"It could all be simple, but you'd rather make it hard"
- Lauryn Hill
This last year was one of the hardest I've ever had to endure.
The pandemic we have all been grappling with since March of 2020 has been an unprecedented reality that has tormented many. It has caused immeasurable pain and taught lessons none of us ever thought we would even have to learn. Yet we learned, because we had to.
The world is changing. "We" are not the "we" who existed before the pandemic started. In the last 21 months, society has witnessed violence against citizens, our hospital system become overwhelmed, the deaths of many– some of whom were our loved ones. We witnessed nature burning, financial troubles, and democracy itself being threatened. We have seen some of the worst of humanity in these 21 months.
However, this is not how the way "we" is defined has changed. It has changed because of how people have chosen to react. The "we" of today has stared adversity in the eye and challenged it at every turn. Racial justice continues to be a conversation that people think is worth fighting for; modern medicine has seen advances thought to be impossible two years ago; we have entered into group mourning for those lost and practiced more empathy than every before for our fellow human. The "we" of today continues working to combat the changing climate, promote financial equity, and oppose tyranny and systems of oppression as they appear. And I choose to believe that this represents some of the best of who we are.
Yes, this pandemic caused pain, and I do sometimes wish I could turn back time and return to how things were before, but we cannot change the past; we cannot run from change; we can only learn from it and grow as individuals. As I think about all I have learned in the last year, I think of the old adage of "turning lemons into lemonade" and focus on the lessons of those lost, sacrifices of those still around, and possibility presented in those still to come. I choose to not turn back to comfort because there's no turning back.
We can't go back now.
Myles Maxie is a Middlebury College graduate. A Southern California native, Maxie works to positively influence the communities he finds himself in to instill hope and empower those around him to advocate for change.