Why I’m taking the coronavirus more seriously

My shift in perspective around COVID-19

Steven Wakabayashi
4 min readMar 19, 2020


Illustration by Daniele Simonelli

It’s been a harrowing week. Recent events have unfolded in unimaginable ways. The coronavirus has finally come to the US.

For months, it has been business as usual here in America, even as various Asian countries have been decimated by this virus. Even for myself, I was off galavanting through South Korea and Japan carelessly based on the little information I was able to read. Weeks after I returned, I was out getting acupuncture treatments and going out to my favorite restaurants in Manhattan, joking about social isolation.

But I have changed my stance on the situation.

After reading trusted news outlets and studying scientific journals, I am embarrassed to have taken the situation so lightly. It shocks me how much I had downplayed this entire situation. In hindsight, that was a reflection of me, my shortcomings, and my coping mechanisms at the time.

Some things on my mind:

  1. I had witnessed first-hand the difference in attitudes of how South Korea and Japan reacted to this situation. With just a few cases, the entire country retreated, put on masks, and emptied out public spaces. What I experience in America is the complete opposite, even with more cases and deaths than these two Asian countries combined. New Yorkers are still shopping, visiting each other in their homes, commuting, going on runs… and I fear there is a huge learning opportunity that is looming ahead of us. If we do not adopt the same mindset and behaviors as Asia, we will not have the same response that they have had to this situation.
  2. The biggest impact we can have is to remove ourselves from the equation of viral spread. Socially distance and quarantine to avoid being potential vectors of the virus. The Washington Post did a beautiful, animated job illustrating how to “flatten the curve” of a contagion. If we all took responsibility for ourselves, we can protect those we love all around us.
  3. Until scientists and doctors better understand this virus, we need to be overly cautious to ensure our own safety. This isn’t just money or time we are gambling with, it is our lives. In this situation, the consequence of being wrong cannot be undone.
  4. When advising or supporting others during this tumultuous time, understand that everyone is on their own journey. Ultimately, we cannot help those who are unwilling to help themselves. I’ve exhausted myself this past week trying to get those I love to change their behaviors. I’ve realized that I can only do as much as they are willing to accept. We must focus on taking care of ourselves first and pray they will follow our example.

As we head into isolation and observe how things turn out, recognize what a beautiful opportunity is blossoming before us. Peace begins to form around the world, pollution and CO2 levels have dropped significantly, and nature is reappearing in some of the most trafficked areas on Earth.

This is perhaps the wake-up call we were all looking for.

How many times we hit the snooze is up to us.

Starting today, I will be hosting various digital mindfulness sessions and talks to help empower and calm those who might be struggling at this time. I will be experimenting with various formats and see which resonate with my community. Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, podcasts… we are blessed with so many digital mediums to connect with one another instantly all around the world.

Follow my Instagram (@stevenwakabayashi) and Facebook (@wakuu) for the latest and greatest.

With that, so much love for you during these turbulent times. May we be safe, may we be healthy, and may we be happy in the upcoming weeks.

Metta. (with loving-kindness)

I host a podcast called Yellow Glitter, mindfulness through the eyes and soul of a gay Asian. You can find it on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Overcast, and TuneIn.

Along with a bit of weekly mindfulness, I send out my favorite things I discover each week on my email newsletter at Mindful Moments.

Thanks for reading! Until next time.

IG | YT | FB | TW | StevenWakabayashi.com



Steven Wakabayashi

Creative unicorn with an avid curiosity of life. Regular dose of mindfulness, social commentaries, and creativity: mindfulmoments.substack.com