The current pandemic has brought normal life to a sudden halt. It’s certainly not something to joke about. So why are some individuals in my generation — I’m a college student at Colorado State — treating it as a joke?

I’ve seen too many of my peers become desensitized to real-life problems. We’ve grown up constantly bombarded with information through the internet — constantly aware of world events but feeling there’s not much we can do about them. So we tend to brush off serious issues. We’ve been told our “real life” won’t begin until after college, after we earn a degree, and only then will we actually be meaningful to the world.

When I was in high school, the new normal was shooting threats. I grew up in Littleton. My high school’s rival school is Columbine. My family and I were vacationing once and we spoke to an individual from England. Immediately after telling her we were from Littleton her face turned a bit pale. She almost whispered somberly, “Oh… Columbine.” 

But for me, Littleton was home. Columbine endured a tragedy that shook my community as well as the world, but it was something that was normal to me. My last month in high school we had school canceled numerous times because of shooting threats. 

America seemed to brush off initial rumors of the virus erupting in Wuhan, holding the mindset of “It won’t happen here,” echoing a complacency that often preceded school shootings. Weeks went by, and preparation for it entering our country had yet to even begin. 

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When our college classes moved online, some people were ecstatic. To many of my peers, that meant more partying and traveling. They disregarded the seriousness of the issue and saw it as an opportunity to do whatever they wanted.

Avoiding the public at all costs, I now scroll through my social media feeds and see people I know traveling, hanging out with friends, and partying. Carrying on as though an ever-looming virus is not about to pounce. 

Online school will be really tough for many people. I’m so thankful that my education will be able to continue, but online school is altering my education experience drastically. Sitting at my desk in a dark apartment room takes a toll on mental and physical health.

Getting up at a reasonable hour, getting dressed, and talking to fellow students and teachers is no longer an option. I can roll out of bed to sit at my desk at any hour of the day. Time feels irrelevant except for due dates popping up on a screen. 

Social distancing is hard, but necessary to stop the deadly virus. My grandparents have been staying inside and waiting for my aunt to drop off groceries outside their house. They Clorox wipe each item down before taking it inside. My grandfather has a medical condition called Alpha 1 that requires him to be on oxygen at all times. 

A virus like the coronavirus could take his life. 

More than anything, I wish that I could’ve given him the painting I made for his birthday months ago. The reality of the situation is I don’t know how long it will be until I can safely see my grandparents again. Situations like this make it hard to comprehend the selfishness of people who are not social distancing. 

In a time like this, I’m especially grateful for the many privileges in my life. Countless communities face hardships on a regular basis, but I’m blessed with many advantages. If I get horribly ill, there’s a hospital 10 minutes away that will provide me with medical care. It almost feels wrong to feel so safe, because so many others are not.

My frustration with the way my country’s leaders are handling the pandemic seems to boil through my veins. I can’t comprehend why there weren’t better preparations for it reaching the U.S. I applaud the medical workers spending countless hours and days helping people, looking for a cure, and showing true humanity. 

We receive constant updates on the the virus, yet I’ve become skeptical about what to believe. Our healthcare system, our nation’s ability to show humanity for others, and our country’s leaders have major flaws that have become brutally apparent through the deaths of so many coronavirus victims.

Here’s the worst part: I feel powerless to help the disadvantaged communities that will get hit with the virus. Even without a virus plaguing the world, so many people die every single day from lack of resources and are born into situations that challenge their safety and health constantly. 

Meanwhile, I hear stories of shoppers fighting over chicken in the grocery store and other examples of behavior that’s selfish and lacking basic humanity. We’re a nation of abundant resources, yet we never like to think about the people who don’t have clean water or enough food or healthy living conditions.

I can only hope that “me first” is not the new normal. The coronavirus has made me realize that I have taken so many things for granted in my life. I hope this experience changes that forever. 

For one thing, I’m going to refrain from stocking up on toilet paper. It’s a start.

Isabelle Smith is a student at Colorado State University living in Fort Collins.