Giving yourself grace during a pandemic
Right now, it’s not an uncommon theme on social media to see people pledging themselves to learning a new hobby, starting a new business or finally writing the next great American novel. You’ve got all this time on your hands now, shouldn’t you be using it to do something great? Shouldn’t we all come out of this as elevated and transformed individuals? No.
In the past, I might have said, “Gosh, it would take a literal pandemic to stop capitalist ideals of working until we can’t function,” but as it turns out that’s the perfect excuse to work more.
People seem to be looking at their time in quarantine as an opportunity for self-discovery and success, but that’s not realistic nor is it healthy.
The reality of being stuck inside for months at a time is not one of pulling up your sleeves and getting down to business, it’s about the struggle of putting on a nice shirt while going commando during a Zoom call. It’s about congratulating yourself for eating a lunch of Goldfish and Cheetos because at least you’re diversifying your diet. It is most certainly not about finally achieving your dreams of success, and we have to know that that is okay.
Social media has always been a fairly dubious tool for life advice. It was an interesting decision pre-pandemic to follow the advice and teachings of an influencer who promised a path towards “authentic living” while posing behind a photo light, with their professional photographer, make-up team and photoshop skills that would liken their nose to that of Voldemort.
Now, listening to many of these influencers and their social media trends is downright idiotic. People have taken to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook in hoards, promising that now is the perfect time to write their book, learn a language, start a company or swim the English channel (that’s something crazy that people like to say that would do, right?).
Basically, many people have tried, through some warped filter of positivity, to tell people that quarantine is the perfect time to follow their dreams.
What these social media trends tend to miss is the abruptness and difficulty that follows quarantining. Creative juices don’t flow when your sibling is practicing their drums in the basement and your mom is trying to figure out how to change the batteries in the smoke detector. You might find it hard to learn a language when the lack of social interaction has left you mentally depleted.
Sure, if you have the financial assurance that allows you to follow your business dreams, or a team helping you to look flawless in your quarantine garb, then this time might look like an “extended vacation.” But for most people, isolation is no vacation: it’s exhausting, draining and very frustrating at times.
Perhaps the worst aspect of all this condescending eagerness surrounding the idea of achievement is the sense of superiority the people pledging success seem to feel over others. Sure, if you want to spend your $1,200 government stipend on starting the cat-hair Christmas sweater company of your dreams, more power to you, but problems arise when these people start threatening others who don’t have similar intentions.
I’ve seen posts that have said things along the vein of, “If you don’t do x during quarantine, you’re doing something wrong.”
Mothers shouldn’t have to feel guilty for using their $1,200 to buy groceries instead of investing in a company. Students shouldn’t have to feel guilty for not learning to crochet in the midst of online schooling. Frankly, no one should have to feel lesser-than for any behavior during a global crisis that isn’t overtly harmful. Honestly, this should be basic, but egotistical people seem to find a way to unnecessarily bothersome even in the most inconvenient of times.
So much of the pressure to be ‘doing’ right now instead of merely surviving comes from this capitalist society in which we exist. This is a culture that, pre-pandemic, valued the worker who could go through 80-plus hour weeks without batting an eye. America values employees who don’t take vacations and the concept of ‘self-made-men.’
The reality of this ideology has never been pretty. It has led to people living to work and generations of individuals who don’t know how to relax. Self-made people are rare enough when there’s not a pandemic but they’re hardly existent right now.
This is not the time to excel, build a life for ourselves or set the foundations for our future. For many, this time is just about surviving and unfortunately many people won’t even be successful in that.
You haven’t repainted a room in your house, gotten a sheepdog or taken online courses in Middle-Eastern relations? Give yourself a break.
Don’t punish yourself for not achieving greatness. Instead, celebrate those little victories that mean so much more at a time like this. Go outside and take a deep breath. Facetime an old friend. Get out of bed, read a chapter of a book and celebrate the fact that things could be so much worse and instead you’re lucky for this day.
Most of all, you should allow right now to suck. Allow it to suck hard. Mental health will not be at its height right now and that is alright. We can allow ourselves to be imperfect, and honestly, if we were perfect right now we simply wouldn’t be human.
People around the world are in so many levels of crisis. The compassionate cannot look at the state of the world and feel content. We’re without friends and loved ones. The things that brought many of us joy aren’t available right now. Simply put, life is currently hard.
Our world is on the brink of something unknown. There is danger and hardship as real people lose their lives and loved ones. Do you have to feel lesser than because your biggest accomplishment was putting on a pair of pants today? Hell no.