Kim Kardashian, COVID, War… What’s The Point Anymore? 

Even living in your own bubble isn’t a guarantee to keep you free from thinking about political and social issues.

COVID, war, depression
The author of the article, Jana Godshall.

Is it too early to call in sick for the rest of the year? With headline news stories like ‘COVID Is Not Over’, ‘Airstrikes Hit Kyiv Again’, ‘Russia Bombs Maternity Hospital’, and ‘Kim Kardashian Gives Women Business Advice’, it’s hard to find the will to go about a normal day. We are heavily burdened with negativity and scary situations that staying motivated is a tall order, especially when all we want to do is pull the covers up over our heads and wait this out. But we don’t even know what kind of timeline we’re on, which adds another layer of uncertainty.

While I realize the popular term of the decade is ‘lean-in’, I’m not sure this is what Sheryl Sandberg meant. Do we ‘lean-in’ to uncertainty (aka accept it)? When we were introduced to the pandemic, I don’t think most of us were under the impression that in 2022 we would still be in the thick of it. I think a lot of us are starting to give up on the idea of a post-pandemic normal. 

In fact, I’m writing this from my bed with my first bout of COVID-19. I’ve somehow managed to resist the virus until now. While I am fully vaccinated and boosted, I feel absolutely lousy. My head is pounding as if there’s a band of tiny monkeys playing trumpets, which just means they keep jumping on the trumpets and throwing them around because they don’t actually know what a trumpet is. And on top of the trumpet lesson, it feels like someone is sitting on my chest as they inhale mouthfuls of meatballs just making them heavier and heavier while my chest feels tighter and tighter. And yet, my symptoms are mild because of my vaccination, so I guess that’s the bright side. 

My point isn’t to complain, but rather highlight this really unique period that we’re in. Medically, socially, environmentally and politically — times are stressful all around, and it isn’t easy staying positive. It’s also impossible to ignore the current climate; even living in your own bubble isn’t a guarantee to keep you free from thinking about political and social issues (that don’t directly effect you). It actually seems more dangerous than ever to attempt complete bubble-living oblivion.  

Medically speaking: This pandemic has changed the lives of so many individuals. People have lost friends and family members and guess what, not all of them were on their way out or had preexisting conditions. And even so, no matter any preexisting illness, no one’s time deserves to be robbed on things we can contain. In addition, we all have at least one tragic or funny COVID tale that we will retell for the rest of our lives, and while a lot of people didn’t want to continue to acknowledge COVID in 2021, no one escaped it. There were new rules, mandates, vaccine and testing protocols, so wherever you stood on your beliefs in the virus, you weren’t able to outrun the conversations that were happening. 

Socially speaking: Over the last couple of years, people have distanced themselves from family and friends due to vaccination disputes, Q-Anon conspiracies, politics and social injustice disagreements. Worldwide we have seen a gross amount of Asian hate in relation to the pandemic. We have also read about insane vaccine disputes. In America, a brother shot his own brother to death over a vaccine debate. Fiery arguments were had over police brutality and the lack of justice served to the innocent and unarmed mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons who were killed for no reason. Q-Anon has straight-up broken families apart as the Q-Anon followers wait for further instructions from Elvis.

The misinformation circling households is nothing short of terrifying, and I’m not being hyperbolic. We have reached threat-level midnight with the spreading of misinformation on COVID-19, vaccines, Ukraine, and on the war. And as we have seen in the last two years, misinformation can create deadly situations, so we really need to tighten up as a human race and be better at fact-checking our news outlets and just bestowing the littlest bit of compassion. 

Environmentally speaking: Scientists are legitimately begging us to be better with earth, but we’re not. We use too much plastic, burn too much fuel, and when COVID came along we kind of pushed earth and Greta Thunberg to the back burner, and she’s literally melting, earth that is. I’m sure Greta’s not melting; rather, she’s just really disappointed in us. 

