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life Self Love and Personal Growth

Obligatory End of the Year Post

Time is an illusion, but the start of a new year can be symbolic if you choose to let it be. What better day to draft my last post of the year than on December 21st, the start of the Winter Solstice. This time period can be thought of as the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new one. If you enjoy this sort of symbolism, it is a good time to reflect on the past year and set groundwork for the next one.

Ah, 2020. Where to even begin. It feels like the first year where everyone around the world was simultaneously forced to slow down, look around, and reset. Some countries fought this harder than others. 2020 in the United States was a mess for various reasons including Covid, Trump, and the presidential election. Many admirable people, both in and out of the limelight, that will have a lasting impact, have died. Everyday life for people changed in one way or another. This paradoxical year has both flown by and been the longest year, at least of my life. so far.

In 2020, we started a new decade. I achieved some of the goals, big and small, that I set for myself the previous year. I got promoted at my job. I finished my last college course and received my college diploma. I got pregnant and moved back to my hometown. I am lucky to have turned 23 and still be surviving a pandemic.

Reflecting on the year, a lot happened but it also feels like not much did at all. Some of the lessons from 2020 I have taken away are reminders from 2019. Some have been expanded upon. Here’s a few of them.

Be Thankful

If you don’t already, you should take more time to be thankful for what you have. I said the same thing in 2019. It’s something to be more conscious of. The parts of life that stress us tend to need our attention. Because of this, it is normal and easy to get caught up in the stressors of life. It is important, though, to actively recognize what we have going for us, especially this year, amidst so much tragedy. This does not mean our lives are perfect. This does not mean there are not problems that need fixing or uncontrollable situations that have or will knock us down. This is not promoting toxic positivity. It is just a reminder that chances are you or I have something someone else wishes for. It is a reminder not to take things for granted.

Toxic Positivity is Bad

Pretending like things are okay when they aren’t will leave you worse off than accepting you are upset. It is okay not to be positive all of the time. It is okay to say something is shitty if it is. Life is all about balance. Sometimes we just need to cry it out and dwell in our sadness. Sometimes we need to stew in our anger before we forgive, if we even decide to forgive. We feel what we feel and that’s human. (How we react may not be justifiable though.) Don’t force yourself to put on a show nor let anyone make you feel as though you’re complaining when you’re expressing how you feel.

Two Things Can Coexist

We are so used to viewing things in labels and boxes. Often times, concepts are explained or understood as this or that. An example that I grew up with is the idea that evolution and God are conflicting theories. Now some things innately have a line drawn in the sand. How can you be pro-life but believe in the death penalty? Those two ideas are conflicting since the death penalty takes away life.

However, I would argue that lots of concepts are not so easily conflicting. Covid spreading in the US can be the result of both government incompetence and human selfishness. If you believe in God, God could have been the designer of evolution. You can hate capitalism and still contribute to it. You can agree the political system needs to change and still vote. Etcetera, etcetera. Life is simple and complex, depending on how you look at it. Not everything is simple enough to be knocked into boxes when concepts can be a spectrum and/or situational and/or dependent on your own ethics and values. This is proved by the spectrum of sexuality, the ethics behind the trolley problem, and the age old question “Is it wrong to break into someone’s house for food? What if it’s to feed your starving family?”

Perspective Matters- One Size Does Not Fit All

I like to think there is the absolute truth and then there are the perspectives of the people involved. Sometimes, those perspectives line up with the truth. One person or both people can be completely off. Both can align with the truth to an extent. One (or both if they agree) can be completely right. We have a tendency to twist the words and situations of other people and project our own insecurities, experiences, and assumptions onto them. Sometimes we are right. Sometimes we aren’t. Some of the time, our judgements do not matter.

Since two things can coexist, one size does not fit all. Perspective and intentions matter. “Money does not buy happiness” can mean that money won’t solve all your problems and instantly make you happy. At the same time, having money will mean no more of your concerns will come from a lack of money. Your current problems would be solved and you’d be happy. Your viewpoint and objectivity will determine which way you view the statement.

