“Miss, let me help you,” a gentleman on a plane to Chicago said as I was trying to lift my little suitcase to tuck it into the overhead bin. “It is heavy,” I replied. He did not mind, but instead took my carry-on luggage and placed it in the bin. From the look on his face, it was clear that the weight of such a small suitcase surprised him. He gave me a questioning look. I just shrugged and said, “Books.”
Passengers usually carry necessities in carry-on luggage. If their checked-in bag gets lost or a connecting flight is canceled, at least they will have some clean clothes and personal hygiene items on hand. Luckily, I managed to make some room for them among all the books I was carrying, as when I arrived in Chicago, I learned that due to a storm the flight to my final destination, Knoxville, Tennessee, got canceled. As I could not continue my trip that evening, I took the carry-on and went to a nearby hotel to check-in. In a hotel room, I dug up a collection of Charles Bukowski’s journals and some Serbian biscuits from my suitcase. There, in the room, I started reading and nibbling the biscuits. At that moment, nothing was so awful any longer - neither the storm nor the uncertainty of whether I would board another plane in the morning. After reading a few pages of the book, I forgot about my travel annoyance.
New York City, where I moved from Tennessee about three and half years ago, was hit hard by the COVID pandemic in the spring of this year. Libraries and museums were closed and those of us who live here were forced to quarantine. What made me feel alive in that isolation was running, street art, city architecture, music, and books. Every day I would listen to the song “You know my name” by Chris Cornell, the lead vocalist of the bands Audioslave and Soundgarden who sadly died. The refrain of the song,“Arm yourself because no one here will save you…” sums up how most of us felt in New York City during the peak of the pandemic. Living all alone, many of us immigrants far from the closest family and friends were caught alone in a new, completely unknown struggle. As hard as it is to digest, this song, like many others I listened to as I ran through “the ghost city,” feasting my eyes on the picturesque murals and beautiful architecture, made me feel like it wasn’t over yet.
Dance While You Can
Eight months after the peak of the pandemic, I listen to Michelle Gurevich’s song “Dance While You Can” every day. Music, books, and arts are keeping me away from low mood and sadness. They have always been my most precious things, the sources of my energy, but during the pandemic, they have become a much-needed therapy. To be clear – I am grateful to live in an age of science and medical breakthrough that, in a matter of a few months, led to the discovery of an effective therapy that alleviates the symptoms of the virus. However, I think that in addition to antiviral therapy, we should not forget about other forms of therapy that pull us out of the state of pure vegetation and helpus get through these hard times. This is why I urge you to buy a book, or a ticket for a virtual concert, a framed piece of art, or a painting. Buy whatever contributes to your therapy against COVID to express gratitude to those who make you feel alive through their talent and dedication.