Advice for Navigating the Pandemic: “Read everything!”

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Picture Courtesy of Diana Lynch

“Last March, my mother came down with COVID she contracted at church. She brought it home. My father got it. My 93-year-old grandmother got it. My sister got it. I still think I had it as well,” said Boston University Professor Diana Lynch. 

Lynch had her hands clasped with her left arm nonchalantly placed on the top rail of the small wooden chair she was sitting on. There was a seriousness in her voice, but she did not sound fragile. Lynch recalled the day the United States declared a national emergency. She rushed back from Montreal before the borders closed.

“I called my parents and begged them to lock down, but my mother insisted that she was fine,” she said.

Lynch was still teaching one of her ESL mass media writing courses for international graduate students at Boston University’s College of Communication when the news arrived.

“My mother was dropped off at an emergency room by my father. And he called me and said, ‘I think that’s the last time I’ve seen your mother.’”

Lynch’s mother was severely dehydrated, she received an IV, and she battled fever for over 28 days. 

“It was very stressful. It was terrifying. I would not want to live through that again.”

Although Lynch’s mother’s health improved, she, like 50% to 80% of COVID patients, became a long hauler, suffering from bothersome symptoms even after the virus was no longer detected in her body. For Lynch’s mother, those symptoms include rashes and loss of hair. 

Given the severity of her mother’s case, Lynch continues to keep a close eye on public health guidelines.

“I’m taking this very seriously. I live in lockdown. I go absolutely nowhere. I see no one. I do nothing. I’ve been living in lockdown since March,” she said. 

The world under a global pandemic has become the “new normal” for many people. Many people have forced themselves to adapt to new ways of living. For Lynch, education and reading has helped her prepare for and navigate this difficult time.

“I had done a lot of reading about the plague when I was 32,” she said.

Albert Camus’ The Plague and Boccacio’s Decameron were on top of her reading list.

“These men wrote about plague and societies, what happens to the society, how societies break down, and what happens to the individual,” she said. 

For Lynch, novels have become a medium to learn about how she should act under the most desperate situations.

“Human nature is human nature. These novels could have been written 2,000 years ago, but it’s the same thing. Nothing changes. Scientists can’t explain to the humans how they should be managing their feelings, but the writers can.”

Writers write to explain things to themselves, and readers read to understand things unknown to them through writers’ explanations. This process of self-education through reading about other’s experiences is what helped Lynch to focus rather than fear under challenging times.

“People look at novels and say, ‘Oh, what a waste of time.’ But I couldn’t think of anything that has informed me more in 2020, I can’t think of anything else that’s helped me.”

Even though novels are often not included in the syllabus for her mass communication writing classes, Lynch still stresses the  importance of reading in her classrooms. With winter break coming up, Lynch saw an opportunity to push good reads in front of her students. 

“I give out a reading list with a candy cane, you know. If you’re gonna go home, you’re not going to be doing much. Here’s a reading list of really cool books.”

Not giving it as an assignment, Lynch was simply trying to prepare other people for experiences that they don’t have. She also offers salient words of advice. 

“Read everything!” she said. 

Amy Peng, Staff Writer

Born and raised in China, Amy Peng is a senior studying Communication and Japanese Language and Literature with a dream to work in Publishing or become a translator. Though a proud introvert, Amy takes pleasure in conversations and loves talking with strangers on the T. Aside from daily blogging and rummaging through the Kindle store for good reads, she also enjoys comedies, cooking, and The New York Times’ Metropolitan Diary.

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