As a Millennial, I can’t hide from my generation’s reputation of entitlement. We’re notorious for our mindless reliance upon on-demand conveniences, instant gratification, and indulging in platforms catered to airing unfettered opinions. We’ve had the world at our fingertips – that is, until COVID-19 came along unannounced, and slapped it out of our ill-prepared hands. In a matter of weeks, I’ve watched the foundation of my “normal” disintegrate under my feet, only to look up and see the world around eroding, too. For many of my peers, this eroding foundation has led them to safer havens, warmer weather, kinder worlds. For me, however, I’ve chosen to stay and fight.
When the news of COVID-19 first reached me, I reacted as a Millennial would; with a feeling of naive invincibility, a feeling that would be short-lived. By March 9th, the implications of this pandemic were biting at the heels of my life when my core job duties were drastically reduced. Over the next week, workplace communication would become increasingly more cryptic, further muddled when I began working from home. Not two weeks into remote work, I was summarily furloughed and hurled into the echelons of the unemployed. After 72 hours of attempts to file for unemployment benefits, battling crashing websites and hours on hold only to be hung up on, I finally succeeded. But my relief was contrasted by a solemn realization that my struggle to file was due to the system being burdened by unprecedented volume of applicants clinging to unemployment for relief. The notion further darkened when my claim processed; an institutional gesture I can’t live on or with. The US Department of Labor confirms that 16 million applications have been filed for unemployment insurance, and while the jobless rate today is almost certainly higher than at any point since the Great Depression — it currently stands at 15 percent — it is summarily rising at a speed unparalleled in American history.
Battered by the waves of financial crisis, I’m also bruised by the psychological and social challenges as well. The first days on furlough were disorienting and sobering; like being thrust on stage to improvise a modern dance. Funds are finite, bills won’t stop, and we’re facing the toughest audience yet — Zoom. Cocktail parties may be all the rage, but just wait until you’re called upon to attend your first virtual funeral. It is a callous, cruel, and disquieting experiment in human discourse.
With all our known securities, safety nets, and support systems in question or unavailable, it’s hard not to feel naked and defenseless to life. But these are the paralyzing realities that each of us are facing, individually and as a collective. So then why fight? Why take the stage? Because of a conviction that, regardless of what it will look like, there is a life to live on the other side of this. We’ve been called the “lonely generation” and the “irresponsible generation.” But like our great ancestors — who lived thru WWI and the Great Depression — we'll find resolve, meaning and a way thru the 2019-2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, too.
The answer won’t be found on Google, or ordered on Amazon Prime, or captured on an Instagram post, and most definitely won’t be in the 5 years of toilet paper we’re still trying to figure out where to store. The answer will be human — awkwardly and authentically human — and will show up in seemingly selfless acts of kindness. From food banks to volunteers and all those on the front lines, you are the standard bearers of our new world.
A ballet teacher once taught, “When all else fails take it back to the barre.” This has never resonated more than in this very moment. Get back to the basics of who you are. Rediscover the passion that made you what you are. Accept where we are now together and move forward with the scars of battle in grace.