COVID and Our Roots

Hey all… welcome back to my pink room!

Grab a seat, get comfortable… we might be here for a little while. So I decided that with this post we might get a little bit more serious and I can let you in on some of my thoughts about what COVID is perhaps revealing about us and our society. So let’s just jump in…

“COVID-19”, I am sure has become one of the most frequently used words in 2020 perhaps in close tie with “Trump” or “corona”. I already talked about how it fundamentally altered my life in ways I wasn’t expecting in a million years starting with zoom university. But I think it also did something else slightly more important. It forced me to recreate what I thought my life needed or rather what I needed for my life to makes sense.

In the course of a few days everything that I had taken for granted about my life was ripped away. If it was walking everyday to and from classes and around campus, sitting in silence with friends (which doesn’t really happen very often for me if I am honest), or staying up too late laughing or crying with a friend in their dorm room, they were all no longer possible. And so alone in my bedroom, I was forced to reckon with both why I did those things and why their absence was so devastating.

But this was often a messy process. Yes, I needed to understand the root of what I did, the root of the life I had been living in order to best live my new life. But it wasn’t always clear what those roots actually were. Instead, I would often discover my core needs through a kind of trial error. I learned that I did not feel well when I would stay in the house all day or wouldn’t talk to anyone on the phone or failed to take a moment to pause and be in the present.

And it pushed me in many ways to turn back and reflect on a time when I felt well before my new quarantine life. And I soon discovered that at the root of walking to class had been regular movement and access to fresh air. At the root of silence with friends had been a desire to just enjoy the present moment. And at the root of those late nights with friends had been a desire to thwart the hovering loneliness and to know and be known by others.

And so I then decided in order to feel well in my new quarantine life, I would need to find ways to replicate those most basic elements. I started walking outside regularly, exercising consistently to be present in my body and setting up daily phone/zoom sessions with friends. However, I also discovered I did not want to take all the elements of my life before quarantine with me. I realized at the core of my destructive sleep habits and obsessive coffee drinking was fear and I did not need that to be well. So I left it behind.

So ultimately, COVID forced to me to reckon with the roots of my daily life and then make active decisions about whether or not I would replant those roots in the new life I was creating. And I am guessing many of us went through a similar process in our own personal lives. Maybe you picked up a hobby or started running again or found a passion for organizing elaborate zoom parties, but either way you found ways to recreate what you needed and leave behind what you did not. Our lives were literally uprooted and our most core values laid before us. And we then had to decided whether or not to replant them in our new soil.

But the truth is that this process of uprooting and replanting did not only happen in our individual lives but also with our most basic institutions, systems and foundations. COVID made us sick but it did not ruin our roots, it just forced us to pull them up. From health care to prisons, work to school we as a nation, as states, as communities had decided what the point of those systems really were. What was at their core? And then whether or not we wanted to bring those systems and their core values into the new life we were co-creating.

And so then the choices that we have made both at national and local levels reveal something deeper than perhaps they might seem on first look. Our choices reflect our roots. Our choices define what we believe are the core values of each institution that we were forced to recreate. And many of us, at least the ones paying attention were disgusted, surprised, saddened or for some just validated at what appeared to be our foundations.

When health officials were forced to ask themselves who deserves to be treated, who needs protection more often than not it did not extend to Black bodies, disabled bodies or uninsured bodies. When local governments were presented with the unsafety of hundreds of thousands of incarcerated bodies stuffed together in unhealthy living conditions, many chose to turn a blind eye and focus on the needs of their real citizens. When corporations making billions of dollars in sales, were forced to make decisions about sick leave, and other safety related policies many chose to garnish wages and discourage safety procedures for sick minimum waged bodies. When school boards and superintendents had to make decisions on how to instruct students online, many chose to prioritize means of discipline over mental health resources, attendance over learning and “accurate” grading over empathy.

So, yes our choices reflect our values. Our choices expose our roots. And to me our roots seem to be sicker than our citizens.

Well sadly, we have once again made it to the end of our time together. Next week we will probably dig a little deeper into some of the specific choices that my school district made which point to our foundations. If you want to find out join me back here in my pink room at 11 am ET on Monday.

Have great weekend and see you then!

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