Contextualizing Anxiety

“A pandemic is an outbreak of infectious disease that occurs over a wide geographical area and that is of high prevalence. A pandemic generally affects a significant proportion of the world’s population, usually for several months” – this is the academic definition of pandemic according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. True enough, the world has seen how ruthless an infectious disease can be. It crippled the world economy. It is savage and unforgiving. Such is the power of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, I work for the industry where COVID is continuously wreaking havoc – the airlines. This pandemic has grounded more than a thousand planes worldwide. In the Philippines alone, it has displaced more than 2.7 million workers as of 25 May 2020 according to the Department of Labor and Employment. The World Economic Forum has said that the combination of flight cancellations and ‘country-specific restrictions’ on international flights cost the industry USD 880 billion (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/this-chart-shows-how-airlines-are-being-grounded-by-covid-19).

Anxiety levels are high as retrenchment, downsizing, company closure and other labor-related jargons pop-up in online news, Twitter, Facebook and private conversations among people. These are sugar-coated words to describe how employees will be laid off due to the economic loss brought about by the pandemic. I am affected by this. As months progress and COVID cases continue to rise, so does my anxiety level.

white and red airplane wing over the sea during daytime
(c) Shawn Ang photo

Time’s up, pack-up and move.

How do I say goodbye to my friends when I can’t even hug or kiss them? Seeing my friends for the last time at work really hit me hard. These are the same people I flew with, trained, shared meals together, had fun-filled nights, shared secrets (including headaches and heartaches). These are the people that I spent five, ten, fifteen years of my life wearing the same uniform. And then one day, they’re gone. Just like that.

Do I still remember my last flight? Did I say “thank you” to my co-crew? Did I fully engage with my passengers? What was the last crew meal that I ate? Did I have fun flying with my crew? These questions resonate now that I’m alone in my room, reminiscing the good old days. Had I known that it would be my last flight, I could have done more. I should have enjoyed my last take-off and landing as a cabin crew. I should have made it memorable. I should have said my last goodbye to my passengers.

Are you the only one blessed while the rest of us are cursed? I have no idea why some people have the temerity to announce to the whole world that they are blessed from above while the rest of humanity is suffering due to job loss. The timing is really off. It’s between you and your God and the world does not need to know about it. The best thing that a sane individual can do is to pray so that this pandemic will soon be gone.

False hope is the greatest blunder that anybody can “hold on to.” There’s no such thing as ‘everything will go back to normal.’ It will never be normal because people are already scarred from this tragic experience. Even the word normal has a new twin: new normal. It will never be normal because some of your friends are no longer there.

To my dear friends in flying, thank you and farewell.

Yesterday’s a treasure, today is here
Tomorrows’ on it’s way, the sky is clear
Thank you for the mem’ries of all the laughters and tears…

Farewell to you my friends, we’ll see each other again…

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