These days, there’s no question about it — life is hard.
Life is brutal, with the typical disaster of early adulthood colliding with a constant hovering cloud of politics, health, safety, society and culture to rain on our already fairly pathetic parade.
But life is also something that exists within each one of us, undeniably ours and impossible to seize. In the midst of our uncertain world, it’s important to recognize the power and importance of our individual reactions, emotions and experiences. They give meaning to the crazy lives we live.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a lot of announcements, strategies and campaigns to secure public health and minimize the effects of the virus. Still, no theme seems as common as the community angle.
As links in a chain restraining COVID-19, we become part of the solution, saving ourselves and our neighbors from certain doom. Popular campaigns, such as #AloneTogether and #allinthistogether, remind us that there are billions of people in the world undergoing the exact same pandemic.
For overall public health reasons, this method of response makes a lot of sense. These campaigns evoke compassion and empathy on a large scale, gathering people together to collectively prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But no matter the chosen response, consequences emerge. Though these community-based campaigns have been very useful, they have a large flaw.
Let’s be honest — even if we’re all experiencing the pandemic together, we aren’t experiencing it the same way.
The most glaring example of this is the juxtaposition between the average person and celebrities. Even though many public figures have tried to “unite” the world community online, such as Gal Gadot’s disastrous rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which depicted celebrities singing from the comfort of their extravagant homes, they have definite advantages — better home situations, faster testing and financial security.
Still, less extreme circumstances like income, community, race and gender also make key differences. Even geographic location is important. As someone who has experienced COVID-19 in both urban Lincoln and rural western Nebraska, the challenges for each location were drastically different, leaving the people there with drastically different reactions and experiences.
Community-based campaigns perpetuate the mindset that because we’re all experiencing the same overarching phenomenon, we should also have similar responses. This can invalidate the emotions and experiences we’ve had as individuals.
COVID-19 has compromised our fundamental need to be individual, to be unique and outstanding. It fits us into a bubble that looks like 7.8 billion others and tells us that no matter our struggles, we are the same.
So where do we go with this information? Do we disregard the idea of community and throw it to the wolves?
The short answer is of course not. Pandemics must be examined on a community level because they are community-based disasters. It would be absurd and deadly to take an “every man to himself” or “to each their own” approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, we should examine our reactions to the pandemic individually. Our emotions and experiences should not be considered cut-and-paste responses to a global event. They are shaped by our identity and deserve to be protected. They are unique and valuable, and by recognizing that, we refuse to surrender our bodies or our minds to COVID-19.
Yes, life is hard. But that doesn’t mean we all should grit our teeth and bear the pain. React to the trauma of these times without shame. Seek help if you need it, either from loved ones or from professional sources, such as the psychological resources available here on campus.
We may be stronger together. But that strength starts within each one of us.
Emma Krab is a sophomore English and journalism major. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.