Most of us hope this virus is rendered treatable, able to be vaccinated against, and no longer a serious threat as soon as possible. We all want our lives and the lives of those around us to go back to normal as soon as it is medically safe to do so. But there are a few things I hope we learn now, and keep with us forever.
Technology is not the enemy. There are beneficial ways to use technology and harmful ways to use technology, just like everything else.
We all like to throw around terms like “internet addiction” and demand everyone put their phones in bowls when they walk into a room and limit screen time because it’s “not the real world.” Now, we are depending on the internet to do everything from go to work to go to church to get our food. Suddenly, it seems like the most real-world thing out there. Rather than pretending what we see on the internet is different from the “real world,” let’s start treating it like what it actually is….a vast public space with a lot of different paths. Yes, there are unhealthy, disrespectful, and even harmful ways to use the internet. You do need to pay more attention to your kids and your spouse than the Facebook post of the guy you sat next to in math class in tenth grade and haven’t spoken to since. But that’s because he’s a past casual acquaintance, not because you see him online. The internet also brings a lot of benefit to us. I think we’re seeing a lot of that now.
Cashiers, restaurant servers, janitors, dish washers, and other people in the service industry deserve respect for doing work that is low on the list of desirable jobs, not disdain because they didn’t “go to school” or “go out and look for a better job.”
Those people you think aren’t worth $15 an hour are the reason you don’t have to worry about eating, sleeping under clean bedding, and bathing during a massive shut down. No, you do not have to have any special training, school, or years of experience to work as a cashier or dish washer. But you do have to be willing to spend long hours in uncomfortable situations, doing work that is often monotonous and boring, for low pay, and even lower treatment. Don’t just assume someone in a service job isn’t educated or is too dense or too lazy to go out and get something better. Degrees are far from magic tickets to the job of your dreams. If you earn a degree, and there are no open positions that match those credentials, you are not getting a job in that field, no matter how great you did in school. And as for “just get a better job,” everyone who has ever worked a job they dislike wishes it were that easy.
People who work from home do real jobs. They are not all lounging on the couch watching Netflix while pushing a few keys all day.
Soon after the work from home order was announced, people began to express frustration over the realities of working from home. Some were even shocked to fully realize it’s not an extended paid vacation. When you work on site, you have the luxury of space dedicated to your work, and a group of people around you who are all there to work as well. At home workers have to do the same jobs, just with kids who don’t understand that a parent or older sibling being “home” doesn’t mean that person is available to tend to them. Or they have neighbors who neither know nor care they’re at work during certain hours and make as much noise as they want. At home workers must deal with staring at the same walls all day instead of just during their work shift. They often miss out on social interaction on-site work brings. While it is indeed a blessing for those with limited mobility, income too low to afford regular transportation or other work related expenses, or family members that cannot be left alone or in the care of someone else during the day, working from home requires its own kind of toughness.
We really don’t need many of the luxuries we have come to define as “needs.” Sometimes, there are more important things to worry about than whether or not we are having fun right now.
YouTube is a favorite time waster of mine. Learning about other peoples’ day to day lives is a great way to keep myself entertained during work breaks and ease some of the isolation I feel as an at-home worker. Sometimes, it’s not even a time waster, as I get story ideas from videos.
But if you take the wrong videos seriously, you get the idea that “the good life” involves a constant cycle of going out for meals and drinks, getting your appearance fixed up at a salon, indulging in huge shopping sprees for yourself, and hustling for more money so you can do it all again next month.
We see some of this attitude taking hold as people freak out about missed appointments for appearance maintenance. People don’t know what they’re going to do without their hair color, extensions, lash extensions, facials, fake nails, and seaweed body wraps. What you’re going to do is either learn to do beauty routines at home or see a lot more of your natural appearance. That’s about it. The people you should be worrying about right now are the ones whose livelihood depends on providing those services.
Teachers have a tough job…and you make it tougher when you teach your kids not to value anything more than themselves and how they feel.
A popular social media meme for the shutdown states, “A lot of parents are about to learn the teacher wasn’t the problem,” referring to the fact that across the country, parents are suddenly forced to teach their children themselves.
The meme refers to the common belief that what really matters is how kids see themselves, and how they feel about everything. Teachers are expected to refrain from correcting students in a way that might upset them, grading too hard, or criticizing work, in case it might make a kid feel bad.
That sounds kind on the surface, but it actually does not serve the student. It prevents them from gaining and strengthening skills they’re going to need. It actually doesn’t matter if you see yourself as a great cook when everything you prepare leads to food poisoning. If nobody had ever had the nerve to tell me I’m bad at math, I never would have worked so hard to get the basics down well enough to budget my money so well.
What it does impart is a sense of superiority that leads to narcissism. Now, on top dealing with all the other issues in their classrooms, teachers have to deal with kids who believe themselves to be above learning anything. Many parents are indeed grappling with that now….or giving up and leaving an even bigger mess for the teachers to deal with once the schools re-open.
The arts are essential. Artists serve a vital role in our culture by providing everything from a mirror, to an alternative vision, to simple relaxation and stress relief.
The same people who would smirk and say, “Oh that sounds like fun,” if someone else said they were working in theater or film are now begging for movie and television show recommendations to keep them calm and distracted during this time. Reading novels, listening to music, and enjoying virtual museum visits is serving the same purpose for a lot more people.
Remember this time whenever you’re tempted to ask an artist what their “real job” is or refuse to pay them because they “didn’t really do any work.”