Say What You Need to Say

I am a big believer that it is important to get what you need to say off your chest. I feel like every year at least one post mentions communication. As I get older, I have come to see the importance of clear communication. I have learned to sit on my feelings and thoughts about a situation and communicate them if they continue to affect me. Whether it is a good or bad thing is subjective, but I always feel better after I say what it is I need to, whether positive or negative, whether it is received and received well or not. Whatever happens after that happens and it is important to be willing to accept and deal with the consequences of your words. If you’re not willing to, you shouldn’t say it.

Speaking up reinforces the idea that your feelings matter. It can clear up any confusion. It shows you parts of who the other party involved is. Just remember, other people’s feelings matter too. If they express discomfort with your words or tone, consider shifting your approach if you want to salvage the relationship.

People Come and Go

I used to be a pact person. I attached myself to people and, in doing so, subconsciously refused to be comfortable with and learn more about myself. In college, I went on a journey of self discovery and slowly grew out of the need to unhealthily attach myself to others. The mindset did have residual affects though.

It seems like a lesson I would’ve learned by now, but not everyone you encounter will or is meant to stay in your life forever. Social media makes it hard to forget that people come and go and that’s natural. Friendships begin, end, or become distant with time. Acquaintances and past coworkers move on with their lives, as do you, when the common denominator changes. In some ways, that is a blessing.

That’s not to say some relationships won’t be long or even lifelong. I’m still friends with people I met eleven years ago, in middle and high school. My dad is still friends with people he met in middle school. My mom still talks with her college friends often. I believe I have met and will continue to meet people for a reason, but not all of them are and will be meant to stay.

Boundaries are Necessary

Establishing healthy boundaries with people is a necessity. Knowing what lines you don’t want crossed and what lines not to cross can prevent a lot of arguments. It helps everyone involved feel comfortable and respected and be on the same page. Learn what your boundaries are. and then stick with them. Some of them form with time. Some are specific to certain people or situations. A boundary could be not lending any more money to a person who keeps asking. It could be not being available all the time. It could be not allowing someone to talk to or treat you a certain way. It could be ignoring work calls when you’re off the clock. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for making those boundaries. Don’t let anyone guilt you into allowing them to cross those boundaries. Don’t let them make you feel bad for enforcing those boundaries.

Anxiety Can Be Manageable

My anxiety became a little more constant at the end of the year with my unexpected pregnancy and all of its symptoms, Covid, the shutdown and decline of the hospitality industry (my major), and the bubble that comes with social distancing. With anxiety it can be second nature to have a spiral of thoughts that lead to a wave of fear and worry. I talked to a mental health coach, courtesy of my job benefits, and learned the root of where my anxiety comes from: the unknown of the future and not being or feeling in control.

She taught me to actively be aware of and change my thoughts when I felt overwhelmed. We discussed ways to cut off the spiraling thoughts and shift directions by literally doing something else instead. She helped me see that, like with concepts, with myself and my life, it doesn’t have to be this or that, all or nothing. You can start working on parts of a goal without finishing the whole thing in one sitting. Having a few setbacks doesn’t mean everything is going to shit. Your projects don’t have to be 100% perfect to be shared, especially on the first go around.

Most importantly, she helped me realize I need to be more aware of and live in the present. Worrying about the future, though seemingly natural to me, does nothing. Doing so is based off of assumptions, not absolute truth or reality. It wastes time and energy and forces you to live through a situation twice if it happens to come to fruition. Accepting and releasing fear, accepting whatever comes, knowing I’m equipped enough to handle it, and believing everything will work out in my favor are all things I’ve been and will continue to work on.

We’re All Different

Not everyone will treat situations the same as you. Not everyone will treat you the way you would treat them. Releasing the expectation that people will handle things the same way you do makes life easier and will help prevent the feeling of betrayal.

Also, the fact that we’re all different plays into the subjectivity of situations. Some people are content to be in the situations they are in. Just because you say you wouldn’t be or want to be in that situation doesn’t mean a) you won’t ever be there and b) that person is unhappy in that situation. We all need to work on not projecting, assuming we’re always right, and being judgey of others.

Final Thoughts

A few more things to leave you with before I end the last post of 2020.

