By Emily Erickson
Of the many things supposed about the repercussions of this time in our lives, one idea that particularly struck me is that this virus – and all of its current and future implications – could be the defining tragedy of my generation. Never having been drafted, lived through a world war, or felt the financial strain of a Great Depression, this collective adversity is something new to us. Different from individual trauma, collective adversity – and how we navigate, react and recover as a generation – has the power to shape our identities, and alter the lenses from which we view the world.
Just as I laughed at my grandma for storing her 15-year-old ketchup bottle and bags of chicken bones in the freezer “in case we need them someday,” I wonder if future generations will poke fun at our incessant sanitization or our preference for face-to-face interaction, because, “back in my day, we had to have all of our happy hours via Facetime.”
Personally, I’ve appreciated the many ways in which this situation has forced us to confront our own humanity, reimagining what it means to be connected within our own circles, and with the world around us. Spending time in isolation has made me appreciate how significant the smallest interactions are, with the quick conversation in a coffee shop line or the unplanned meeting of a friend on the sidewalk being the secret, energizing fuel for creativity and productivity. And from this particular iteration of adversity, I feel a newfound clarity about what defines community; understanding that the ways we can come together and support each other are only limited by our imaginations.
But, I’m not the only voice of my generation. With so many of my peers having such significant things to say in private messages, on their social media feeds, and over phone conversations, I wanted to share a few of the other beautiful revelations from adversity I received:
“It is both a privilege and a blessing to be alive in 2020,” Courtney Windju wrote. “What is happening in the world right now is a lift in collective consciousness. It’s an opportunity to realize all that we rely on, and a deeper reflection as to what’s really important. . . This is a time to acknowledge our own health and wellbeing and to support our neighbors. It is a time to act consciously, responsibly, and compassionately. It provides a moment, or many, to be grateful with what we have right now; a loved one to lean on, a furry friend to cuddle, a stocked pantry, technology to e-socialize, an able body and mind— the list goes on.
“Arguably the most important, this is an opportunity to sit with ourselves,” Windju wrote. “This comes in many different forms; in meditation, on Netflix, eating meals, [and] exercising. In all of the above, perhaps besides meditation, we are still with our thoughts. Let this be a time to dive deeper into both singular and collective consciousness.”
“I do not believe that everything happens for a reason [or] that everything is ‘meant to be,’” Jamie Terry wrote. “I believe that whatever happens, we have an opportunity to make meaning, to transform, and to live in the absolute truth that God works out all things for good. Humans around the world are re-remembering with new flavor the meaning in connection, and finding new ways to make that happen. Let’s keep looking for the ways in which this time of uncertainty and grief will be transformed into good. Let’s keep looking for ways to participate in the good.”
“This experience has made me more present,” Elisa Weiss wrote. “Instead of obsessing over all the things I could have, I am realizing all of the wonderful things I do have. All the trivial things I used to worry about seem much less important now that there are much bigger things, with global implications, happening all around me.”
“You know what this whole virus situation made me realize? We should live everyday like it’s our last. Because it could be, virus or not,” Bryan Deiffenbach wrote. “We should shoot to be the best version of ourselves every day and enjoy every moment. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Whether there’s a virus or not, tomorrow has never, and will never be, completely guaranteed. I’ve seen some crazy sh*t happen to people one day, when the previous day they had no idea it was coming. Life, in and of itself, is completely crazy and is a true gift. Enjoy every d*mn day, every moment, every breath you take on this earth. Because tomorrow, it could all just be a dream.”
Whether or not this will be the great tragedy of our time, it has already been significant. These past weeks have shaken the systems we previously understood as absolutes, have forced us to examine our values and what we expect out of leadership, and have caused widespread individual introspection and reflection.
So regardless of what happens next, at least we know for sure, that nothing is for certain.
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