Avi Das

Home for my work, ideas and else.

Thriving Under Siege


That one word captures the reality of living in NYC during the Covid-19 pandemic. It feels like being surrounded by an invisible, encroaching army, with no end to the siege in sight.

Everyday we are exposed to terrible news, how immigrants are hurting in my beloved Jackson Heights neighborhood, mass burial grounds either locally or abroad in Italy and China. Bustling businesses in NYC have been reduced to laying off hard working employees.

There is no how-to manual for this current crisis, so devastating and foreign to all of us. Despite that, resilience is human nature. If there’s one place where our collective faiths have met, it is that better times are ahead. Is the thought of thriving during the age of Covid-19 heretical? It is perhaps more so to not attempt to.

Like many others, I have struggled with being quarantined in my apartment since March. I have immersed myself with the energy and drive that permeates NYC, and losing that has felt like being in withdrawal. At times, it has been a fearsome cocktail of loneliness, helplessness and concern.


I am a rational optimist. I like to think that better times can be ahead, but we have to strive towards it. While my framework of life has been shaken by this crisis, it has yet to be broken, and it has definitely opened up more opportunities for self discovery.

Thanks to the internet, social media and on demand entertainment, simply passing time has stopped being a challenge. Rather, boredom has been a foreign concept to many of us surfing the world of dopamine rushes. Yet, deep inside, many of us feel that they fail to aid deep seated needs of purpose and self-actualization.

So how do we deal with our current consternation? Can we come out on the other side of this and be proud of what these last months meant for us? When we look back into this in five years, how will we think of this time?

Invest in community

It’s more important than ever to be there for your friends and family. Deepening relationships with our closest people have a way of giving back to our lives. That could just be video chats, and I have noticed myself talking to my folks a lot more since this began. There was also one night when, after some silly games on the House Party app, I realized I haven’t laughed this hard in a while and how necessary that was.

Continue voting for your best self

As the dust settled and I got more used to realizing that this is my life for the foreseeable future, I wanted to dig into things I could do but have been putting off due to the busy-ness of life. Not being as busy can be a positive thing, and opens up more time for things I have wanted to do more of.

Since Quarantine began, I have finished three books, and have enjoyed the process of being engrossed in a book more than usual, now that the usual societal stimulation has been removed. Using this time to read books I have been meaning to for a while has been enjoyable, accepting the mental escape that literature offers.

Cooking has added a lot of value to my life in the past, being able to create something nourishing that is beautiful and delicious is a very fulfilling act. I have been cooking more than I have been in a while and been really enjoying it. A good side effect of this is has been generally eating better since Quarantine.

Even before quarantine began, I have been coming off a challenging period in my life. Meditation has been the place I have been going to find center and grounding. It has also been fulfilling to keep a meditation streak of over 100 days and the reinforcement that just breathing can encapsulate all existence is powerful knowledge.

Life is not a scorecard, and the above activities are not things I do to achieve anything other than that I know my best self would enjoy. Even though they can be hard to start, they always make me feel better afterwards.

Use this as an opportunity for greater self-discovery

If you are on your own, you can truly choose how to spend a lot of your time. For myself, this has revealed for me that I thrive when there is human connection. Quarantine meant physical proximity has not been an option, but it has made me think about the key allies in my life, reaching out, resulting often in deeper conversations.

Creativity is important to my life, but it is stifled unless there is a stable base. An organized desk, a clean room and decorating my room so I can see artifacts that remind myself of my best times are actions I have doubled down on. Sleeping more is another such act, and I have given myself the license to sleep as much as I need.

I firmly believe that self-actualization is the modern day superpower. As someone who has a long way to go on that journey, this is our time for digging deep. Whether it is seeking internally via meditation or solo walks, or externally by reading or deep conversations, may this time help us on that journey.

Pursue acts of spirituality

It’s not something most human beings would give a moment of consideration to, that it is actually possible to be living for years in a state of constant betterment. To consider that you are better today than you were yesterday or a year ago, and that you will be better still tomorrow or next week or at tournament time your senior year. That if you’re doing it right you are an organism constantly evolving toward some agreed-upon approximation of excellence. Wouldn’t that be at least one definition of a spiritual state?

- Again to Carthage, John L. Parker, Jr

The above is an excerpt from one of my favorite passages of writing. It has really touched the cord on why running has been a constant in my life over the last six years. Movement and running is essential for me at a subliminal level, and pursuing it is more of an act of spirituality than chasing personal records, experiencing the spectacle of a Marathon Major or accumulating mileage.

When I mention the word spirituality, I mean those acts that you follow with conviction whether or not an ulterior motive is involved. I have noticed that dancing plays that role for a lot of people as well. Whether it is running, dance or prayer, pursuing them can water a deeper part of us.

Practice self forgiveness

It’s important to not beat yourself over achieving goals, especially during this time. Comparing ourselves to a few selected people who achieved great acts of invention during times of trial is not a healthy activity.

In the same vein, there may be guilt which stems from the nagging feeling that you are not doing enough, that we could do more. It’s wonderful how some of us have risen to the needs and led efforts for mask production, test kit distribution etc, but those are not the only ways to add value to others.

Where we will end up is unknown, but isn’t that always the case? Existential threats and uncertainty can add a lot of suffering to our lives. Suffering is a side effect of being alive, but it is not where the goalpost is. Choosing to thrive in these times, taking actions that vote towards that direction and continue nurturing our deepest selves are some of the best things we can do in these times. I sincerely hope that manifests for you, dear reader.

Sunset Alone