My Life is a First World Problem

OPINION: Covid-19 brought my exchange year to a grinding halt. Meanwhile, other people have real life and death problems. Are my complaints even valid?

Publisert Sist oppdatert

Around 36 hours before St. Patrick’s Day, all pubs and bars in Ireland were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. You can probably imagine the carnage. Carnage even beyond the deep, internal dread of an Irish person faced with a pintless Paddy’s Day. St. Patrick’s Day is our national holiday, on par with the 17th.of May in terms of cultural importance.

The pub’s closing in Ireland didn’t impact me much. It was worse that I was booking the last flight out of Norway. Eight months into the exchange year that was being brought to a fast, but hopefully not permanent, halt.  The funny thing is that this means nothing to pretty much anyone but myself. Although it’s life-changing for some of us, it’s just another middle-class problem in the grand scheme of things.

You feel guilty complaining about it because people are dying. People close to you and people close to those you care about are getting seriously ill. Society as we know it is fundamentally changing due to a pandemic virus.

And meanwhile here I sit at home, perfectly healthy, complaining about how I had to go home from what was a temporary exchange. Cry me a river.

But the guilt of this chronic first world problem lingers. Home is so familiar. For all you do and all you change, home stays the same. Your parents are still slightly odd in the way that parents are. It’s frustrating to be back so suddenly after spending months exploring and getting comfortable in your new home.

It’s as if you build this life for yourself on the blank canvas that an exchange gives you, a life that seems a dream as you head to bed in your childhood room.

In a world that puts value on going out and getting after it, it’s a major change. Now we stay home. The reason we do an exchange year is to be out, to see new places, meet new people and by doing so learn new things.

But doing those things is arbitrary and even selfish when all we are being asked to do is stay at home and allow other people to live. Allow our brave healthcare staff to fight the defining humanitarian issue of the 21st century. Allow people to do real, impactful things to do so without interruption.

But I’ll still be having a little complaint to myself. I miss Norway. I miss Bergen and those who are and were there. I miss being koselig.

I even miss Hansa.

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