1. Clean up your social media, especially by unfollowing celebrities. It can help your mindset. Also set app limits.

2. Set goals for the new year. It’ll help you get an idea of how you want the year to go.

3. Celebrate your wins. It’s not bragging as long as you watch your tone. You really accomplished that, possibly in a pandemic. It’s worth celebrating.

4. People’s opinions really don’t matter. It can feel like they do but they only hold as much power as you give them. At the end of the day, it’s your life. If you’re cool with it and it’s not offensive or hurting anyone, including yourself, do and say what you want.

5. People can make it seem like you are different than you are to others. This is on a case by case basis and you have to be able to accurately hold yourself accountable to discern appropriately. Still, sometimes people will paint you in a different light than you actually are in. Sometimes, it’s to make themselves feel better about how they acted or treated you. Sometimes, there’s confusion on intentions and wires get crossed. Sometimes, they’re just assholes who want to feel like the victim because they can’t take responsibility for their actions.

6. What you accept is not always what you think you deserve. It can simply be what you want or are willing to handle. It can be a reflection of your subconscious thoughts and fears. After self-reflection, I realized I accepted less than I deserved because it was what I wanted at the time, even though I claimed, to others and myself, to want something more or something different. I knew I deserved and could have better. People would tell me that to reinforce it. But I didn’t actually want better or more. It served its purpose until it didn’t. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, that depends on your perspective. To me, it just is.

7. Allow yourself to be unproductive without feeling guilty. Productivity is a product of capitalism. You don’t always have to be doing something related to work, money, or your goals. Chill out and relax whenever you can and want to.

8. If you have any regrets, let them go and forgive yourself. You wouldn’t be who you are or where you are without all of your experiences. You might say that’s the point of your regret, but regret won’t change anything. Accept what’s happened, show yourself grace, and make movements forward.

A lot can change in a year. A lot has changed for me this year. Securing my college degree was the end of a cycle. Giving birth by the start of the new year will be another one. What are the chances life would align symbolically for me like that?

I recommend you reflect back on the year and take note of how you and your life has changed. I would avoid going into the new year with unrealistic or pessimistic expectations of how it’ll go. Don’t assume it’ll be as taxing as 2020 (don’t speak that into existence), but don’t think everything will return to the way it was (because it won’t). Set your desires for the year, and then just live day by day. You never know what’ll happen.

Categories
Food For Thought Kinda not really life Politics

Oh ‘rona: Part II

It’s been a whole seven, eight months since I made the first post about coronavirus. Oh, how much has changed. Not corona though; it is still here. In fact, its gotten even worse in the past seven months and will probably continue to grow in intensity with Thanksgiving passing and Christmas approaching. I have many thoughts regarding this pandemic, the government’s response or lack thereof, and people’s individual responses. So here we are. Another post so I can rant.

Almost everything, if not everything, I stated in the first post I still believe. We are living through history. I’ll look back years from now and tell my daughter about what we all can collectively agree is the shit show of 2020. These past seven months in the United States have been a whole mess for a variety of reasons. There’s fear in being unsure of how long it will take to clean all of it up. Let’s focus on the coronavirus part of it though. 

When corona first hit the US and places were starting to close, I felt differently about this whole pandemic. I still thought it was terrible, but I understood why essential businesses were open. I understood why my place of employment was open. I understood people’s concerns of the economy crashing. I understood the hesitation to accept what felt like the world ending because our world was experiencing something most haven’t before. Although I wholeheartedly disagreed with people who didn’t believe it existed, I, like many, didn’t fully understand the severity of it. Regardless, I took it seriously. I only saw one person outside of my job and my household. I wore masks and sanitized frequently. I figured it would be eradicated within a couple of months. I was wrong about corona’s presence diminishing.

According to the CDC website as of November 18th, at 1:07 pm, there have been 11,300,635 cases. There have been 247,834 deaths related to coronavirus. As of December 6th, the number of cases increased to 14.462,527 with 280,135 deaths. That’s about a 3,000,000 increase in cases and over 30,000 deaths in just under three weeks. In one day, about 260,000 more cases were reported along with a little over 2,300 deaths. These are the numbers since the states began reporting in late January. They might be higher. 

Why has this happened? I say there are three main reasons: government response, the spread of misinformation, and people’s personal choices. 

