When COVID-19 broke, I asked myself, "What do I have now?"
I was, I think like most of us, reliant on structures of certainty I had built: relationships, jobs, communities, homes, hobbies, habits, patterns. I had built safeguard after safeguard using each of these things. I always wanted to be sure I would always have something to fall back on. And my research - well, it always steamed straight ahead. With my structures of certainty, I could do anything.
That was, until I lost just about everything.
First, I lost my home and community in a legal battle. I thought, well at least I can rely on my work running my online business. Then I lost my business due to changes in Google’s search algorithm, and I thought, at least I have the ability to get a job. Then I failed to get every one of the twenty academic positions I applied for, and I thought, at least I have some financial security.
Then due to extreme stock market volatility, I thought, at least I have people. Then when my partner and I split up, I thought, at least I have my friends. Then when my two best friends moved away, I thought, at least I can socialize. Then, when COVID-19 broke and I was forced indoors by myself in my tiny studio apartment alone, I had to ask myself — what do I have now?
For the first time in my life, I am truly sitting with the question of whether I can feel whole without anything to lean on. I am struggling to keep my research going, because all of the structures of certainty I had built have fallen away.
It is very hard. And yet I feel the rewards coming too.
I think most of us spend our entire lives running from this question. We try to fill our lives with distractions. But there is a whole world of richness when you are stripped bare. It is so painful to go to that deep, vulnerable, solitary place. But when you do, you see with new, bright eyes. You hear the birds and love them more deeply. You feel the sun and warm more intensely. You watch the sunrise and open yourself more fully.
And for your work - you come to face it more fully. There is nothing between you and your questions. There is only your passion, stripped bare. You learn to rely on that alone, and let it hold and consume you.
When you have empty spaces in your life, don’t just fill them. Lean into them. Let the beauty of the world touch you. Let your raw edges meet books, poetry, music. Let yourself sit still and feel the wind on your face. Let yourself just be, and see with new eyes.
At the bottom of everything, stripped naked, you will always have the ability to feel, breathe within, and give yourself over to the world.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Instagram and has been reposted here with permission. Minor edits have been made with the author's approval.
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