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How not to talk about coronavirus

| Friday, March 20, 2020

Truly, have you had a conversation about anything other than COVID-19 in the past week? 

And while, of course, it’s important to be informed and aware, talking this to death isn’t going to help any of us. When we’re talking about (and reading about) coronavirus nonstop, we’re perpetuating a culture of anxiety that only suppresses our immune and respiratory systems. That’s no good. Also, though, we’re missing out on some unique opportunities that the CDC’s ban on gatherings of 50+ creates: an empty schedule, time with those who make up our households and the unification of a characteristically divided country. That’s no good either.

As the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms ⁠— a nonprofit dedicated to supporting those with mental illness ⁠— wrote Thursday, conversations aren’t cancelled. Neither are connections. Neither are memories. Neither is growing closer to people we love. In that spirit ⁠— and because I have a love of one-on-one conversation and strange passion for icebreaker questions ⁠— I thought I’d use this inside column to share 30 questions for the (approximately) 30 days until we are (possibly) back on campus. Ask one question per day to your roommate over FaceTime, to your family over dinner, to your neighbor across the porch or maybe just to yourself in some late night thoughts.

  1. What’s your favorite smell and why?
  2. What building on Notre Dame’s campus (or in your hometown) do you most identify with?
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of carbonated drinks.
  4. What’s your favorite holiday?
  5. What is the best hour of the week? (For example, 12 p.m. on Tuesdays when you get out of chemistry lab)
  6. If you could have grown up in any other part of the country, which would you choose?
  7. Describe one of the first moments that your current home finally felt like home.
  8. What foods do you pair together that really don’t go together?
  9. How did you spend most of your time in high school?
  10. What’s your favorite condiment?
  11. What’s your family’s most eccentric tradition?
  12. What’s the best cereal?
  13. Describe a perfect, but ordinary school or work day.
  14. What has been your favorite summer of your life?
  15. What are the sounds of your home?
  16. What is your preferred writing utensil? Your preferred eating utensil?
  17. Describe your ideal kind of sock.
  18. Would you rather speak every language or be able to speak to animals?
  19. Who was your favorite childhood teacher? Why?
  20. If you could play one instrument exceptionally well, which would you choose?
  21. How frequently do you tie your shoelaces?
  22. What’s your favorite spot in your house?
  23. Would you rather live in the mountains or on the beach?
  24. Do you have a life mantra? What is it?
  25. Pool, ocean or lake?
  26. If you were to pick a totally different career or major, what would it be?
  27. Outside of places that you have lived, what region or city is particularly important to you?
  28. What’s your favorite mode of transportation?
  29. What’s your favorite t-shirt? Why?
  30. If you could have any view from your bedroom window, what would it be? (There is a correct answer, and it is the dome. Upsetting, I know.)

Informed doesn’t mean obsessed, and socially distanced doesn’t mean socially isolated. Now stop reading and start conversing.

You can contact Katie at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Katie Harmeyer

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