The Age of COVID has challenged everybody. Not a single person globally hasn’t been affected or challenged in some way. What fascinated me most was how people behaved in my country in the face of these challenges. They say that true character can be determined, not when everything is rosy, but when the chips are really down.
Some chose to respond in fear and behave in ways that exhibited greed. They raided supermarket shelves, complained about their rights disappearing and protested in the streets, refusing to wear masks that prevented the spread of Covid to others. Others chose to be grateful, despite the challenge, and demonstrated compassion towards others. Some suffered extraordinary losses and continued to persist without complaint. A large question that has resonated with me is why some people choose one behavioural path and why others choose the opposite. And the one thing that I think differentiates these people is gratitude.
Such a small thing, but something that within our society we are taught not to engage with. We always need to have more. More money, more up -to-date technology, more friends, more experiences. More, more, more. We are taught as consumers within this capitalist system in which we live that our self worth is tied up in how many things we have, how nice they are and how expensive they are. Our value as human beings is directly proportional to these things. That our value increases with the accumulation of money and things. All the while, the ideas of being grateful for the things we have fall by the wayside. They mean nothing in light of the next thing to accumulate.
Because of this way of life, we have become entitled. Entitled to good jobs that pay lots of money, jobs in general, pay rises and promotions, the best house to live in. Entitled to go outside and infect other people with diseases because how dare something impose on their human right to go outside of their house or breathe the air freely without a mask. To have free movement to go on a holiday. Our society has become about the individual and the individual’s ‘rights’ over the collective good of others. As a society, we are breeding selfishness. Narcissism. A lack of resilience to adversity, because we are told that we shouldn’t have to face any adversity at all in life. Happiness is absence of struggle. And everybody deserves happiness.
Then Covid comes about and teaches people the biggest lesson of all. That lesson, in short, is that life and the world don’t owe you shit. You make the best of the things that come your way and it might not necessarily be easy but life doesn’t owe you easy either. That happiness is not the absence of struggle, but the choice to be grateful for the things that you do have every single day. And to be honest, in the midst of Covid lockdowns, it wasn’t hard to find things to be grateful for. Grateful for my own health and the health and safety of my family. For the ability to go outside of my house for an hour a day for exercise or for food. For food in general. For having a safe roof over my head. For the internet and the ability to see and communicate with my friends and family. For the dance lessons online that I was still doing and the community of people I met doing them. For the extra time to deal with my past trauma and develop a greater level of emotional intelligence. For the time to investigate and try new things. For the time to do some extra reading. For the opportunity to be a support person for students and friends. For so, so many things.
Meanwhile in other parts of the world, people are dying in the streets because the hospitals are overflowing. Because their governments don’t give a shit about their people and those people need to leave the house to go and make money to feed their families because starvation is a more certain death than Covid. In some countries if they left their houses at all they would be arrested and thrown in jail as imposed by the military. There were people suffering much greater challenges than we here in Australia could even imagine, and yet we moan and complain and moan and complain about how hard we have it. Our privileged livelihoods that we have gotten so used to that we see it as our ‘rights’ and not what they actually are. Privileges.
As a country we have been born into so much privilege, we don’t even realise how much of it we have. Which is why gratitude and compassion have become more important than ever. Our lack of these things in ordinary life and in the face of adversity is what has bred so much anger in light of this global pandemic. The most important thing I found was a gratitude for being able to help others less fortunate than I and this gave me a greater purpose. Having a purpose outside of yourself or finding one to dedicate yourself to, was the largest factor contributing to positivity and calmness during this crazy time. But that requires thoughts outside of oneself. It requires selflessness and self awareness. All of the things that our current individualistic society tell us is not important. The reality is, the things that make us happy humans are not the same things that keep the capitalistic world churning. When we buy into the ideals of the latter and an event such as a global pandemic arises, our happiness fades along with the money and the privilege. Mental health issues become rife. However, when we invest in community and our own emotional awareness and learn to resonate with our own discomfort it doesn’t matter what your external situation is. You will choose positivity, compassion and gratitude in the face of this adversity. And your life will be made so much easier for it because you deal with what is thrown at you as something that ‘just is’, instead of something that ‘shouldn’t be happening to me because this isn’t fair’. breeding anger and resentment.
Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t owe you fair. It is what it is. Accept. Let go. Be grateful. Have compassion for others. Laugh in the face of adversity. Because nothing is ever so bad that you cannot find a single thing to be grateful for. Especially when you’re in your warm house, doing your job from home, watching your Netflix, surfing the internet, receiving your government support cheque and eating plenty of food. Our temporary lives are shrouded in so much more privilege than some people’s everyday normal lives before Covid. It might help to remember that too when we consider how ‘hard’ we have it here in Australia.