It has been a year since the world forever changed. COVID-19 altered our society in ways that are still impacting us — and will going forward.
A lot of this has been awful. We’ve lost people to this terrible virus. Kids and parents are going through unprecedented psychological issues with schooling. Jobs have been lost. The pandemic has simultaneously brought out the best and the worst in people.
A year later, many are chomping at the bit to “return to normal.” Unfortunately, we cannot return to the world we left before this. But there is a new world on the other side — and at least in the US, between an administration that cares to help the people and increased vaccine availability — we can almost see it.
This, however, doesn’t address the situation many people are facing. A year of uncertainty, fear, hype, and strong emotion is taking its toll. Thus, many people find that they are struggling.
What the struggle looks like varies, but that’s not what’s important. What, why, how, and where you struggle is insignificant. The fact is the struggle is real. And we need, as a society, to better acknowledge that and work with it.
What I believe this means is that we need to reevaluate how we deal with work and education, social stratification, and most of all — mental health matters.
Because all the struggles tend to have an aspect of mental health to them, that’s what I will address first.
Mental health matters
It amazes me that as a society we aren’t more schizophrenic. Between outdated, ludicrous puritanical “values” and the sale of sex and violence — is it any wonder we struggle?
Mental health impacts EVERYONE. You, me, him, her, they, them. EVERYONE. All of us are creatures with mixes of thought, feeling, logic, reason, and emotion. Sometimes these elements conflict. But we suck at addressing them.
There is still a stigma regarding mental health matters and mental illness. How many people think therapy, antidepressants, and diagnosed mental conditions are either excuses or weaknesses? Too many.
The pandemic exposed the underbelly of the mental health crisis we’re in the middle of. Because we don’t address mental health as publicly as we should, much of this has been swept under rugs, or people have turned their backs on them.
But the struggle is real. We are all feeling big emotions because the past year has impacted our mental health. Lockdown and quarantine practices, for example, drive many people crazy. The reaction of entitlement and denial of the reality of COVID-19 is not a merely selfish problem — but a mental health problem. Because those people can’t cope, have no outlets, and lash out by being unreasonable.
A year in, and we are still largely in denial about the mental health impact. While almost 22% of Americans had COVID-19, I suspect the number of people impacted by it is nearly five times greater. It has taken, and continues to take, a toll on our overall state of being and mental health.
This is why we need to acknowledge the mental health matters surrounding the pandemic. The struggle is different for everyone because everyone is different. But that means that the struggle is that much more real.
Don’t deny the importance of mental health matters.
The struggle with work and education
A lot of my friends are parents. They have had some unique and difficult challenges with their kids and school throughout the pandemic.
There are lots of places we can point fingers regarding all this. That is a waste of time.
Parents are often limited in how they can assist their kids with schooling — while also working. And it does not help that programs to address this weren’t put in place.
This doesn’t even address the socialization issues created by kids being unable to go to school.
Many jobs were lost. Others got to work from home — which created a new reality, particularly for those who’d been told work from home was not doable. Not everyone has a home office like I do — or a good internet service provider — and has had to improvise.
And of course, some people NEED the commute and the office space to be most efficient.
After the pandemic is largely past, the world will be changed. I suspect many of the former business offices out there will stay closed — or downsize. If I knew a good venture capitalist, I have a great idea for things to do with that — but that’s not relevant. Change is here.
When you are paid to work full time for 40 hours a week — and learn you can do your job in half that time — it causes a struggle. Internally, as you might feel guilty about this. And externally, as you might need to invent “busy work” to justify 40 hours. (And yes, I am well aware there are PLENTY of people out there putting in much longer hours in various fields. Please excuse my generalization).
What this all boils down to is how the last year has shown the numerous cracks in creating work/life balance.
Social stratification matters
The pandemic, as I wrote earlier, brought out both the best and the worst in people.
If you do not recognize the value in wearing a mask and maintaining social distance to help lessen the spread of COVID-19 — you might have an entitlement issue. If you think it’s a scam and totally made-up — you might have your head up your ass.
As we begin the process of getting vaccinated and developing herd immunity, social stratification again rears its ugly head. Numerous studies show how poor, black, Hispanic, and other “minority” communities don’t just have to struggle to get vaccinated — but deal with other stigmas attached to it, too.
In the middle of the pandemic, we were also bombarded by messages of hate in ways we’d not seen in decades. Trump encouraged the white supremacists, anti-LGBTQ organizations, and other hate groups to be loud and proud. This, of course, culminated in the unprecedented storming of the US congress.
The ultra-wealthy received ludicrous tax benefits they don’t need. Meanwhile, healthcare bankrupts people every day. The inequality of American society has never been as blatantly out there as it is now — and the struggle it produces is largely ignored.
Democrats struggle internally over relative minutiae — instead of pushing and getting more necessary shit done faster. Republicans are too busy obstructing to represent anyone but their own interests — and still convince millions they’re saving them from “the other”. Addressing and working on our social stratification issues and offering real help to people is slow at best.
All this has an impact on just about everyone in some way or another. The struggle is real. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Whether you’re mindful of it or not, it’s out there — and in your face — all across social media, news media, and so on.
The struggle is real
Everyone has one struggle or another going on. Part of that is the natural order of life. Shit happens, you will be challenged, and it often results from far outside your control.
While many a struggle presents an opportunity for growth and change — denying the struggle is a disservice to everyone. Whether it’s mental health matters, work and school issues, social stratification problems, or anything else — we MUST recognize that the struggle is real.
Only when we recognize, acknowledge, and stop denying this do we empower ourselves to work on and with it. Because when all is said and done, whatever struggles you may have, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
The struggle — whatever it is for you — IS real. By acknowledging this, we can begin to work on it. Whatever that struggle might be — you are empowered to work on it. And ask for help.
There always have been struggles — and there always will be. But that doesn’t make you a lesser person for having them. You’re not alone, and the struggle IS real.
When we recognize this for what it is, we can all work together on changing this. The world is abundant and full-to-bursting of possibility and potential. Struggling is a part of that — but we can turn any struggle into opportunity.
The first step is to acknowledge the reality of our struggles.
Check-in with friends and loved ones. Reach out to the people you care about and let them know they are not alone. Only working together can we make the world on the other side of this pandemic a much better place than where we started from.