• Derek Sean Vaughn

Coronavirus Chronicles


At what point does "(fun)employment" just become...well, unemployment? Don’t get me wrong I’m ultimately grateful to be collecting unemployment and to leave a job that was never meant to last forever. As someone who used to work 7 days a week on top of juggling a graduate level course load, I desperately needed a break which I’m finally getting during Coronavirus. This “great pause”, as many spiritualists are referring to the quarantine, has elements that have been as therapeutic as they have been unnervingly unhealthy. Health risks aside, many of us think of quarantine as a disruption of everyday life. What people aren’t considering are the ways in which everything can be so drastically different and yet, exactly the same.

Just like in graduate school, I’m still in debt and worry about finding my next job. Similar to where I was a couple of months ago, I am still isolated from the world around me. Like many of you, I feel frozen and feel unable to move forward or create change. What else is there to do here, but go through the motions, trust, and wait? Coming from someone who hasn’t had the resources or time for a real vacation in ten years, I can assure you that this is nothing but maddening. I end up resenting my degree, resenting my yoga education, and directing my anger at myself for feeling frozen in time for what has felt like 8 long years. However, these times are also the closest I’ve had to a vacation, especially when I think back to those long graduate school days.

Then: My name is…*checks wallet*...I don’t remember

Back then it felt as if I had knots starting to form at the creases of my brain. For weeks I was so sleep-deprived that I found myself struggling to form complete sentences--often forgetting that I was speaking mid sentence. A flurry of words would rapidly shoot out my mouth only to come to an unrealized and unexpected halt. One time, I bought food at the university cafeteria with my credit card and needed to sign my name at the line at the bottom of the receipt. Disheveled, I positioned my pen at the signature line and froze, because for that one minute...I couldn’t remember my name.

Now, in the midst of the Coronavirus chaos it seems, rather counterintuitively, I’ve finally been given space. Space to breathe, space to remember and grieve, and space to heal. However, with the space to breathe, when not vigorously looking for my next 9-5, I can honestly say I’ve been the poster boy for coronavirus layoff productivity, or rather, the results of extreme boredom.

Back to Now: I am the Mad Catter

From having dance parties with my cat, to having more dance parties with my other cat, and then interpretative dancing and singing praise to my OTHER cat, like some musical carousel (cat-rousel?). Fuck, I think I cracked. Is this cabin fever? Well, to be fair, I think I’m really underselling myself here, because with all of this quarantine time, I’ve learned that I’m a genius. In my genius, I’ve reenacted Game of Thrones with my pets, flying my cat “Lion” around the house with a plush dragon from Dreamworks How to Train Your Dragon. I’ve even gone as a far as having my cats reenact the Broadway musical Hamilton, where I have taken liberties like changing the main character's name to “MEOWlexander MEOWmilton.” Full disclosure, my cats did not feel comfortable singing, so I provided the vocals for them. At the moment, I even convinced myself that this reenactment was masterful and better executed than the performance of the original cast. Blasphemy, I know. Still true though. Hello my name is Derek, and like many of you, I am (not so slowly) starting to lose my mind.

How can I not lose my mind when these spirals of doubt and momentary self loathing uproot me and effervesce into extinction, until I’m left with nothing but maddening space. That’s just it, these feelings of instability are very much real but are really just moments. Like many thoughts, they are meant to be identified and felt, not believed. Since the virus, I’ve been hired to do more intuitive readings, I have been given another yoga class to teach, have signed up for continuing yoga education, delved deeper into vedic chanting, have been invited to guest teach at a yoga teacher training, and started this blog.

I am grateful for this “great pause” and I am not. I feel deeply enraged by our sociopolitical climate, and yet feel oddly hopeful at the same time. It’s easy to bypass, or assign tragedy with a meaning to make sense of it all. Still, does framing this time and it’s potential to act as a catalyst of change bypass real human suffering? Is assigning this time of tragedy with meaning an act of manufactured and perpetual positivity? I don’t know. Perhaps context is key here. What I do know is that underneath tragedies often lay seedlings of hope and motivations for change. This pause demands that we adapt, innovate, and reconsider our direction as individuals and as a collective.


There is a misconception that being spiritual means being happy regardless of what life throws our way. As Spiritual practitioners we can’t hide away from ugly truths and deeply charged emotions for the sake of being spiritual. This is not a time for rainbows and butterflies and to ignore our inner stirrings. This is a time for vulnerability and deep, messy, internal work. Instead, I suggest we acknowledge and feel everything. I can recall the mentally exhausted version of me while currently being the quarantined, mad, cat-theater genius, and those two stages of me can inform each other. If we single in on joy and optimism we are as Jeff Brown would say “desacralizing our humanness.” We are tunnel visioning our human experience instead of dealing with the full spectrum of emotions that are an authentic and necessary part of the human experience.

Again, I am grateful for this time and I am not. I am thriving and am finally weaving together all of the disparate parts of myself to move deeper into my writings and teachings. I am finally taking bigger risks. Yet, even with all of the chaos and uncertainty I have the capacity to actually remember my name and have the courage to start putting it out there. Ironically, as trapped and suffocated as I feel, I simultaneously feel like I can breathe full breaths for the first time in months. These truly are some mad times.

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