We are only three months into 2020 and already the whole landscape of the world has changed beyond recognition.
The mass panic and empty streets are akin to a dystopian sci-fi movie – and the sight of the empty roads of major cities like Paris, New York, London, and Cairo paints a better picture than Aldous Huxley or Ray Bradbury ever could.
Navigating through this time with no cicerone in sight will be an unprecedented effort, one that nobody could have predicted or foreseen. Many of us had dreams, goals, and ambitions to pursue over the next twelve months and beyond, endeavors which are currently up in the air, on hold, or have been canceled entirely.
As social isolation and self-quarantine become the norm for the foreseeable future, we are left with a whole host of new questions and problems. Those whose days are normally filled with adventure, challenge, and purpose are now looking into the void of potential boredom and monotony. Such a set of circumstances can rot the human soul, depleting it day by day as the days of isolation relentlessly steamroll past us.
(Reuters)- An eerie, empty New York City
So, how do we – ordinary people – find true meaning now? Surely all of the challenges that are out there in the world are beyond our grasp – even the simple things in life such as socializing with friends, reading a book in a cafe, or having lunch with a family member are out of bounds. The world has frozen, and our lives with it. What do we do now?
It’s this question that will define all of our experiences in collective quarantine. For the first time in many of our lives, we lie dormant. Frozen. Waiting. Wondering. Our dreams of success, glory, and fulfillment are temporarily locked away behind a door we do not yet have the key to. Human beings were not built to be captive – so this situation we are all in will be met with our most human of resistances.
However, my way of finding meaning through all of this is to not think of my own success as ‘on-hold’, or to show frustration at the fact I can’t do all of the things I normally do. Why?
The answer is very simple – because this situation is bigger than any one person, bigger than any investment banker, bigger than any politician, and bigger than any humble everyday office worker. The world has instead presented my life with a new meaning – to help others less fortunate. Before, my version of success and meaning meant my own success, in own career, on my own terms. Now, it is as simple as looking forward to new coffee in the morning.
Maybe one thing we can learn from all of this is that the meaning of life is lying on our doorstep every morning, and our own selfish pursuit of happiness obscures the meaning that lies in front of us every day. Maybe life isn’t about money, job prospects, and private condos. Life is about looking forward to the morning a phone call from a friend. Life is about finally speaking to the neighbor you may or may not have been avoiding speaking too – and discovering that they are not much different from you after all.
I have found more meaning in the latter over the last few days than years of being jealous of superstars on Instagram. I have found more fulfillment in asking friends if they need anything than getting 100,000 followers on here. Ill or healthy, this virus has changed all of our lives. Once the world is finally quiet do we find that which most satisfies us – as we are awoken from our self-serving slumber and finally pay attention to the little things we were too busy to notice in front of us.
We all hope this ends soon – but just remember meaning is out there still, for all of us to uncover.