There’s a quote by an unknown author that states: “Every new chapter in your life will require a new version of yourself.” While new chapters in life are a universal theme for all of us, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought sudden plot twists to so many people’s lives. I’ve encountered stories of grief and loss and seen those who have made huge career changes and personal adaptations in the last six months. There’s little doubt that most of us will have looked at our lives and taken stock, contemplating what the future might hold, while reassessing our paths and goals.
The tagline “the new normal” has been a grating one; none of this is normal, and we need to remember that, both in our interactions with others and with ourselves. Acting with kindness is needed now more than ever to get through these times. It’s easy to feel low and disheartened when the collective worries of safety, careers, and the future hang in the balance of such uncertainty. So many in the creative industries around the world have been through hardships, and have had to find alternative work and lifestyle routines around the pandemic. Some have been shielding, others have had to take on full-time carer roles, and some headed out to work on the front line as key workers.
Oprah once said: “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” As we ponder where we are, and where we hope to be after the pandemic, it’s useful to remember that this chapter won’t last forever. Too many people are beating themselves up, worrying that they haven’t ‘got it all together’. Even during the best of times, the human condition can be a challenge, and when we are restricted by circumstances out of our control, we can’t hold our expectations up to our normal standards. Working in the creative industries in the pre-COVID world already came with its struggles, many of which have been illuminated by the pandemic. Campaigns such as #WeMakeEvents have shone a light on where live entertainment can improve, though when better days might come is still unknown. The emphasis on doing what you ‘have’ to do is strong, as we are quite literally in survival mode right now – there’s no template, no ‘one size fits all’ solution or ‘right way’ to maneuver through this chapter. But it is a chapter, and it will end.
I recently read about a phenomenon called “TIL Smile Mask Syndrome” where “depression and physical illness is a result of prolonged, unnatural smiling”. Discovered in Japan during the 1980s, it is thought that the result of this condition is due to a disparity between the sufferer’s actions and their emotional state. When these aren’t aligned, it seems natural that discomfort will arise, and that putting a brave face on things, or ‘faking it till we make it’ can sometimes do more harm than good. While mindfulness and gratitude are useful practices when faced with tough times, there is a balancing act to be had with the many layers of the current climate, and it’s ok to acknowledge when times are hard and we aren’t doing so well. Perhaps the best way to philosophise is by looking at Reinhold Nieburh, who said: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
None of us will look back on this chapter in our lives as a golden era, but we can reflect on what and who is truly important to us and try our best to find pleasure in the little things in life for the time being. While we collectively do what we have to do until things improve, kindness is key to wellness, good mental health and as a means of keeping community spirit alive and lending a hand to those hit hardest. We are living through a unique time, unlike anything that’s come before and ultimately it is deeply unsettling. This chapter has been sudden and has brought pain to so many. I cling to the knowledge that all things must pass, and live in the hope that we will see out this chapter and start a new, better one soon.
Editors Note: Taking care of your mental health during this time is important. Don’t be afraid to reach out. We recently hosted a webinar with Handling Trauma from COVID with therapist Kaprece Stallings.