I’ve gotten through the majority of the most challenging times in my life with the belief that things happen for a reason, that no matter how ugly or tough or seeming senseless things are in the moment, there’s a lesson in there for me to learn.

The older I’ve gotten and the further along in my own spiritual journey, the quicker I get the reason. However, I admit that I have been struggling with what possible reason there could be for COVID-19 to be wreaking havoc across the globe.

That is until the other day.

A woman I have known since the seventh grade drew the analogy on Facebook between the coronavirus and that of a computer on the fritz. Her reasoning was that sometimes no matter how hard you try to fix it, the only solution left is to unplug and reboot to get things working again.

That was the first time any of this made sense to me

Our world has become a place where a thousand different programs are running at the same time. The programs are supposed to talk to each other. We know that programs that talk to each other can do more. That’s how Big Data got so big. The result is supposed to give us more insight, but sometimes the insight is just more noise. Other times we get so caught up in the sound bite that comes out of the insight that we forget to step back and get a grip on what we set out to do and how things should be working in the first place.

The world we’ve been living in is like a giant computer that has stopped functioning properly. COVID-19 has forced us all to unplug, reboot and take a pause.

The waiting is never easy

Every time I’ve had to reboot my computer I’ve struggled with how long to wait before I plug back in and hit restart. There are things to do, places to go. What is the perfect amount of time to stay unplugged to ensure my computer will be fully functioning again?

I don’t know that answer and none of us knows how long we will be practicing social distancing and/or sheltering in place. None of us knows when we can start hugging those most dear to us again or when a simple trip to the grocery store will not involve plastic gloves and a wipe down with Lysol afterward. But what I do know is that this is a time of great collective reflection on both our individual interactions and society as a whole.

Making lemonade out of lemons

My father was a genius at turning a bad situation into fun. A rained-out picnic meant a blanket on the living room floor and hot dogs on the grill in the garage. I’ve thought about that a lot this week. What would Dad do?

Having essentially worked at home for the last decade, I was surprised at how little I got done this week with more time than ever to do it. My anxiety, something I have rarely experienced before, and distraction with the news left me ungrounded. But now one week into this, as I prepare to go back to teaching at NYU after Spring Break and to becoming a pro at teaching online I am committed to making my father proud.

I will write more and read more. I will take long walks until such time as they may tell us we can’t even do that. I will reach out to people I don’t regularly speak with but who are important to me. I’ve already had more phone conversations in the last week than I’ve had in the last month. I will think out of the box, whether it’s how to convert my offline classes online or in-person cocktail gatherings to Zoom events. I will say I love you more to the people I love and I will be kind to strangers – albeit from six feet away. I will let my roots get good and gray with no apologies. I will savor each moment. I will use this time to reevaluate my own life and what I want it to look like when we are on the other side of this reboot but I know this is all much bigger than just me.


We can blame where the virus started and certainly how unnecessarily unprepared the United States has been and angst over the absence of real leadership from the White House, but we also have to fix the situation.

The truth is we’ve all had a part in this. Collectively we’re all responsible for the messy world we’ve been living in. The coronavirus is forcing us to reboot, pause and take a good and longer than we’d like to look at where we are and what we want to do moving forward.

The world is never going to look the same again just as it never did for my parents’ generation after The Great Depression or WWII or for mine after 9/11. It’s up to us to make the new version a kinder, more compassionate and more equal one and to use this great pause as a time to ponder how.

This article originally appeared on joannetombrakos.com