Government Response

At first, I thought Trump was simply unsure of how to handle the whole pandemic thing but would figure it out. When the US found out he actually knew the severity of coronavirus when it was first known to be in the US in January, we learned he chose to do very little to nothing. Mind you, it wasn’t until mid March that coronavirus was established as a national emergency. March, about a month and a half later after it was first established in the US, is when states began to shutdown.

In these past eightish months, Trump told people corona was a hoax, knowing it wasn’t. He went against the advice of and aimed to discredit experts. He refused to wear a mask, and told people he didn’t think it was necessary. He made a pandemic a political chess piece to use in his re-election campaign. It became apparent he, and other members of the government who found time to dabble in the stock market with information of Covid, didn’t and don’t care about the effect of the virus on the country and its citizens. Even after Trump caught it and supposedly recovered, due to the fact he has the best access to doctors and healthcare in the US, he didn’t care. He said it wasn’t that bad and prioritized the economy over people’s lives. He couldn’t admit he was wrong to downplay the pandemic.

Instead of Trump and the government prioritizing citizens, they prioritized money, re-election, and their own self-interests. In these eight months since states began locking down, some in the US have only received $1,200. For a while, some of the unemployed received an additional $600 with their unemployment checks, but that stopped at the end of July. People still remained unemployed due to the pandemic. People were still getting less hours at work. People still had bills to pay and themselves to feed. Other countries’ citizens received more than this and got a handle of the virus.

Some states began slowly reopening some time in May. That’s about two months of a shelter in place order. Not every state required masks at any time during the pandemic. Over time, pretty much everywhere in the US began at least lightly reopening. Let’s face it, eight months is a long time to be stuck in the house. Naturally people were getting restless and when their county began opening up, they also individually eased up on the precautions they had because of a false sense of security. Some traveled between counties and states if they could or needed to, some went to the nail or hair salon, people began eating in restaurants, others started going to the gym and so on. Schools reopened and people went back to work in their offices. Sports decided to risk it all and come back on television and Covid became a normal thing. 

I will say that, for all intents and purposes, for many, shelter in place never completely meant never leaving the house, and understandably so. I am guilty of this as well. Some people cannot work at home. Not everyone was or is able to stop working. People go to work because they have bills to pay; some even have or will work knowing they have coronavirus. Not every state froze rent or bills, and even those that did still expect payments to cover it in the future. People still go out to the grocery store or to pick up food, and understandably so. Ya need to eat. People still take walks or spend time in nature. People still go to the doctor’s office or the hospital. Not everyone has the opportunity to completely stay home. These actions cannot be faulted. Sheltering in place is about not going anywhere you don’t have to be at, social distancing from everyone outside of your household and workplace, and taking necessary precautions in the places you go.

As seven months went on, a sense of “normalcy” came back. People stopped social distancing intensely, if they ever did, whether by force or not, and cases only continued to go up. Now, in December, cases per day are increasing drastically across the country. This week we will probably continue to see a surge in cases because of people who did not social distance for Thanksgiving. People have and are struggling with the decision between staying home for the holidays or traveling/meeting up with their families. Experts are urging people to stay home. The federal government isn’t saying much.

People’s Thoughts and The Spread of Misinformation 

As much as I would love to say we are where we are now with Covid solely because of the government, that’s not true. They set the precedent and the standards, but other factors have influenced this outcome. The spread of misinformation through social media and less than factual news sources as well as a lack of education are playing a role too, though this can also be credited back to Trump.

Nonbelievers and those who are lax about the of the severity of corona like to compare Covid to the flu to support their claim. It’s easier to visualize something that is unknown when you compare it to something that is known. The comparison was meant to exist as a base level understanding, not a full description encompassing every part of Covid. “The flu is not that bad,” or “the death rate for the flu is higher and it’s not a big deal,” are rationales people spread without considering that the flu has been around, has a working vaccine out that enough of the population takes, and the fact that viruses affect everyone differently. They also do not take into account that, for example, one percent of a million is still ten thousand. Applying this math to our population will equal an outrageous amount of people dying from a single source that could have been controllable.