Politically speaking: Just as we forgot about earth due to COVID, we forgot about COVID for a minute when Putin invaded Ukraine. It was too much to digest. Our brains are only wired to take in so much at once. All we could think about was Ukraine, and as the shock subsided, people began to worry about what the war means to them?  What will the war bring to their own perspective countries? Everyone is worried about gas prices rising and the impact of refugees. Europe, North America, and even parts of Asia will all feel the effect of gas prices due to the war.

Many countries are working together to create response plans for refugees. Approximately 35,000 refugees have already arrived in Italy, and the Italo-Ukraine cultural association is estimating another 800,000 refugees will arrive. The influx of refugees will impact many countries, and hopefully, we can continue to open our arms to those in need. We, as a united world, have already been susceptible to the effects of the economy due to the pandemic, and now with the war in Ukraine, it’s pretty easy to assume that the economy will worsen and be impaired by this, meaning things will get worse before they get better. Do we know to what degree? No. Which only invites further uncertainty. Again, am I supposed to ‘lean-in’? Because honestly, I really just want to lie down.

But more than gas prices and financial woes, let us not forget about those who are suffering. Let us not forget about the citizens of Ukraine, and the innocent people whose lives are forever destroyed. We may not be able to afford our beachfront condo this summer (because of inflation), but that seems like a mild inconvenience compared to those who are forced to depart the only land they ever knew. 

I think it’s worth noting that in addition to Ukraine, Colombia, Myanmar, Syria, Libya and Mali are currently in civil wars. South Sudan is at war as is Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are more. They are all terrible. There is a lot of talk about why the war in Ukraine is garnering so much more attention than other wars or crises that are happening now. Why is it getting more attention than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? I think there are a lot of reasons. I think predominantly white countries unfortunately still get more news coverage. I think the sanctions make a really big difference because when everyone is affected, everyone wants to talk about it, and we’re already seeing that it’s making a global impact.

However, I think the biggest reason is Putin himself. There are always leaders the world will be afraid of. For example, if Kim Jong Un was at war, I think the world would be pretty freaking nervous. His war would garner the world’s attention, much like Putin, and I believe it’s because these men are dangerous wild cards who treat their own people as dispensable. We think we know what they are capable of, but they want to make sure we have no idea. These are power hungry tyrants who will go Rambo-style-rogue for the sake of their vanity. There is nothing scarier than a madman who lacks the ability to reason.  

Sidebar: A little proof that I have COVID-brain — I just deleted about 300 words where I was comparing Putin to Veruca Salt. Remember, she was the least likable character from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They both want the whole world, and they want it now. While they may have that in common, in no way is it deserving of a long, far reaching analogy. Though it would be funny to see Putin singing the solo to his daddy about how much he wants a goose that lays golden eggs right before he falls down the bad egg chute and is trapped in some Oompa Loompa dimension for all eternity. End Sidebar. 

Okay, so where are we as of March 2022? We have wars; we have a pandemic; we have icebergs melting; we have forests burning; we have police brutality; we have social injustices occurring around the clock. So guys, I have to ask. How are we doing mentally?  Well, I think it’s fair to say many of us are exhausted, and as we’ve established feeling pretty uncertain about our futures or just the future in general. In fact, the uncertainty is overwhelming. What can our futures look like? How do we even make plans when everything seems to fall apart? 

I spoke with high school teacher Becky Louise. She teaches in Italy, and I was curious as to what degree our youths are impacted by these stressors. She informed me that, “The pandemic and now the war in Ukraine has made it difficult for students to visualize a future where they can plan ahead for goals that won’t be disrupted by a global pandemic or conflict. Particularly, international students whose quality of life depends on the ability to travel freely between countries. Many struggle to motivate themselves without a sense of certainty in future plans. Exams may or may not be canceled, university places deferred or students will be unable to attend future education in the country of their choice. Why engage in the present if the pathway you’re planning for may not even exist?” Oooff. It’s a lot. I’m grown. I may not act like it all the time, but I never had to feel this weight as a teenager. It’s hard enough as an adult. 

