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Keeping Perspective

Adventures in straddling cultures, continents, and perceptions of reality during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On top of the Cambodian and world news outlets we follow, Lori and I find ourselves reading a lot more U.S. news and U.S.-centric social media these days, fueling many dinnertime discussions.

In one corner, there’s the many challenges (COVID and otherwise) facing the rapidly developing and under-resourced nation in which we’re deeply embedded and currently call home.

And in the other, online voices mourning the death of their daily routine and parents grappling with the news of their kid’s outdoor camp being canceled.

It’s a challenge trying to reconcile the two wildly differing realities, which has got us thinking a lot more about perspective these days.

What we’re dealing with as a planet right now isn’t exactly unprecedented in the whole of human history, but it is for many of us in the modern era who have miraculously managed to evade timeless scourges such as war, famine, natural disasters, and even disease.

Yes, routines have been upended, most of us have been forced to change our attitudes and behaviors, and there is a great deal of uncertainty at the moment about the future.

In it all, Lori and I are trying not to lose sight of the suffering and inequities that reigned long before anyone ever uttered the word COVID-19.

No doubt, isolation and not being able to hug loved ones, and going without, and sacrificing comforts, conveniences, and fun shit, sucks (try 27 months of it as a Peace Corps volunteer in sub-Saharan Africa, ha!).

But all that pales in comparison to the life and death struggles and everyday realities of millions of others who inhabit this same planet.

During this time, particularly if you are living in the U.S. (but outside of NYC — NYC definitely gets a by right now) I’d like you to consider the following:

First, if you still find yourself with a job, with loved ones in your life (near or far), with enough to eat at the end of each day, and in good health, and the worst thing in your life right now is self-isolation — then count yourself among the very fortunate.

Second, if the above describes you, but self-isolation and all this COVID business is starting to wear on you big time, now’s a great time to reflect on the millions of people who have it waaaaay worse — before, during, and after the coronavirus pandemic is relegated to the history books:

—the thousands who are dying or have died all alone in isolation in NYC, Italy, Spain, China, and elsewhere in the world, and the loved ones left behind;

—the millions, even just in the U.S., who now find themselves without a paycheck (and millions more who are under-employed, self-employed, or part of the gig economy (Uber, etc.)) who are now struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table;

—and, those for whom social distancing isn’t possible, such as all of the people who will spend the night in camps tonight, in the United States of America and beyond, from homeless encampments to informal migrant camps, workers’ camps, etc.

And that’s not to mention the millions who have dealt with and continue to deal with violence and death on a daily basis, in places like Syria, Yemen, and many others.

Millions right now would give their lives to be able to self-isolate in the USA, with a secure paycheck, and all that comes with it. And in fact, thousands have died in the past year alone trying to attain those things that you and I easily take for granted.

If what I’m saying makes some just a bit uncomfortable, then okay. I think it should! Thinking about these things makes me extremely uncomfortable. Here in Cambodia, it’s simply impossible to escape. Back in the U.S., it might be easier in that respect.

If we all gain anything from this experience, I hope it’s perspective.

And perhaps gratitude for what we have as well.

That’s not to say any of this is easy. Lori and I struggle with keeping perspective as we continue to straddle two different worlds. It can be especially difficult in times like these.

It’s easy to get frustrated and stressed out in trying and uncertain times.

But we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

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Allison Ingalls
Allison Ingalls

Thank you for putting this content out into the world, David.

Laura Courtney Headley
Laura Courtney Headley

Good points, David. Perspective is key. Stay healthy–and keep these coming! 🙂