Reflecting On Your Life Choices In Hard Times

Back when I used to work with George Will (during the halcyon days of Newsweek) he used to paraphrase Samuel Johnson by saying, “Nothing so clarifies the mind as dangling at the end of a rope.”

With the entire world dangling at the end of a COVID-19 rope, it’s interesting to see the clarity of folks flooding online to talk about how the shelter-in-place, work-from-home enforcements have altered their worldviews. 

Part of this is a function of having too much time on their hands, and part is the realization that one or more of your loved ones could be street-fighting for a ventilator in the next couple of weeks. And part of it is the notion that our safety may now be in the hands of drunken college sophomores cruising beach bars.

Fear is a powerful stimulus for reflection. “There are no atheists in foxholes" Is just as true today as it was in WWII. 

It’s no comfort to know that the Buck Stops with an illiterate narcissist whose moronic speculations led directly to the death of those who took his words as truth. It’s clear that if Andrew Cuomo were on the Dem ticket, it would ignite the biggest landslide in U.S. political history.

It’s a toss-up which troubles the nation more: that they could lose loved ones to an invisible virus, or that the economy is teetering on the brink of a depression, the likes of which we have not seen in our working lifetimes. 

In the back of everyone’s mind is the possible breakdown of society as we move to protect ourselves and our income. Hard to know which is selling more briskly, toilet paper or guns. 

Uncertainty clearly breeds anxiety, but also reflection. Not a day goes by when I don’t see comments on social media and in discussion groups pondering whether all this will unify or destroy us. 

There seems to be a strong underlying sense of compassion for those directly affected (especially on the medical front lines), a desire for everyone else to do “the right thing” — be it not hoarding and not congregating in conflict with local emergency ordinances — and selfless offers of help for whoever needs it.  It reminds me vividly of the way 9/11 unified the nation — at least for a while.

The nation is tired of being polarized by politics. Over the Trump years, we have descended into finger-pointing and blaming the other guy regardless of the facts and where the truth lies. To add COVID-19 and a recession on top is enough for anyone to say, “Ok, enough. Let’s unite and support each other and put the partisanship behind us.”

I see self-assessments, with folks wondering whether the type of job and the way they have done it in the past is consistent with a fulfilling life of love and purpose. Also, whether this might be a good moment to take stock, adjust how and why we work, so that the future (however fleeting at the moment) will be more fulfilling. 

This is a good thing. We do not stop to smell the roses or even to pat ourselves on the back for doing the right thing often enough.

It is hard to pause and reflect when you are going 100 miles an hour keeping all those plates spinning.

It will be interesting to see whether a recessionary economy even allows people to make smarter, more fulfilling work choices — or forces them to stay in the rut to protect their income. 

But even if you are not able to use this time to reflect on your career path, I suspect that like so many others, you are being a little more appreciative of your loved ones and how much they mean to you (even if they are maddeningly underfoot these days). 

It often takes a crisis to get us to count our blessings and appreciate that the glass is always half-full. Cherish the reflection. In a couple of months, it might all be too far behind us.

1 comment about "Reflecting On Your Life Choices In Hard Times".
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  1. Leo Scullin from MMA, March 27, 2020 at 11:14 a.m.

    Nuce sentiments here and thanks for the encouraging words. I remember those halcyon days of Newsweek when you, Bill Reilly and me would depart 444 Madison for our after work walk to the Upper East Side. Nice to reflect on the things that mattered and still matter. Best to you and your family. Wash your hands.
    Leo Scullin

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