Every story has a villain, hero, victim and guide.
According to author Donald Miller in a recent Instagram post, this is what makes a good narrative in fiction and what makes up the narrative of our real lives. The thing to remember, Miller says, is that within all of us is the ability to be any of these characters. We just have to choose who we want to be.
It’s probably safe to say, our true colors as a society have shown in this global pandemic. It was in the height of toilet paper hoarding and panic buying that Miller’s character theory seemed to come alive for me.
Our true colors as a society have shown in this global pandemic.
The villains, heroes and guides seem obvious. Some people have been upselling face masks in parks while others have been showing up to hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants every day, but the role of the victim made me pause and think. Mostly because I think this character was me.
My own colors had not been exactly what I wanted. No, my shelves have not filled with hoarded groceries and sanitizer, but my anxiety escalated to consuming heights. I lived in fear where everything I touched and everywhere I went became the enemy. My main concern was staying away from what could hurt me, and before I knew it, I hadn’t thought of anyone but myself. This is not the kind of person I ever want to be, global pandemic or not.
There’s something raw about all the regular things in life getting shaken down and pushed out of reach. The comforts we rely on are no longer there. We’re standing, but it feels like the ground beneath us could slide out at any moment. It’s scary.
Yet, another thing happens when all those safety nets go away—when we’re unsure of our health, jobs, future, hobbies and normal way of life. We’re left with the rawest and most true version of ourselves. I realized I wasn’t as great as I hoped.
When we’re unsure of our health, jobs, future, hobbies and normal way of life, we’re left with the rawest and most true version of ourselves.
So what do I do with that?
I’ve been told before that you have to fight for your growth and not always wait for it to happen. As tragic and hard as the world is right now, it also feels like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see with new eyes.
Never in our lives will the world slow down as it has. Never in our lives will FOMO and comparison be so quiet. Never will we be so free to spend time at home and with our thoughts and dreams. Never in my life will I have an opportunity to see myself so clearly for who I am, but also have the space to figure out how to keep moving toward the person I want to be.
This can be a breath of fresh air. There’s no doubt we will all feel different when this season is over. What will that change in us look like? Will it be worth holding onto? Will it leave us scarred? Will we come out on the other side as a better version of ourselves?
Will we come out on the other side as a better version of ourselves?
A few weeks into this global quarantine and the anxiety has begun to settle just a little. Life feels like it’s hit a different pace. It was the other night, walking the quiet streets of my neighborhood with my roommates that I realized how nice it felt to not be consumed by all the things I usually have swirling in my head. When I used to physically go into my office, I moved fast. I got there early to work on side projects and left late, always running off to do errands, go shopping or work some more. I was utterly exhausted all the time but I didn’t know how to stop.
Now, I’m just present—forced to stop. Walking with those I loved and giving them all of my attention, not thinking of myself or what I needed to do. They felt more important than anything else in the world.
I’m not always a silver-lining kind of girl, but we’re told in life to seize opportunities when they are handed to us. This moment feels like a secret window, giving me a glimpse into what-could-be. I don’t want to spoil it.
This season does not have to happen to you. It can be more than just the months where you were unsure of where life would go and of when you asked questions like, “What actually matters most to me?” This is what I’m doing—I’m choosing to fight for a different character than the one I was a few weeks ago, and not just for right now but for life.
This season does not have to happen to you.
I beg you to let right now mean something. Let it saturate your mind. Lean into the things that scare you. Feel the things that matter most as they bubble to the surface, unrestrained by the regular busyness of life. Let them fill you up and push your feet toward the person you truly want to be.
What have you been learning about yourself throughout this time of social distancing? Are there any areas where you’d like to grow?
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography