Zero Conditional (“If/When” + present … present)

***The following blog post deals with an ongoing news event and is subject to rapid changes. I won’t be updating it as the situation evolves though, who do you think I am?***

When a global pandemic breaks out during your intended year of self-discovery and adventure, it changes everything.

Zero conditional sentences are used to state laws, rules, and things that are always true. While the coronavirus has caused a lot of panic and confusion in my life and what decisions I need to make, the response by the government and businesses in the Czech Republic have been firm.

If there’s any risk of an activity spreading the virus, it’s cancelled. Zero chance that everything is continuing as normal. After my teaching shift on Monday, there was a text message from my language school stating that all classes were cancelled for the rest of the week. By the next day, schools had been shut down across the country. 

Since then, steps have been taken to declare a national state of emergency, ban gatherings of over 30 people, shut down restaurants after 8pm and restrict travel. The switch from just worrying that I wasn’t going to be able to make enough money living here, to essentially having no work and close to zero prospect of making any money, has been quite the shock.

And yet, at the same time, modifying my plans based on strict rules completely out of my control has actually been somewhat soothing. Unless the situation drastically changes and I am suddenly offered a bunch of great, well-paying jobs, I’ve resolved to move back to Vancouver in April. 

Based on a lot of factors, with money at the top of the list, I’ve been contemplating a return for a while anyway and this feels like a sign. Or maybe, it’s an excuse. Either way, replacing the anxiety of hypotheticals for the future with decisions based on rigid, monolithic truths feels comforting.

I may bemoan in a month or two in the third conditional that ‘if I had known it would only have lasted x number of weeks, I would have survived’, but I have to live in the present and react without unnecessary rumination. 

If I don’t have enough money, I leave. That’s my motto right now. Zero conditional. I could leave tomorrow and be proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve made friends, gotten jobs (while under normal circumstances), taken a lot of great photos, had tons of fun, but Prague was never intended to be my life. I still don’t know what the intention for my life is, but every step has a purpose and while transitions aren’t easy, I have to trust that I’m better off for everything I’ve experienced here.

Even as I write, notifications are flooding in from news services with the latest changes. Slovakia temporarily closed off their borders last hour, and now the Czech Republic has stopped international trains and buses. I feel like I’m living in the opening montage of a zombie movie.

Characters in my life are already being killed off. It’s only been a week since the schools closed and already two of my closest friends from my course are on their way back to the United States. 

Others are fervent about staying and seeing this through, while some seem to change their plan every few minutes along with the news updates. I’m still keen to not make any rash decisions, stay here until sometime in April, hopefully still have my parents come visit, and experience my birthday here. 

Despite the stress, I feel lighter (and not just in the wallet). I want to focus on just enjoying my remaining time here and although I won’t be able to travel much or possibly even leave my room if things get too bad, I want to just soak in the rest of my time with these friends and the beautiful architecture.

If I focus on the positives, this time doesn’t have to be sad.

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