Hopelessness, depression, and despondency are symptoms of these times as are the polar opposite emotions, such as an aloofness to the situations or an overall sense of ‘can’t be bothered by something that doesn’t affect me’. We can’t just sip on our bubbles whilst living in a bubble and pretend things that are actually happening aren’t. I mean, you can, but I think eventually your body will break out into hives. And waiting until things affect us directly before we start to care about them is something we all do, but we really should unlearn this behavior. 

In January 2020, COVID-19 was news, but since it wasn’t affecting every single person in some way, it wasn’t exactly making any dents in anyone’s lives (outside of China). But by February 2020, it was spreading. Italy was on lockdown, and for those of us in Italy, we tried to warn our families and friends in other parts of the world that the virus would come. For the most part, the news didn’t really affect anyone so much (in terms of changing their routines), until COVID actually arrived at their own front doors.

We are stuck on this learning cycle where we cannot compute information until we experience it directly. It was Keats who said, “Nothing is real until it is experienced.” And while he’s not wrong, we can’t continue this way, not when it comes to pandemics and wars. 

It’s like we’re little kids. Our parents tell us not to touch a hot pan, but we touch it anyway. We touch because apparently we want to know what their definition of hot is. We can’t just look at pictures of Kyiv and say, “Oh, it’s terrible.” We can’t look at people dying from COVID and shrug, “Well, what can we do?” We can’t wait until the problem is right in front of us to start wanting to do something about it. If the last two years have taught us anything, the problems will inevitably arrive anyway, so why not care sooner? You know, everyone claims to be an empath, so be one.  

But that still doesn’t solve our current motivation deficiency. Where can we find this motivation to care when there is so much uncertainty about the future? Well, it looks like we have to ‘lean-in’ after all and accept the uncertainty. And I promise I didn’t want to come to this conclusion, but here I am. If we accept and ‘lean-in’ to the uncertainty that life brings us then maybe we can start acting instead of reacting; like the aphorism says, “what we resist persists.” What is uncertain won’t go away, and ignoring it, will only prolong the uneasiness. Accept the uncertainty (aka ‘lean-in’) and it could just be that piece of absurdity that unlocks the box that holds the key to an unknown door where you’ll find a few moments of happiness. Or you could ‘lean-in’ to uncertainty by accepting that it’s the only certainty we know. I didn’t come up with that one. I’m paraphrasing John Allen Paulos, a mathematician who specializes in math logic, so seems legit. 

And if you feel overwhelmed or tired and are thinking what’s the point of trying, the world is doomed. Hey, I get it. I’m right there with you, but I’m not winning this way. I’m not thriving. I see overly positive people, and I’m afraid of them too. I think there’s toxicity to it somehow, but my way isn’t right either. Staying unmotivated and not wanting to try anymore because the world is doomed isn’t the answer. We must find a better balance, which I know sounds like an annoying conclusion, but why not find that happy medium to the really big issues — not just your Saturday night plans.

Let me leave you with some poignantly put together words by Mr. Oscar Wilde. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” We can be certain that there will always be a consistency of unfortunate events and trying times. We can look for the good (though sometimes sparse), but better yet, we can try to do some good with our time. Otherwise, it’s too damn easy to stay in bed. 

P.S.  I just looked up to see what the top trending topics were of peoples’ Google searches in the past seven days. I was expecting to find Putin, Ukraine, Covid, Vaccines, War, etc., but they didn’t even make it into the top 20. More than half of the searches were sports-related and a Kardashian, so I guess everyone’s okay? Maybe this whole rant of mine was just an overreaction. No one’s feeling uncertain about the current climate of the world, just me? Okay, well, I’ll just be over here trying to ‘lean-in’ and accept this news on my own… Thanks a lot.