As far as education goes, we are learning more about coronavirus as time goes on. Coronavirus is contagious and spread through droplets. You’re more likely to get it when in close contact with people. You can test negative for coronavirus but still have it. Testing negative just means at the time you took the test you did not have it. If you know you were exposed, you should still actively social distance and get tested within 10 days. Tests also aren’t perfect, which is why being mindful of social distancing is important whether you are negative or positive. Being asymptomatic means you won’t develop symptoms, it doesn’t mean you can’t spread the virus. Social distancing is being pushed so hard because you could have it, spread it to others, who spread it to others, who spread it to others etc. and not know, which is why large gatherings are still frowned upon.

It is also easy to forget the strain this disease is putting on hospitals and healthcare workers. Some have left because the experience has been overwhelming and traumatizing. Some have gotten sick caring for others. Most are overworked, risking their health and lives to do their job while the country carelessly makes their jobs harder. Coronavirus has made it seem like the world has stopped, but it evidently has not. People are still hospitalized for non-coronavirus related health concerns. As the number of cases grow, hospitals will not have enough beds for everyone who needs one.

For me, the scariest part about coronavirus is the fact that a severe case can mean being in a hospital for months and potentially dying, but surviving even a more mild case can mean dealing with pre-existing conditions. We do not know all of the long term affects of the virus, because long term hasn’t happened yet. As someone who already has a pre-existing condition, technically two throughout this pandemic because of pregnancy, I would not like to willingly pile on more. The idea of living with brain fog, heart and lung problems, and who knows what else is unappealing to me. I also don’t want to put my baby or my family at risk. I don’t want the people they come in contact with at work or the grocery store to be at risk. I don’t want to put my doctor, the nurses, or a stranger at my doctor’s office at risk. I’m not saying I have been a saint, but it is why I choose to let it affect my daily life. Since I am able to right now, it’s why I stay home unless I can’t.

The nonbelievers spread their beliefs, much as I am now, but rely on the politicization of the virus. Coronavirus was and is bigotedly referred to as the “China virus” as if it that isn’t xenophobic, as if it hasn’t affected every country in the world. As if blaming China for this virus will change the fact that it is here. Like we don’t blame the ocean for hurricanes, why are we blaming a country for a disease? 

Nonbelievers have compared mask mandates to the government stepping on people’s freedoms and the difficulty breathing while wearing masks to unarmed black people dying by the hands of police. Honestly, Covid is a nuisance and wearing a mask is an inconvenience, but if it means protecting people’s lives, I don’t understand what all the fuss is about (aside from the fact some government officials set it up this way). People even claim Covid is a distraction from some hidden agenda and that it is a way for liberals to push universal healthcare. A worldwide health crisis became something to be debated among American politics. It’s a mess.

Nonbelievers and people who don’t want a shutdown again, tend to believe all of this is fearmongering. They tell people to get over it. They say wearing masks makes people sheep as if we don’t follow basic traffic rules everyday because it’s the law. They claim taking precautions are cowardly and say we can’t let this virus run our lives. They push herd immunity and say if you feel unsafe you should take the necessary precautions but fail to realize I or anyone can do everything “right,” but still end up sick because someone else was not being cautious. Some people think coronavirus does not exist or is being hyped up because they haven’t had it or known anyone who has. Some have had coronavirus and gotten better, saying it is overdramatized. Some have it, are dying, and still say coronavirus isn’t real or a big deal. This pandemic has made me realize how selfish we Americans can be in the name “freedom.”

14,000,000, as well as 280,000, are large numbers, so it can create a dissonance, apparently even if you are and, or know someone who is counted into those numbers. Those numbers can seem like “not a big deal” if you want to continue on with your life without regard for anyone else. People have become so desperate to “return back to normal” that they fail to realize they are making living with a pandemic normal. It is something I think about daily because it frustrates and annoys me. There are so many active cases that it’s becoming harder not to get the virus. You can really social distance, sanitize frequently, and wear a mask and still get sick because a coworker, a fellow customer, or an infected employee who needs the money, wasn’t doing the same. It didn’t have to get this bad.

