We’ve heard them all. This too shall pass, it’s always darkest before the dawn, insert third “it’ll be ok” type of quote here. Regardless of how cliché and corny they all may be, they ring true in most shitty situations in life. Merely calling the coronavirus outbreak a shitty situation is an extreme understatement, but you get my point.
To downplay the loss of life and seriousness of this pandemic would be foolish. However, I am in the business of positivity. Hit social media, turn on the tv, look at anything with a screen right now, and you’re sure to get swallowed whole in a quicksand of negativity and panic.
As someone who frequently suffers from anxiety and overthinking in general, I find myself in that sandy puddle on almost a nightly basis lately. Perhaps, I am writing this for myself. A little public journal entry, putting my thoughts to paper trying to convince myself that everything is going to be ok.
At the very least, I am confident that better days are ahead of us. Hopefully, accompanied by a new perspective and appreciation of things.
A Strange Direction
Our society has moved to a weird place. I’d say it started ten to fifteen years ago and has rapidly accelerated in the last few years.
An extreme uptick in the creation of new technology has had a hugely positive influence on the world. Constant information readily at your fingertips has made it possible to put your mind to almost anything and accomplish it. It has improved nearly every aspect of human life as we know it. However, with that technology came some strange, almost unnatural side effects.
Never in history has society been so connected. At any point, I can whip out my phone, face time with my brother, and see my niece and nephews in real-time. Hang up and instantly hop on Instagram to see what my friends are up to on vacation (or quarantine). Yet, at the same time, we have never had so many people suffering from loneliness. Mental health issues are at an all-time high. People have begun living their lives through likes and retweets rather than personal interaction and connection.
We live in a world of no more excuses. With the knowledge of the entire world in the palm of your hand, you’re a quick YouTube video away from learning a new skill or craft. One google search away from being well informed on any subject or topic. Ambition and the “do it yourself” attitude seem to be more prevalent than ever, yet most of us have never been lazier.
Amazon has allowed for anything you could ever want or need to show up at your door tomorrow morning. Sometimes even within a few hours. Grocery store shelves are stocked to the brim. So much that dumpsters are filled out back with food that expired only a day before, sometimes haven’t even expired yet.
So, when we have developed into a gluttonous society filled with abundance, an abundance of food, information, gadgets, and material things. What do we do when something threatens that way of life? When all of that abundance can potentially get taken away from us? We panic buy. We hit Costco and fill carts full of toilet paper and cases of water. We cling to that need for abundance so hard that we will do anything and fight anyone to keep it.
Everyone looks out for themselves. We are all guilty of it in one way or another; no one is exempt.
This selfish attitude is yet another product of our trajectory as a society. The disconnect that social media provides has made conflict easy with fewer repercussions. Insults are tossed out as casually as a simple hello on the street would be — the equivalent of road rage times a thousand. Our abundance has made us so comfortable that we now unconsciously seek things out that make us angry. It is literally what social media algorithms are programmed to do. We find people whose opinions slightly deviate from ours and wage an all-out war. Dunking on and publicly shaming people has become the standard. Cancel culture.
Whether or not you are actively commenting and posting yourself, the negativity and the selfishness is still there. I find myself scrolling through Instagram and Twitter; always judging; comparing myself to others, scoffing at people’s opinions and lifestyles. It even bleeds into my personal life and relationships with friends and family. It leaves me asking the same question every time.
Why do I care?
Let them do them, and I’ll do me, yet the cycle continues. You can be the most self-reflective, introspective person in the world; yet still fall victim to the bullshit.
When businesses and colleges began shutting down, I once again got into that selfish, privileged bag. I became angry that this would delay my current plans. Going back to school and pursuing a new career. That typical “why me” type of attitude. I hadn’t realized how incredibly insignificant my problems were in comparison to others. Others suddenly losing their source of income and livelihood, losing loved ones.
It wasn’t until the severity of the situation became apparent that my mindset completely changed.
My pity party ended quickly, and my mind went right to my parents. They are both in their 60s. My mother has type two diabetes, and my father’s got high blood pressure. All three of which put them in the high-risk category. I moved back in with them in December, and their health has become my number one priority these last few weeks. I admittedly have gone to obsessive levels. From ensuring they are staying up on their vitamin and supplement intake; to my new daily habit of Lysol wiping every handle, knob, and light switch like a complete maniac.
As worried about them as I am, I must admit that being concerned and caring for others instead of being swept up in my selfish aspirations and nonsense has been somewhat refreshing.
An Optimistic Approach
Catastrophes like this tend to shift one’s perspective — nature’s way of reminding us what truly matters in life. The petty bullshit we all cared about a month ago seems like a joke now. These things typically either bring out the worst or the best in people. My hope is that it brings out the latter.
With the entire world self-quarantining and social distancing, it leaves a lot of time for self-reflection. I see many people taking this time to try and better themselves in one way or another, and its awesome to see. I’d like to see this growth continue. Even when life goes back to normal, and that bullshit starts to creep back in inevitably. If we can keep even a fraction of that daily commitment to self-growth, the benefits could be tremendous.
When this is all said and done, I hope we can make a serious effort to do better in all ways. Mainly in how we interact and treat each other. Empathy instead of instant judgment. I hope people begin to realize that the world is not simply black or white, but various shades of grey and everything in between.
I hope people’s views can become less polarized and rigid. Two people can disagree on all kinds of issues yet still have a civil and constructive conversation. Sometimes even become friends. When you aren’t limited to 280 characters, it’s easier to see our similarities far outweigh our differences.
A slight shift in perspective can help us use this amazing technology of ours to do what it was intended to do. Give us unlimited information and knowledge; allow us to connect and unite — tools to enhance our lives instead of dividing and consuming us.
If history has taught us anything, its that life tends to be cyclical. Most tragedies and economic hardships are followed by economic booms and prosperity several years later. I genuinely believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel. It was not my intention for this to be a soapbox piece. Only an alternate perspective on things — brought about by looking at my actions and tendencies.
So, let’s continue this growth. Use this time to do something for yourself, no matter how big or small. Stay informed without allowing the negativity to consume you. Stay as safe as you can. Check up on your family and loved ones as often as possible. Most importantly, wash your fucking hands.