A nation priding itself on freedom no longer feels so liberated. The general rules apply: stay at least six feet apart, wash your hands, wear masks. But each state has a different situation, different degrees of severity, of separation. Every state, then, has some of its own jurisdiction to decide how or when reopenings should occur, though some days, the question seems to be a matter of “if.” Recently, my state was ranked third out of the fifty states for the highest number of coronavirus cases, meaning that more restrictions must be applied to our daily way of life. While I hear of other nearby states relaxing their safety measures, I wait, not without some envy.
Of course, as the adage goes, it is better to be safe than sorry, and prioritizing health over anything else is important. The sobering realness of the situation is magnified, so starkly underscored, by the obituaries of people in my area, people I once knew, people who had walked the streets, going about their daily activities, not so long ago. People I still can’t believe are gone. These days are not only about the absence of luxuries once enjoyed, but also about the absence of people loved, or of people, we wish we had gotten to know, if only time had not been seen as so abundant, unlimited, before. The most precious parts of life are put into perspective now. In quarantine, there is more time to think, reflect, and focus on what is meaningful. So many thoughts travel still to the things that have been lost, and I dream of restoration, of knowing freedom once again.
Even as my world has grown smaller yet, it has grown through the endless possibilities of the world, as interconnected through the internet. I have access to theater performances, concerts, virtual tours of museums, I did not before. Leave it to the quarantine to lead me to discover a new passion of mine as well: opera. The footage of past operas that I have seen these days are nothing short of incredible and speak so much to what I am feeling now. At first, I noticed the repetition of words in succession during some scenes, paralleling the redundancy of some days in quarantine, which seemed to blur together, repeating indefinitely. Ultimately, though, operas run the gamut of emotions, from hopelessness, fear, and even proud resignation, to unutterable joy. In the span of hours, I went from watching the comedic fairytale retelling of La Cenerentola to the tragic drama Anna Bolena, which somehow reflected the rollercoaster that the quarantine has been (certainly quite a contrast between the stories of Cinderella and Anne Boleyn, you know).
More broadly, these operas represent the complexity of humanity, beyond borders of time or place. The pandemic has revealed heroism and fortitude, perseverance, bringing out the best in so many humanity at a trying time when faith is tested. So through the lens of opera, I came to see things differently. It was no longer so much about what I was missing, as what I had gotten to see, with my hope being renewed through the beauty of the love and selflessness being exhibited now, frontline workers being a case in point, or through the art being shared across platforms, bringing joy and light in a time that would otherwise be dark.
Freedom, I came to see, is not only defined by measurable parameters; it is based on mindset. We have the freedom to make choices about how we will live, and view the experiences we are met with, not only about where we will go or what we will do, outside of the walls we may call home. Will we approach this new day with a positive attitude and a courageous heart? I didn’t have to compare my situation to that of other states reopening, gaining more freedom than what I seemed to have under the circumstances. I could concentrate on what I do have, what I can be grateful for, and use my voice for change. The time I have now is time I can use to learn and grow, to become a better human, especially in light of the examples of people overcoming adversity, whether healthcare workers sacrificing so much to save lives, teachers soldiering on to provide remote instruction to students, or people battling coronavirus.
Anyway, I must be going. I have a Met performance to attend. In my pajamas, naturally.
Kathryn Sadakierski is a 20-year-old graduate student whose writing has appeared in The Bangor Literary Journal, The Ekphrastic Review, Nine Muses Poetry, Teachers of Vision, Dime Show Review, The Decadent Review, Visual Verse, iō Literary Journal, the Zimbell House Publishing anthology The Marshal, Truth Serum Press’ Indigomania anthology, and elsewhere. Her poems are forthcoming in Northern New England Review, Auroras & Blossoms, Halfway Down the Stairs, and The Voices Project. Kathryn has had a lifelong passion for literature as well as for art, often combining her interests through writing ekphrastic poems, though she also enjoys writing essays and short stories. She graduated summa cum laude with her B.A. in 2019, and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree.