Get Well

Self and the City: Am I the Only One?

by Hannah Smith

Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to

I believe in working toward the greater good. This has been a value instilled in me for a vast majority of my life but arguably in a way that has taken over my life. Frankly, I’m not sure where the innate need to host canned food drives and volunteer at shelters came from at such a young age (unprompted by the adults around me, might I add), but I’ve always felt a need to try and care for those around me no matter what I was experiencing. 

When COVID reared its ugly head, it was a real test for society, and one we’re still undergoing. In the beginning, it really did, for a moment, feel as if we were all in this together.  We began to find ways to make life at home amenable, whether it was online workout classes or Zoom happy hours to see your friends again, and while it wasn’t the same, it sufficed. 

But living in New York City, we really had a dark and depressing time as we were the epicenter for so long. No matter how much we did online, nothing seemed to fill the void of the now ghost-town-like Manhattan streets. The world of “look at me doing quirky activities at home” turned to mere distraction, to take our minds off the fact that our fellow New Yorkers were undergoing painful experiences. Nonetheless, New Yorkers did what we do best, and that was look out for others. We stayed cooped in our apartments for months, followed the mask mandate almostperfectly, and soon enough, we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

I credit New York’s success to the understanding of the greater good. We live cramped and packed into close quarters with one another, we shove onto completely crowded trains to get to and from work, and we brush past hundreds of people daily, as if it’s normal. Once we understood this could no longer be our normal, New Yorkers acted accordingly. 

Now, New York is really getting to the end of the tunnel. For the first time since March, NYC reported zero coronavirus related deaths – a milestone we deserve. But as we open up, the thoughts and emotions that go along with it can be a bit much. On one hand, I begin to wonder if others simply don’t care. Not to say they do not care at all, but that their innate need to care about literally the entire world might not be quite as debilitating as mine. Perhaps we digest the news and information on this differently, but on the other, I’ve started to wonder if I’ve gone mad. I see some people eating out at restaurants like it’s no big deal, but I get anxiety at the thought of potentially spreading the virus. I see some hanging out in the parks with their friends, but I cannot shake the fear that I will get one of my loved ones sick. While my need to serve the greater good as always been a positive attribute, is it holding me back now? 

There is no right answer right now. The right answer is to follow the guidelines wherever you are, as I know the rest of the country is not in the same position as NYC right now, socially distance when possible, and wear a mask when outside or interacting with others. Like I said, I believe in the greater good and I believe that if and when we all work together, with one goal in mind, we have the potential to achieve success. Stay healthy and stay safe. 

Feature Image via Jessica Golightly

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Let us slide into your inbox with things that'll make you feel good.