Life can change in a second.
It’s a phrase we’ve all heard repeatedly. It’s a sentiment I’ve taught in numerous literary studies in my classroom. But it’s also a phrase few of us understand until it’s too late.
In these past couple of weeks, life has certainly changed for most of us, and in some ways, it feels like it morphed into something unrecognizable overnight.
We’ve gone from days of complaining about work to days of working in solitude, wondering if we’ll ever get to interact with our co-workers again.
We’ve gone from days when everything seems so hectic to days when the hours are long and the weeks an eternity.
We’ve gone from days of having too many places to be to losing what feels like so much freedom.
We’ve gone from days of frivolous spending for many of us to financial uncertainty for most of us.
We’ve got from days of anxiety and stress over our workloads to anxiety and stress over our health and our futures.
In a sense, everything, everything, everything has changed.
It’s easy in these times to get sucked into the cyclical, dangerous habit of being absorbed by the bad news that flashes across our televisions every few minutes. It’s easy to focus on the negatives, on fear, on all of the things that are going wrong.
That’s understandable. We need to be prepared, be aware, and be ready for what’s coming. We can’t ignore the danger we’re all in and the severity of this pandemic. We need to make wise choices and do what we can to mitigate the situation.
Still, in the middle of disaster, one thought keeps coming up in my mind: What matters most?
It’s a question that, again, we see thrown on quote walls and tossed around on inspirational posts online. But for me, before this pandemic uprooted our lives, I don’t know if I really knew how to answer it.
A few weeks ago, there were countless things that mattered. There were numerous decisions that seemed crucial in my daily life. Everything from what to wear to what to post on social media to how much expendable income I could collect seemed like the most important things in the world. Impressing others and attending social events even if I didn’t want to and collecting material things and choosing the best coffee at Starbucks and making sure my eyebrows were perfect and… the list goes on and on.
But now, in this forced slow down, the one blessing I’ve found is that I have the time to shove all of the superficial aspects of my day aside. With nowhere to be and nowhere to go, I’ve been able to spend time sitting in my hammock, taking in the sunshine, and just thinking about it all—a luxury few of us take advantage of in the rat race that has become our normal schedules.
With the forced slow down and the extra time for introspection, a sense of clarity has certainly come forward. What matters most?
Not the things I used to think mattered before all of this happened.
Simple things, simple words, that are arguably the biggest of them all. Still, a few weeks ago, I feel like the other things—social media, looks, money—were all getting in the way of me realizing the truth.
My loved ones, finding joy in the simple moments, and health are the most important things.
Sometimes it takes a major tragedy for us to step back and look at our lives. I’m not saying I’m glad the pandemic came. I’m not saying it’s something we should be grateful for. Still, in the middle of the darkness, I do think there’s a potential light that can shine through.
Because when we’re forced to strip it all down to the bare necessities, when we’re forced to step back from our routines and our schedules, we are sometimes afforded the quietude to hear our inner selves. We are afforded the sudden clarity to see what the foundation of our lives is actually built around.
I’ve seen a lot of posts about how this pandemic will change us as a nation, as a world. I know not all of those changes will be good. I know there are major sacrifices being made and still to come. Many of us will suffer insurmountable amounts of loss.
Still, it is my hope that in the middle of it all, we can find a new sense of appreciation for what matters most in our lives—and do our best to foster a stronger sense of gratitude for those things, even when the storm has cleared and the sun is out again.
Stay Safe. Stay Healthy. Stay Focused on What Matters Most.
Author L.A. Detwiler