slowly started shaping ideas and conspiracy theories out of misplaced emotions.
It doesn't matter whether you believe in the virus’ existence or not, the question is whether the mask is a violation of your freedom. If I am being honest, I thought about the question many nights, especially during my country’s lockdown.
For me, the answer has nothing to do with your freedom or the existence of said virus. It has everything to do with us, humans, caring for those around us. The lady that shops from the same bakery as you who is old and easily affected by her external environment, or that classmate of yours who happens to have asthma, or even your parents, who may not be old, but they aren’t youngsters either.
You are not wearing a mask because you believe in the morbidity of the situation. You are wearing a mask because you are not willing to risk the lives of those around you so you can prove a point.
Wearing a mask is an act of compassion. During difficult times, such as a pandemic, where faith is hanging from a thread and fear is strong, our ability to be empathetic towards the world is all we have.
It is okay to be scared or angry, but we need to be a united force against the virus. We must educate ourselves on the matter, we need to take precautions, and we need to do all of this together. That is the only way to get through this pandemic, together.
Maybe, once this is over, it will have taught us an important lesson: that no matter how difficult a situation is, you can always depend on others. What makes us truly different from other species is our cognitive abilities, our ability to turn our emotions into actions. It is, therefore, significant to turn our compassion into a compass that will show us the way out of this pandemic as a unified force that will win with the least possible collateral damage.
In that note of togetherness, as the Erasmus Generation, we must remember that masks protect our present and future experiences. Think about Erasmus students in places such as Greece, they had to go through quarantine in a foreign place. It probably cost them so much of this mind-blowing experience.
We should take care of others and ourselves to get over this pandemic. The sooner this is done, the sooner we will be able to travel again. But for now, be patient, dream of places, make plans, and get ready because the moment this is over, we will meet again in spectacular places.
And to a happier note, this is a new year, don't let it be defined by the dark colors of the past one.
This year let your mind explore all possibilities, make the best of every situation no matter how big or small, and of course, always wear a mask.
Be part of a compassionate act, the act of protecting others. At the end of the day, Bon Jovi had it right - ''no man is an island'' - we are all in this together.