May 4, 2020

COVID-19: Alrighty then...what next?

A lesson from Jim Carrey.

    

    Seven weeks ago, I was in the process of apartment hunting in-and-around Los Angeles whilst simultaneously planning the next year or so of my life. This website of mine was brand new. I had spent the past five months teaching myself how to build it with the aim of hopefully using it as a tool in my push toward a full-time freelance writing career—all part of what I was secretly referring to as my personal "Master Plan."

    Seven weeks ago, and for the first time in my adult life, it felt like I had things in control.

   Today, nothing is the same. Not for me, nor anyone else in the entire world. Overnight, the collective human race has been thrust into the Twilight Zone by an invisible demon that is traveling the globe and wreaking havoc in its murky wake. A demon so effective, so quick, that we are now living in a world where with every passing hour the one preceding it is made obsolete. Click refresh and see. More cases, more deaths, more and more restrictions. If the aliens decided on this moment for their long-awaited arrival, our message would go to voicemail: "Planet Earth is currently unavailable, please leave a message after the beep". There is no work, zero play, and life as we know it has been further pushed into the never-ending cycle of uncertainty, our favorite global pastime.

    However, beyond the ruckus there too seems to be a sense of calm in the face of this upheaval. The rat race which churns the engine of humanity has had it's e-brake pulled, sending progress as we knew it to a grinding halt and leaving us with a highly unique moment in which we can actually breathe (though this of course must done behind the protection of our newly acquired masks). For myself, I have found an odd warmth in the situation. A sense of comfort which, I believe, might be wrapped inside the sheets of familiarity. You see, I realized that I have been here before. Here on this same bed, in this same bedroom, here on this same edge of uncertainty. The last time was in May of 2014. I had just graduated from college.

    At the same time, when my life was then without any structure, the great Jim Carrey delivered a set of powerful words to the graduating class of the Maharishi University of Management in Iowa as part of a commencement speech. When I saw the video of it later posted on YouTube, perhaps a day or two after the fact, the philosophical words struck me as a greater lesson than any I had ever encountered during my sixteen years of schooling. The gut-punch was this:

"So many of us chose our path out of fear disguised as practicality.

My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn't believe that was possible for him. So, he made a conservative choice and instead, he got a job as an accountant.

When I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. Our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."

    Call it coincidence, call it bad luck, call it whatever you want, but sometime during the immediate weeks following my father was laid off from his own "safe" job. His tenure with his employer had at that point extended somewhere in the realm of fourteen years, dating back to the days that immediately followed a different American tragedy, 9/11. For the better part of his adult my father was with this same company. All that time, all those hours and all work trips and time missed at my baseball games and other schools events, plus the senior-level job title and the paycheck to match, all this disappeared unexpectedly in a single instant with no warning, no nothing. So it was that In May of 2014, the two of us—father and son—were back under the same roof, standing on equal ground, equally unemployed.

    Fortunately, our family never had to reach the point that Jim speaks of. In a rare and fortunate twist, my father's unemployment was relatively short-lived and he ended up landing a better position than he had left. The lesson—be it learned via a “happy ending”—was thankfully not lost on me.  It would be another few months until I secured my first post-grad gig, an unpaid internship at a boutique talent management company, but throughout that period and during the numerous entry-level jobs I held in the years following, I never stopped thinking about Jim's words.

My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn't believe that was possible for him. So, he made a conservative choice and instead he got a job as an accountant.

When I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. Our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

    So, here we are, all of us who make up the current stock of the human species. Here we are, staring at our ceilings—no longer safe.

    In the past seven weeks, unemployment in the United States has soared to over 20% with 30+ million claims having been made since March. And, as of today, more than 70,000 Americans are now dead. Their decades of life and hard work? Gone in a week. Their names? Traded for a statistical number, irrelevant by the end of the hour.

    COVID-19 comes to us as the destroyer. It simply does not give a fuck. The rich, the famous, the billionaire elite, the Prime Minister of the UK, Tom Hanks, the middle class, the poor…everyone is a victim. Not only that, but how about the discovery of what is actually essential to our daily existence? The heroes of 2020 aren’t the blood-drinking billionaires, and they sure as fuck not the tone-deaf celebrities singing John Lennon's Imagine. No, the real heroes of 2020, and always for that matter, have been your neighbors who work in healthcare, your cousin who delivers your Amazon Prime packages, the old classmate who sanitizes your streets, your nieces and nephews who risk losing their lives by continuing to stock the shelves of grocery stores just so they can keep the jobs needed to pay off their inhumane levels of student loans

    For the first time in modern history, all of humanity has collectively fallen into the same belly—at the exact same time. And while darkness surrounds us, with the light at the end of the tunnel yet to been seen, let us please not forget the words of Jim Carrey.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don't want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."


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Brando Conklin © 2021