Language learning is fun,do-able and exciting, especially in its early stages. Learning how to greet people in a foreign language as well as memorizing fruit and vegetable names is highly relaxing and rewarding. Sadly, this stage does not last that long. We are soon met with the grammar monster that eats up our desire to conquer the language. Inexplicable spellings and weird conjugations, exceptions that pop up from nowhere plague our mastery of the language as well as the sense of joy we derive from the process. Fluency does not come without it though. To attain a certain stage of fluidity, the grammar monster has to be caught and must remain under the language user’s control.
The same process of mastering rules applies for living under the Corona regime. The Corona regime started about eight months or so ago (depending on where you are this period may differ), and in its ruling of the world, forces people to learn its language. For added difficulty, it rewrites the rulebook ever so quickly and unpredictably. People are astounded by how merciless the rule change can be, often as helpless bystanders.
The pandemic has been rewriting our rules of socializing, eating, working and exercising - everything we put under ‘living’. As the disease evolves and transforms at every stage, we have tried our best to revise the old rules, apply new ones and adapt to them to the best of our ability.We’ve only just begun nearly mastering the latest rule of enhanced social distancing, and even started seeing glimpses of hope, until tables turned again.
My friendly chats with people I would very much like to socialize with have almost always ended with a nonchalant emoticon - as if to brush off the gravity of the pandemic. “Let’s meet once corona has settled down a bit” has become the hallmark line to postpone or cancel social gatherings. “We are sorry to cancel this event, but this is a due measure considering the seriousness of the pandemic,” are words I have had to post on group chat rooms to cancel dinners and end of semester parties. Every time we think social distancing is under control, and we can start meeting people again and hosting events, there is yet another depressing news item that prevents us from doing so.
Mask wearing has become quite bearable, although sometimes I yearn to breathe fresh air directly, and not through a piece of white fabric . But as much as mask wearing has become bearable thanks to repeated exposure and practice, this rule is also susceptible to change. As I write, the government has sent out “disaster texts” announcing that mask wearing is mandatory in the Seoul Metropolitan area both indoors and outdoors starting tomorrow.
These are by far the hardest set of ever-changing rules I have had to follow in my life, and obviously with much higher stakes than the innocuous learning of foreign language grammar - which for most people is not a matter of life and death. But there is one skill that I have always deemed myself to be good at that can come in handy during these times. Being comfortable being uncomfortable! Comfort is a scary thing, it makes us complacent, lazy and sometimes even take things for granted. Those are the very opposite things to what we need now - arm ourselves with alertness and a riveting and fluctuating sense of instability.
Gates and epidemiologists around the world have predicted that we would probably have to live under the Corona regime until late next year. Let’s get the Coronan grammar down now and survive to see 2022.