During the summer, I was in a meeting with colleagues across departments at my workplace. We were grappling with how to conceptualize the COVID-19 pandemic. A few people in the virtual meeting wanted to make sure that we were not making blanket statements about these times. One person emphasized that we were all in the same storm, but we were on different boats.
Ever since that colleague made that analogy, I noticed similar versions of this storm and boat imagery in my daily life. On Facebook, I spotted this post:
The Financial Times published an article with this headline: Covid: we’re in the same storm but not the same boat.
Whenever I feel like I live in a different world from the other people in my social networks, I remind myself of that. It keeps me grounded and centered.
A couple months ago, my colleague went on an international trip for a wedding. After this person returned, people asked all sorts of questions about the trip.
In that meeting, I felt like I was on a different boat from everyone else.
While they were learning more about this international vacation, I started to be reminded of all of the precautions that my medical team had given me as a cancer survivor.
In the early months of the pandemic, I asked a nurse about how cautious I had to be. Could I get a massage or acupuncture? Could I get a routine checkup with my optometrist or dentist? These were practices that I normally relied on for self-care, but in the pandemic I was not sure if the benefits of these services were worth the risk. After listening to my thought process, the nurse told me that I would have to overcompensate for the other people who were not taking all of the precautions that they could.
Throughout the pandemic, I have been strongly aware of how much I have to overcompensate for other people’s lack of precaution. Simple activities in my community have been scary. In my post What You Can Learn from Cancer Survivors, I wrote about how seeing others not wear masks or socially distance made what should have been a healthy activity become less safe. I published this post in July. You would think that progress has been made since then.
That could not be further from the truth. I have gone on walks in my neighborhood as recently as last week and witnessed a bunch of people playing basketball without masks at the park. This is not the first time I observed people engaging in this activity in this way, and I am sure it will not be the last time either.
This month, I saw a former coworker post photos of a holiday vacation in Hawaii. Within a week or so of seeing those tropical pictures, I spotted this on Facebook:
Considering everything I have been experiencing and observing as a cancer survivor during this pandemic, I read that post and thought, “How apropos!” Social media really is spying on all of us.
Here is the funny thing: lots of experts say to disconnect from social media because it can stress you out more. If you consider my stories though, the majority of stories that I present in this post include me either engaging with my work or exercise. I could have shared more stories, but you get the point.
I can avoid social media or unfriend someone if I do not want to see their travel photos online, but what if the world traveler in a global pandemic is part of my workplace? How do I engage with my job as a cancer survivor, who is acutely aware of the fears and precautions that people with health conditions confront on a daily basis?
I can avoid other people when I am walking in my neighborhood, but how can I truly enjoy nature when there is a basketball player or runner who is maskless and breathes heavily as they dart down the street right past me?
As time has moved forward, I have adapted and continue to adjust my mindset and actions to whatever task or activity is in front of me.
These experiences make me more thoughtful and reflective about my own interactions with others.
We live in times where the mainstream media and public are consistently discussing the benefits of creating diverse communities and building inclusive cultures. What does this diversity … what does this inclusion … what do all of the buzzwords actually mean for the person who has markedly different identities and experiences from the rest of the group?
When I was enrolled in my EdM of Higher Education Program years ago, professors remarked on the educational benefits of diversity in a student body. Although my class discussed the general benefits of diversity for an academic community, we did not explicitly discuss the impacts on the people from underrepresented groups when they were charged with bringing their different perspectives.
I used to work at a prestigious college. There my students from underrepresented groups would disclose how challenging it was for them to navigate that environment. Especially when they were new to college or reached another major transition point in their education, they were repeatedly reminded of how they had significantly different life experiences from their peers. My students were building skills in adaptability and resilience. At the same time, they liked confiding in me because they felt like they could talk about how exhausting that process was without feeling the need to present an image of perfection to me.
There are days that I sometimes feel like my former students. I am building skills in adaptability and resilience. I have resolve like no other. At the same time, I also need my outlets for 100% owning and expressing my feelings without apology.
Now that is self-care.
When you are someone who is consistently riding on a much different boat from others in your community, workplace, or any other place, you deserve a space for self-care.