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How are we coping with coronavirus? Well, it depends on your perspective
A baby boomer, a xennial and a millennial answer the question.
Barriers have been placed along the sea wall at North Shore Park to keep people off the beach, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 in St. Petersburg.
Barriers have been placed along the sea wall at North Shore Park to keep people off the beach, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Apr. 20, 2020
Updated Apr. 20, 2020

Welcome to a series where a baby boomer, a xennial and a millennial debate (and sometimes agree on) the issues that matter to you.

Anxiously scrolling social media

I always prepare for the worst-case scenario. And from the likes of what I’ve seen on social media the past few weeks, I gather many of you are the same.

We find ourselves in this impossible situation, some already sickened with coronavirus, some grieving someone we’ve lost to COVID-19, others of us waiting for what feels like the inevitable twist of fate.

All of that time preparing for the worst-case scenario was apparently for naught. Because now, in the very worst-case scenario, I don’t feel comforted or prepared.

Instead, I feel terrified.

Every morning, I scan Twitter hoping to find an article that won’t make me feel afraid. I text my parents each day, and while I don’t always say it, the implicit message is there: How are you feeling?

I monitor my own symptoms nearly every hour, noting any slight difference. Do I feel hot or did I just sit outside for too long? Am I lethargic or just stressed about work?

The only times I’ve felt comfort are, truthfully, when I’ve stepped away from my phone and into the blinking brightness of the world. I spent part of last weekend helping my mom paint a fence. With everything else turned upside down, I was amazed at how easy it was to lose myself in the task, to think of nothing more difficult than getting the strokes just right.

-Elizabeth Djinis, Editorial writer

Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash, columnist Stephanie Hayes and editorial writer Elizabeth Djinis make up Generation Gap.
Times chairman and CEO Paul Tash, columnist Stephanie Hayes and editorial writer Elizabeth Djinis make up Generation Gap. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Stuck firmly in the middle

I am 36, which makes me an old millennial. I prefer “xennial,” a microgeneration on the cusp of Generation X and millennial. We are often described as having an analog childhood and digital adulthood. Loosely, this means we watched VHS as kids and had AOL dial up as teens. We were raised by boomers, and even the most loving ones taught us to be self-reliant and let ourselves in after school.

How does it color my view on the coronavirus? A few ways.

This generation is the collision point. We have old parents and young children. My husband (firmly Gen X) and I are in the thick of our careers. We own a house and don’t have pensions. Our age group fears disruption, 401Ks tanking, property values plummeting, social safety nets and savings disappearing when we need them most. At the same time, we’re worried about getting our older generation sick. They are not expendable.

I have a school-aged stepdaughter, so we are distance learning. We yearn for breweries and restaurants, yes. But we worry about the lasting impact on the kid and miss exploring the world as a young family. These years go by so fast. I also would like to grow our family, but don’t know if that’s a good idea right now.

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Are we constantly fretting? I’d say we’re more like powering through. We’re not asking anyone to feel sorry for us because we weren’t raised that way. If we have to suck it up and carry the latchkey through this virus, we’re going to do it as long as it takes.

-Stephanie Hayes, Columnist

Finding solace with family

The virus has my attention, and I am yielding to its rules. At Publix, I put on a mask and try to follow the one-way arrows down the aisles. (One question: when the lady in front of you has stopped to study three different cans of beans, is it okay to pass?)

But all of life involves balancing risks. My twin grandkids turned 5, and the backyard playset they got for their birthday wasn’t going to put itself together. On a Saturday morning, I showed up with tools and doughnuts, just as my own father once showed up for the twins’ mother.

In the adorable way of 5-year-olds, they came running, arms open wide – forcing an instant calculation of my odds.

In my favor: my doctor says I am healthy for my age.

Working against me: That age is 65.

In my favor: Their parents have been keeping the twins home from pre-school.

Working against me: They might have the bug but not symptoms.

In my favor: my native Midwestern optimism.

Working against me: my native Midwestern optimism.

So, as the Little Vectors closed in at warp speed, I recognized that prudence would have me wave them off. After all, these hard times will not last forever. But neither will these days when granddad gets a hero’s welcome.

Some risks are worth taking. Hold tight, little ones. Hold tight.

-Paul Tash, Times chairman and CEO