Civil war isn’t a joking matter, so we joke about the zombie apocalypse instead. And life has been interesting enough this last year that I do wonder. How would my survival skills stack up?
Things I would fail at:
- Fighting. I can be pretty vicious, don’t get me wrong. When you’re a teenage girl, boys try to throw you into the pool. I think we’re supposed to accept this as an unalterable fact of life, and no doubt some girls enjoy being manhandled into a pool, but I was neither pleased nor accepting of this act of bullying. I used to fight. In free-form wrestling, especially when my opponent doesn’t want to actually hurt me, I’m fierce. But, alas, I have to admit that I have zero experience with any kind of weapon or upright combat. I can’t throw a punch or a spear or aim a gun any better than I can aim a pool cue. And I would probably scream every time a gun went off because I have an unsuppressible startle reflex.
- Hoarding. The pandemic was my first experience with stock-piling food. I live in Connecticut, where our disasters rarely last longer than twenty-fours. One October, we had a freak early snowstorm that resulted in a massive and prolonged power outage. Not only did residences lose power, so did businesses, including gas stations. It was a bit like living on the frontier. I think it lasted five days. Before that, I’d never filled up my gas tank or bought bread and milk before a snowstorm, and I didn’t actually change my ways after. Because that was a once-in-a-lifetime anomaly, right? For the pandemic, I did some stockpiling, but once stores returned to normal, I made a considered decision. Did I want to live in a state of perpetual almost-emergency? I did not. Hence, we’re back to having a week’s worth of food on hand at best.
- Bartering. My skills—-writing, tech support, project management—-aren’t going to be in great demand during the zombie apocalypse. Tech skills could be useful during a modern day civil war, but mine are outdated and not black-hat enough. I worked for corporations where we did things “right.” I never learned to hack. I also don’t know plumbing or car repair or any other useful trade beyond very basic DIY.
Things I’d be okay at:
- Homesteading. I’m not a gourmet cook, and I don’t currently have a garden, but I can sew. I even have a sewing machine down in the basement. I can also crochet (if there was somehow yarn?), and the fact that my cooking isn’t gourmet would probably be an advantage.
- Speed. I’m nowhere near as fast a runner as I used to be, but as runners often joke, “You don’t have to be faster than the bear. You only have to be faster than your friend.” I could outrun a lot of people, especially if there was any distance involved, but most young men would be able to catch me in a short dash.
- MacGyvering. I’m smart and inventive and I can use tools, though not exceptionally well. If a substitute for a key item needed to be invented or created, I’d have ideas but maybe not always the wherewithal to carry them out. Fortunately, my partner would excel in this arena, and our basement and garage are filled with a ridiculous amount of… shit. We don’t hoard food, but we hoard bits of wire and string. I think we’d do all right here.
Things I’d excel at:
- Making do. I’m a low maintenance person in terms of needing fancy clothes or food or just about anything. My partner often says, “If I’m not allergic to it, I figure I can eat it,” and I’m with him on that. I can force down anything—even bugs if that’s what it came to. I don’t have any allergies, and I don’t need to take any regular medications (no fault to people who do, but it would be an issue during the apocalypse). I can get by with whatever’s available.
- Suffering. Sometimes things just suck and you have to keep moving anyway. You’re tired or in pain or hungry or thirsty or sad or all of the above. Do you give up or go on? I learned how to suffer thanks to long distance running. I used to do ultra-marathons—trail races of more than 26 miles—and you aren’t going to finish an ultra-marathon without suffering. You aren’t even going to start one, frankly, because the training itself is a form of suffering. I’ve often wondered why I put myself through these voluntary ordeals, but there’s a tremendous satisfaction that comes from pushing past the insistent desire to quit. You feel the pain and fatigue, but you don’t give in to it.
- Adaptability. Related to both of the above and the most important skill of all, in my opinion. Of course, adaptability would be moot if I didn’t survive to adapt, so my lack of weapons and my empty pantry might do me in before I got to this point, but if I survived, I would thrive. My biggest aid here is my faith, developed through working the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have a Higher Power who will see me through whatever situation I find myself in, such that I don’t need to stress too much about what the situation will be. I heard this in a meeting the other day, and I love it. “Fear says ‘what if?’ Faith says ‘even if’.”
All my assets are soft skills, but they might be the most important ones, because we don’t know what’s coming. You can’t fight climate change with a gun. You can’t survive an epidemic by knowing how to fix a toilet. But you can improve your chances of surviving an epidemic by putting on a mask and staying home, which are examples of making do, suffering, and adapting. Can’t eat out? Okay, I won’t. Elastic is making my ear hurt after nine hours in a mask while traveling by plane? The mask stays on anyway. Simple things, but they’re the ones that’ll save my life.
And that bit about finding a way to be okay? That’s the key. 2020 has been a shitty cap to four years of uncertainty and fear. I’m not convinced it’s all going to fade away in January, but whether it does or not, I’ll soldier on. And I won’t be any more miserable than necessary doing it.