In These Uncertain Times

I have been bombarded with this phrase through emails, ads on TV, radio, news media and everyday conversations. But it doesn’t resonate with me. The times have always felt uncertain to me.

I think this is largely a product of my age. I’m young — or at least that’s what I’m told when I complain about feeling old — and most of my life thus far can be characterized as uncertain.

I know I’m not alone in this, most of my friends feel the same way. I once asked a mentor of mine if there were periods of his life when he felt like he had no clue what was going on or what he was doing.

He replied, “Yes, my 20s.”

So maybe this uncertainty just comes with the territory. I’m still learning who I am and where I fit in the world; there’s a lot of uncertainty in that.

But I think it gives me a different perspective on our current emergency. Because that’s what this is: the current emergency.

This isn’t to say I’m immune to the effects — physical or otherwise — of the coronavirus. As a freelance writer, work is slow, at best, for me. I’ve had to apply for unemployment benefits for the first time in my life.

And besides a few bad joints, I’m healthy. I’m not overly worried about what will happen if I get the virus. I have a safe place to self-isolate and I’m confident I’d recover.

To me, this is yet another storm and the chaos it brings is familiar to me. So I look at it the way I do in any time of chaos within my life and I ask myself: How can I adapt?

The philosopher Sun Tzu said, “In the midst of chaos, there is opportunity.”

We’re seeing our ways of life flipped on their heads because of this pandemic. And I don’t think that’s entirely bad. I think it’s an opportunity for growth and change. It’s uncomfortable, but discomfort is essentially requisite for growth of any kind.

Take for example telecommuting, the logistics and efficacy of which have been debated for years. Right now, we’re reliant on telecommuting, it’s the only way for many people to work. And we’re learning that people like it and productivity is even higher in some job sectors.

What if we abandon our reservations about working from home? What if we could reduce the amount of office spaces we need in this country and redirect that real estate to combat housing deficiencies?

Spaces that are only in use during business hours and parts of the week, now housing people instead. Fewer people commuting into work would mean less traffic, resulting in reduced carbon emissions and theoretically faster transportation of products that could have positive economic impacts.

This pandemic has exposed many problems in how parts of our society are structured. From our health care system to food distribution — there are so many examples of ways we can take what we’re learning from this crisis and use that to improve.

When I hear people say: “I can’t wait for things to go back to normal,” I can’t help but feel a bit disheartened. I know what they mean, they miss their lives, their friends and family. I do too.

But I look at how the coronavirus has stressed so many of our country’s issues and I think to myself: why would we go back to the status quo?

One of the few things I know about the world is that change is inevitable. Sometimes it knocks on the door, other times, like right now, it kicks the door down and makes itself at home.

We can effect change on our terms or we can wait for change to affect us. We are the captains of our fate.

Caleb Galbreath is a freelance journalist who lives in Longbranch.