Too late

The rate at the which my world has changed over the past 3 weeks is really astounding. At the beginning of March, a mere 24 days ago, I was still planning on traveling from Mexico to go to a friend’s wedding (remember those?!) that would have been this week. Back then, this plague was still called the “corona virus” and I truly thought it wouldn’t hit America — it’d fizzle out in the east just like SARS and MERS had before.

Never before in my life have my beliefs and expectations about the future shifted so rapidly.

It’s very difficult for humans to reason about exponential growth — our brains just simply don’t work in a way that allows us to extrapolate exponential growth into the future using the normal mental tools we have. The way this has registered for me has not been in terms of the numbers — I can read the numbers off of the charts and project those into the future and say “10 thousand deaths” aloud just as well as anyone else — but rather in terms of the time scale. Going from 100 deaths to 10 thousand deaths only takes 3 weeks if your death rate is doubling every 3 days. That’s the difference between “what virus?” and bodies piled up in the halls of hospitals in 21 days.

We are just simply not built to process that amount of change that rapidly — when I talk to people here in Mexico who don’t seem that worried about the plague, I like to point out that Mexico right now has the same number of cases and deaths that New York did three weeks ago. Too late is coming. Too late is already here. Too late comesĀ so fast that it’s difficult to comprehend even as I’m very closely watching it happen to my friends in New York.

The rate at which the world is changing makes it impossible to plan — all of my plans and goals for the year are out the window. I’ve experienced changes to my plans in the face of unexpected events, but in the past I’ve always been able to assess the situation, adjust my plans, and keep pushing forward. But right now that feels impossible — I can’t adjust because the ground is shifting under me in a way that doesn’t feel remotely forecastable. I really don’t know how to think about what the world will be like two weeks from now.

So for now I’m in a holding pattern. It’s too late to fix what’s broken and still too early to figure out what’s next.

About the author

By michael