by Logan Bost
I promise this post is about joy – my own and in general – please bear with me.
I read somewhere recently – I think it was originally a twitter post, which I saw on Facebook, and am not able to appropriately cite – that what older generations need to understand about millennials is that, in general as a group in the U.S., it is difficult for us to believe that, on a large scale, things will be good again, ever. We have been told for many years that the Earth is warming and will be uninhabitable in the (relatively) near future. We began to mature in the shadow of September 11th. Many of us graduated from college in a recession, with stagnated job opportunities and wages. Some of us pursued education and degrees (myself included) for a leg-up in the hiring process and took on debt that we weren’t sure we could repay. For some, owning property – the most secure way to ensure generational wealth – has not been an option.
Having said that, I can share that things have seemed to me, at least vaguely, like there is a looming shadow, some of which is felt acutely and most of which is more atmospheric. My life hasn’t directly or exclusively followed this downward spiral of doom-thinking by any means. However, the cumulative effect of all these things is informative about my mindset when the pandemic arrived. All at once, a horrible and all-encompassing event was upon the world, and at the same time the gravity shock of it was not as surprising as it might have been to me 10 years ago.
I am fortunate – I have an office job and out of an abundance of caution, we were sent home and kept working. I have tried every day not to take for granted how fortunate I am in these respects, both to have good and steady employment and to work for a company that values our health and wellbeing. I was largely insulated from the worst aspects of this disaster. But I would be lying if I said it didn’t take things away from me. I live alone (with my dog) and at times in the last two years have really missed seeing my coworkers face-to-face. I’ve missed minor conversations, inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, though harboring generative potential for something deeper. These griefs are so small compared to what so many people around the world have experienced. I had good days and bad, as we all do in the regular course of life, but now they looked different.
It became apparent (embarrassingly, six to eight months in) that staying in the house all the time was not working. I started walking my dog every day, weather permitting, which he loved. I told my therapist I was learning to appreciate the ups and downs of my moods – that in hindsight and with perspective, the downs were never as bad as I imagined and that they were temporary. Everything is subject to change and that is hard but also promises easier times too. I told a close friend I was coming to enjoy the times when things were just okay. Doing alright was a win in itself, and there is no fault in enjoying it while it lasts.
For me, joy and grief have found a way of staying tangled together. When I was six, my parents divorced and ever since have lived hundreds of miles from one another. I would visit my dad one to two times a year, often flying alone as a kid and later as a teen. Well-meaning relatives and friends would always ask me “aren’t you excited to see your dad?” And the polite answer was always “yes.”
The truth is, stepping off the plane, nervous energy coursing through me, I was elated and terrified, brought to tears most times but trying to be brave. Tangled up in the arrival is always the leaving. A round trip ticket belies a coming and a going and all of it is just as ordinary and miraculous as a breath in and a breath out. But just because these things are tangled together doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate each for what it is.
With time and perspective I’ve learned how to better sit in the joy when it arrives. I’ve better learned how to invite it in with less fear that it won’t stay long. Joy for me today is playing so hard and long with my dog that we are both delighted and exhausted and in the moment. I find joy in seeing friends – some of which I never thought I’d have anything in common – and hearing about their troubles, successes and hopes. Every opportunity I have to open myself up a little more and be blessed with the absolute delight, connection, and community that is available to me is a joy.
I can’t say what will happen with this country, world, pandemic or even myself. These are things I can’t know. But I know that there is the ebb and the flow, that change is constant, and that as long as I’m on this Earth, I’m in it. And I have been better served by participating in the joy that God has blessed me with than by letting the tangle obscure each part.