You know, around this time last year, my social media timeline was filled with excitement about the year 2020, proclaiming it as a year of perfect vision.
Given that the concept of having 20/20 vision is actually a standard of measurement in the field of optometry rather than anything all that spiritual or divine, I never really bought into it.
But who am I to yuck anyone’s yum?
I carried on with graduate school in a program I loved, an internship (though we agree the term is problematic) with an organization doing incredible work, and preparing for a year of new opportunities.
And then the world as we knew it burst into flames. Wildfires swept across the Southwest United States, Brazil, Australia, and other parts of the globe. The novel coronavirus spread around the globe, stealing loved ones, dividing communities, and devastating small businesses. Black people are continuing to be killed by the police (and wannabe cops) as if there is a bounty on their heads, and the world is responded by raising our voices in a roaring chorus, proclaiming that
Entropy has landed, revolution has sprung forth, and rebirth is on the horizon!
Meanwhile, the premise of a year of deeper clarity and understanding kept ruminating in the back of my mind. I wondered what kind of clarity people expected, if they had it yet, and what they would do with it once they had it.
Last week it dawned on me that 2021 was a week away but I haven’t seen any posts about revelatory visions or grand epiphanies, despite a year where so many things occurred and so many truths were indeed revealed.
Then it clicked.
People only want clarity and revelation when the news is good and benefits them immediately in measurable, tangible way.
(Read that again.)
By this logic, it makes sense that people began to abandon their vision boards in the online shopping carts of life once things started going sideways. No one wants to know that their favorite celebrity, neighbor, or even a friend is a racist. People don’t like being told they won’t get to do brunch on the weekends or travel over the summer. And realizing that you live in a country where Black folx are dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of white folx, children are being kept in cages while their mothers are coerced into being sterilized at the U.S.-Mexico border makes people uncomfortable.
Watching a white cop kneel the weight of his body on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, effectively murdering him in broad daylight before dozens — then billions of people — was a jarring awakening for white and non-Black America. Those who had been genuinely oblivious or purposely ignorant to the centuries of racism in America were challenged to no longer remain complicit in their role in the oppression, policing, and on-going murder of Black and Brown bodies.
In a culture where comfort and convenience are prized above all, the onslaught of inconvenient truths appeared to be a bit too much for some people to handle. So, rather than adapting to the new normal and making the best of a bleak situation, some have chosen to put their hopes, dreams, and aspirations on hold for the foreseeable future.
I was fortunate. I was able to chose to assess the situation and figure out what I can do given the current circumstances. I completed graduate school, landed a job, and made a bunch of new friends (virtually, anyway). My life certainly has not been blissful and I have experienced personal and collective grief along with the rest of the world. But, having been a caregiver for my terminally ill mother since 2013, I think it’s possible that I developed an ability to pivot pain into purpose.
Do not misunderstand me: grief is real and everyone copes with it differently. There is no wrong way to handle grief. Some ways may be more beneficial (or harmful) to one person versus another. But everyone will have their own relationship with the grieving process, and that’s okay.
I simply share my story to encourage the most privilege among us not to adopt a practice of averting their eyes because what they are seeing is unpleasant. What may feel unbearable in a moment could end up saving your life or adding value to someone else’s. It may not be the right decision in every situation, but when you are able and when it is within your control, perhaps you’ll consider pivoting your pain into purpose.
The U.S. healthcare system is broken. The system of policing in this country must be abolished and new systems of community support must be put into place. Immigrant rights need to be named and protected. We need climate change solutions NOW.
Since these issues have been amplified and magnified, the masses are seeing a bit more clearly for the first time in a long time. We know the problems, but what are the solutions and who’s going to make sure they are executed fairly?
Maybe it’s you. Maybe you’re the one to change the world for the better.
Okay, probably not. No one person can singlehandedly affect systemic change. And it’s okay — necessary, even — to seek help from a mental health professional to help you work through trauma and emerge with tools to optimize your health. But I believe nearly all of us each can our part to make a difference. Whether that means changing a personal belief that is rooted in untruths and miseducation, or standing on the frontlines of justice and social repair, we can all do something. I especially extend this challenge to those who hold privilege (and I count myself among you as I a less privileged than some, but more privileged than many).
So let us enter into the new year with open eyes, prepared hearts, and gloved hands. Ready to do the work in ourselves so that we may do the work for others. The new year is upon us and with new knowledge comes new responsibility new opportunity to bloom at the intersections of your lived experience.