Today I’m reflecting on how our different identities and personalities affect the way we’ve been coping with the pandemic. Since I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, I’m going to approach this by offering a personal reflection with some encouragement for you to do the same. I count myself lucky in many ways. I have a great job, I can work from home easily (and I like doing it), and I have good social support. I am a very independent worker, I need space and quiet to work, and I’m good at self-imposed structure. I was going to crush it during this pandemic. I really was. Although the process of writing these emails for you has actually supported my health by forcing me to reflect on what is actually manageable and achievable, I’d be lying if I said I felt like I was crushing it.
I have learned a lot about myself since the pandemic began, but some of these realizations have been pretty painful. In particular, I learned how lonely I am. And I don’t just mean since the pandemic began – I’ve been lonely for years. The self-imposed structure that has helped make me academically successful has also isolated me. Don’t get me wrong, I have amazing friends, family, and a wonderful partner. But I don’t get to see and connect with them as much as I would like and when the pandemic took our already infrequent visits away, I realized just how much that little piece of connectedness serves as a tether to my emotional wellbeing. I know that from the outside, it looks like I’m doing great (and in many ways, I am). But looking at anyone from the outside never tells the whole story.
Especially when we can’t connect in the same ways that we used to, it is so important to approach one another with compassion and empathy, and without assumptions about what a person’s struggles may be. I have noticed that in times of crisis, there is often a narrative along the lines of, “we’re all in the same boat.” I would argue that we might be on the same river, but we are in very different boats. A failure to acknowledge this is a failure to acknowledge the complexities of our own experiences and the experiences of others. This week, I want to challenge you to think about what you have learned about yourself through the process of coping with this pandemic. What has been good, and what has been hard?