Personal Choices

I’m not gonna lie. Telling people the best way not to catch or spread the virus is social distancing gives of “the safest sex is abstinence” vibes. Naturally, not everyone can be in the house 24/7, only surrounded by their household, especially for over seven months. Isolating can be damaging to mental health, especially if you’ve been doing it since the beginning. However, when you keep in mind the safety of yourself, the people you love, and strangers you encounter, it doesn’t make sense to me why people are so against another, hopefully a more sincere, lockdown. If we’re being honest, most states never had a real lockdown. It leads me to question what people are doing, other than working, that would lead them to be upset about a lockdown.

Even though I am not getting restless with social distancing partly because I live with my family, I understand why people are. I understand the desire to be physically close to loved ones, to travel, to party, and to pretend like the virus doesn’t exist. Some are getting tired of being restricted. Being over it doesn’t mean it’s over though. Being careless with your actions because you want to move on with your life doesn’t free you from putting people at risk. Covid exists and will continue to until we all get it together. It’s easy to excuse your actions when it’s something you want to do. It’s gotten to the point where I and people who are isolating outside of the necessities feel ridiculous because we see people who aren’t. Clearly not everyone is taking the necessary precautions and too many people have thought they have “taken the necessary precautions” but were probably asymptomatic because otherwise cases wouldn’t be getting worse.

Our personal choices have affected and will continue to affect what is happening with the pandemic. How much we decide to learn about coronavirus, what we think about the virus, and how the government, shoutout Mitch McConnell, continues to act will all influence what you and I decide to do. It is unfair that the government prioritized jobs and the economy over everything else. It is fucked up that people are being asked to keep their distance from their friends, parents, grandparents, etc., but are expected to work or not get paid. There are ways to keep a small circle of people you see safely or see family safely, as long as you’re all on the same page and honest about how you are operating during the pandemic. All of this doesn’t change that social distancing and stay at home orders are being advised for a reason. It is just as true to say people catch coronavirus at work as it is to say people catch it during their off times. Pretending like everyone catches coronavirus at work and no one catches coronavirus by meeting up with family and friends or traveling is false. It’s why there have been increases in cases after every maskless Trump rally and after every holiday.

Us choosing to wear a mask or argue about it, meeting up with people because with think it’s safe versus going without, traveling across the state or country when we don’t have to, going to parties, the club, the bars or wherever just because it’s open, and accidently mass gathering in public places when we want to get out of the house, will all have an affect how much longer this pandemic goes on. We individually are not necessarily the cause of where we are with Covid in the US, but we are individually either hindering the progress or helping it. Are you willingly choosing to live with a pandemic or are you choosing to help flatten the curve?

My Final Thoughts

In the time I drafted this to December 4th, my mom got exposed to Covid and spent Thanksgiving quarantined alone in her room in case she caught it. She runs a community health care clinic and got exposed by someone else who works there. That person recently had a family reunion and that’s where they contracted it. They didn’t know they had it so continued to work up until finding out. This is what I mean when I say someone can socially distance and still get sick because of someone else’s actions.

We’re fortunate because that person was showing enough symptoms to know something was off. We’re fortunate because that person got tested. We’re fortunate because my mom and that person were both wearing masks when they carpooled. My mom thankfully tested negative. Masks do make a difference. Our own choices do matter.

I wish those who run the country would understand how interconnected this all is. The economy cannot improve without the stability of the people who live here. We, the people, make the economy grow and I only mention this because the economy seems to be of utmost importance to them. If that’s the case, then people are also important! We are important! Supporting us through stimulus checks, paying us to stay home, and paying small businesses to help them stay afloat, will ultimately benefit the country more than it will harm it. The idea that “handouts” or “helping us” is stupid because the government and its officials are meant to serve us, the people, not corporations. Getting control of the virus to lessen the load on hospitals, to keep businesses open, and to allow people to return safely back to work, will benefit the country more than pretending it doesn’t exist and attempting to continue on. The health crisis, the economy, and government leadership are all interconnected and help shape how we as a society will get through this. It does start with us, but the government needs to get it together too. Their lack of support and guidance is the main reason we are in the position we are in today.

There’s been so much on my mind regarding Covid and I’m not even sure this encompasses it all. Seeing people’s selfishness and inability to emphasize or even sympathize with others has been disheartening. Hopefully, this will be my last post about Covid, but the way this has been going it probably won’t be.