On Never Going Back: The Tragedy and Hope of Change During Covid-19

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It’s hard to describe how profound things are changing. I think we are all aware that this is a very serious crisis, and that this virus is affecting us in ways that we have never experienced before. But it’s difficult, perhaps impossible, to foresee how these radical shifts to our lifestyles and livelihoods will continue to shape us going forward. And while we know with some certainty that the covid-19 virus will pass eventually, what remains unclear in the haze that surrounds this crisis is what will happen after these restrictions are loosened, what world will we find? What world will we build?

I, and many others, have said before that we are never going back. We are never going to return to a pre-coronavirus pandemic world. There too many changes taking places, and so many long-held notions that we once cradled have simply shattered on impact. We can’t go on living only for ourselves with no thought of other people. We can’t assume that we can always act independently and on our own. We can’t pretend like we don’t have to make hard sacrifices when it comes to our safety and that of others. 

Historic changes are likely to keep coming–changes to how we socialize with each other, meet and greet each other, interact with our communities and neighbors. Social distancing may be a harbinger of what is to come: more periods of isolation, more self-restraint, more overt restrictions for the sake of public health even. Obviously, our relationship to technology may get deeper, as well as more profound. As we rely on technology more and more for daily socialization and communication with the outside world, perhaps we will demand more from it morally as well–to be less addictive and asocial, and to be more inviting and open. 

All these changes to our physical, social, professional, emotional environments are exhausting. It takes its toll, and you can see that in the messages on social media. Everyone is tired. And everyone is grieving in their own ways–for the loss of the way things were, and for the futures that they had imagined for themselves. It’s extremely hard to let go of the lives and selves we construct. It’s also really difficult to let go of control in general. 

I wrote to my colleague today that I feel like all of the most extreme of my emotions are colliding into each other during this pandemic. I do feel hope for myself and the future, and there’s a certain clarity that I think I have gained from the lack of “busyness” and surplus of time to just sit and think and reflect. But I also feel anxious, worried, upset, angry. Angry at the loss of any sort of control. I also find myself feeling excited, almost.

 Please don’t take this statement the wrong way–I don’t mean to say that I am at all excited about people suffering and dying. I am not excited about the economic hardships that many are feeling. And I recognize the privilege I have to even write that: I am lucky in so many ways for the networks of support that I have. However, I can’t help but feel that, despite the fact that there will be constant hardship to get there, that positive changes will come out of this moment, and I am looking forward to that. 

I already see shifts in the way I think and feel. I hope that other people are experiencing the same thing and that change will come from it. My colleagues and I at Nazobako are figuring out new ways to deal with this situation. We’re having to shift our thinking a lot, but this is perhaps a good thing. I also happen to think that we are becoming closer in the process, and learning a bit more about each other too, even though we are separated physically and reliant on screens and apps for communication. I hope that other companies and groups are learning the same thing. 

It’s easy to keep believing that the status quo is the only natural order. But that’s not necessarily true. Change is constantly happening around, we just tend not to notice. And every once in a while something huge happens that makes us realize this essential fact. All we can do is adapt as best we can and ride the flow; use what we intuitively know about ourselves to activate our inner strength and reach out to form common bonds with others.

This can be hard to achieve though, in the middle of a storm. Our feelings and emotions in reaction to this pandemic are valid and need to be respected and understood. Even the actions of those who flaunt the restrictions and scoff at the seriousness of the virus need to be understood as a very human reaction–one that is based in fear and wanting to cling to certainty in the midst of chaos. Perhaps there is a way to reach out to them too. 

It’s been a very hard day, in the middle of a very hard and dreary week, in a very long and difficult month. I’ve tried as hard as possible to be completely honest in these posts, because I don’t really feel like lying has a purpose, right now especially, and because I think this moment calls for clarity above all else. If I want to be consistent with my theme here, clarity is the only way that we have a hope for the future. We have to see and think clearly about what was wrong, what the situation is now and what we’re doing about it, and what we really want to happen. Only then do have the opportunity to really move on from this morass–physically, mentally, emotionally, economically etc. yes, of course, but also just in one piece. 

I am absolutely terrified and extremely hopeful; alternatively crying tears of sadness and joy. That’s the emotional balance of this pandemic, and we all have to deal. But I am looking forward to the next normal, not looking back to return to the one we left. 

Stay safe, stay home, stay strong, and stay connected. 

With Love,

Lee and the staff at Nazobako/Invite Japan

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