All this week I had been sick. I had gotten a sore throat, and from what I could gather, I either thought that it had been the work of my students giving it to me, stress from dealing with administration, or allergies.
Of course, with recent developments, all that changed.
I kept taking deep breaths on purpose.
I kept trying to gauge how out of breath I was with each intake.
And each time I coughed, a singular dread arose inside of me.
Was this Coronavirus?
How on Earth did I get it? When I was at the bar just two weeks ago? Did the only employee at the local bookstore have it? Did I touch the self-checkout aisle enough at the grocery store?
We had already been practicing social isolation at the beginning of spring break, so the amount of places I could have gotten it I could have counted on one hand.
But then nothing happened. I got better. And even when we’re told you get better and then it gets worse, none of that happend.
Which means that all of this intuition was wrong.
We are terrible at recognizing the change in ourselves. In the movie, Annihilation, change takes up the majority of the themes of the movie. Characters have affairs with one another, even if they know it’s bad for them. One character who has lost a daughter says, “I was that person before she died, now I am something else.” And of course their most pressing concern is the way their bodies are changing without their knowledge or consent. Science fiction’s best feature is using outside developments to discuss interior dilemmas.
This isn’t too different from what was observed in the Harvard Grant Study, the longest running longitudinal study of its kind. For decades, they followed men at Harvard, from their 20s until their death, asking prospective questions every two years to gauge their personalities. Supposedly one such man received archived answers of the questions from his youth. He mailed them back saying, “I think you sent me the wrong person’s answers.”
The man had changed so much that he could no longer recognize the man he used to be.
In the novel Normal People, the two main characters, Connell and Marianne, tell each other that they have not changed at all after their first year of college.
But how can they be so sure?
Suffice it to say, we are not good judges of our own character, and whether you find that a terror or a relief is for you to decide.