• Flux Magazine

"Strength, Stoicism, and the Pandemic" by Becca DeMent

Wow, what a time. I know I don’t need to tell you. And I know you’ve seen all the memes about sitting around being bored, watching Netflix and changing out of one set of pj's into another. But there are also many of us out there who don’t have this luxury. Some of us are having to work double-time. Some might be on Disney+ getting stoned all day but others are losing their jobs, having to watch their children, or having to work harder with more external stresses than ever before. I know this is a hard pill to swallow but ​boredom during the pandemic is a privilege​. Celebrity Instagram lives are great for fluffy entertainment for the sake of keeping happy morale, but many don’t need “happiness” or entertainment right now. Miley Cyrus who is a fantastic celebrity activist, especially for the LGBTQ community, has been running an Instagram live show called Bright Minded. She brings on different celebrities and talks about things for the sake of positive morale. I’m not trying to discredit the benefit of good vibes. Emotional support is indeed needed right now and celebrities like Miley are doing all they ​can​ do. But imagine if they used their fortunes to donate food and supplies to health care workers and families in need. Gemma Chan from ​Crazy Rich Asians​ just packaged and donated a bunch of food to medical professionals in London. Essential workers, medical professionals, and families and individuals have steeply increased burdens due to this pandemic. I’m not sure if you’ve seen this yet, but aren’t we so lucky? Aren’t we so blessed that during one of the worst international pandemics in modern history we can spend it ​safely​, ​warmly, well-fed,​ and contrary to the memes, ​well entertained​ and in our ​homes?​ Those who have received REAL struggles from this pandemic don’t have the luxury of being bored. They need to keep their shit together, and that means a call to strength.

On the morning of March 30th, I woke up and had mine over the phone therapy appointment. I talked about middle school and how I was called out of mediocrity at a point and decided that I needed to get my s together if I wanted to succeed. As wonderful as gentle feelings about mental health have been for me, and necessary in comforting my emotions, sometimes I forget that it's been putting feelings aside that can make one very focused. Focus is key here during the pandemic. Focusing on class. Focusing on eating right. Focusing on working out at home. Also focusing at work which has more hungry, struggling people rushing to the drive-through than ever before and screaming at us. Focusing on keeping a schedule together so that there is time for work, family, and play. And focus on the self. Focusing on not screaming and crying. Focusing on not losing loans. Focusing on not losing a bed because of a lack of mortgage or rent payments. Focusing on not losing control and succumbing to the abrasive and unpredictable world around us right now. I don’t need Netflix and happy twitter feeds. I need to keep my shit together. I need to be strong.

Right now 25% of ​America​ is unemployed. Working parents, young and old individuals alike are being laid off and furloughed every day, and someone has to pick up the slack. Young and old people are having to support the parents who have supported them for so long. Parents have children to watch since school is canceled, and if they are fortunate to have work some parents are having to sacrifice it to care for their children. The largest stimulus package in all of American history, two trillion dollars, has just made headway. This package does not support many college students because they are claimed as dependents by parents, but are over the age of qualification which is 16. It also does not protect undocumented American residents who are ​imperative​ to the success and functioning of the American economy. Other questions and answers can be found in the link provided at the end of this article. Many are worried about how this pandemic ​will​ affect our economy, but I’d like to question rather how our existing economy has received it. County’s are scrambling to get their countless homeless into hotels and provide beds somehow. Businesses are reserving hours before opening for the elderly to shop. And all the sudden washing your hands is important. Our society already had so many homeless, who never received much attention before. People are so excessive in their selfish hoarding that it puts the elderly at risk. And washing hands was important before. This pandemic is showing our current economic and social system that regular hygiene needs to be regularly practiced, that we need to stop the ​causes​ of homelessness, that we shouldn’t be selfish and think about those who aren’t as physically ​abled(​ elderly, disabled, children, needy, etc.) as we when we go out into the world. How was our system already so designed to screw so many over?

Some of us ​had​ to go home, and some of us ​had​ to stay. Some of us are in unsafe environments. Some of us are in unpredictable ones. This time of uneasiness has allowed fear to enter our lives where normalcy protected us before. I know plenty of individuals who have returned to anti-LGBTQ homes, and others who can evade them. Some did not have homes to return to, and the stress of finding a new one is intense. Some had to start providing for their families while they are still children and have their own academic and personal needs to juggle at the same time. You might be having to care for your brothers, sisters, elderly, and or parents while being a student. You might have to be paying your way as a student. You might have to be going to work as a student. You might be the parent as a student. You might be an adult as a very young person.

If you are dealing with anything mentioned, here is what I hope for you. Be strong. Be hard. Be logical and strategic. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. There is time for compassion and self-reflection but I know you have a lot of very real and practical things to be juggling as well. Focus and be hard-lined. Get what needs to get done. Life will be better after. These days aren’t going to last together and no one knows when things will change but what you know is that you need to keep your life from falling apart. Keep your house in order and don’t let things fall apart. I am currently taking six classes, working 4-5 days a week, working an internship, having to support my family in more ways than I had to before the pandemic, have been moved out of my house and staying somewhere as a guest, might have to move, and frankly have to keep my head on straight. Many are having to struggle more than I as well. My fellow young people who are having to grow so quickly right now, you are not alone and you can do it. You have the strength. Stay focused and stay wise. Stay hard, for you won’t have to be that way forever. Diamonds are formed under pressure and they are the hardest substance in the known universe.

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