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What Can I do?

Embracing opportunities in spite of difficult circumstances

By Jessica NorrisPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
What Can I do?
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

"Who you are now, becomes who you were then. And that becomes 'Remember when?'"

When I look back, I wonder what I will tell people about the pandemic. How will I think about it twenty years from now? What stories will define me? What actions I will be proud of?

I thought by now the world would be back to normal. I thought I'd be West Coast Swing dancing again. I thought I'd be able to hug people again without going through a special "permission granted" ritual. I even thought I would be going to the international folk dancing club again by now. I miss those things. And I miss the way karate used to be. We got to have our first class inside with masks on just a few weeks ago, and upon returning to the mats, I nervously realized I hadn't practiced throwing someone in over six months.

Looking back on 2020 makes me feel like I lost a year of my life. It's not that things didn't happen, because they did. My sister met the love of her life, and the wedding was in March. I got my first apartment and got off night shift at work. My brother got his learner's permit, and my sister made it through her first year of college. But somehow, the year feels wasted, like I didn't grab ahold of opportunities.

I think this feeling has to the mindset I had in 2020. When everything first shut down, there was uncertainty and fear. There was the mindset that this way of living could not go on long-term. I kept waking up the next day, expecting to have the world be back to normal, to have the country open again and the fear dispelled.

With my odd sleep schedule, I would wake up in the afternoon, having slept during the day. I would ask my dad if the world was still ending.

It was a mindset of waiting. Waiting for things to go back to how they used to be. Holding out that the situation would change. Parties and gatherings kept getting postponed, and big events were cancelled with hopes for an even bigger party in 2021.

We're over a year into this pandemic and the truth is, it's been draining and depressing. And if there are people telling you they haven't felt this way at all, they're lying to you. There are days I feel annoyed, like I've somehow been robbed of an entire year.

Somehow, it's taken that year to for me to realize that waiting can leave you paralyzed. It can keep you from the good you could be doing.

It's hard to stay motivated, hard to get excited about socially distanced or virtual events. Or doing karate outside in the rain on a Saturday morning.

But the alternative is doing nothing. I reminded myself of this as I got ready for karate one morning in February. We had been doing zoom classes in the evenings during the week. Saturday mornings were our only live class at that point. It was cold, and there was still snow on the ground. I had put on a pair of leggings underneath my gi pants for extra warmth and wore a long-sleeved T-shirt.

Before I put on my hoodie, fleece, hat, and gloves, I tied my black belt around my waist. No one would see it, aside from a minimal lump underneath my layers of clothing. It was more for myself than anyone else. It was a symbol of who I was, what I had achieved as a martial artist and all that I would continue to achieve. Wearing it meant focusing on right now, what I could do, rather than what I couldn't.

As I put on my winter boots, I shivered at the thought of another cold day of training. But I was done with the alternative. The alternative of waiting. I realized that my current situation was not ideal, but I needed to seize the moment that lay before me.

Somehow through all of this, there have been people hanging on. People like my Sensei, trying to walk a line of disciplined training and safety. People like my pastor and the elders of my church, trying to encourage a congregation in a time of unparalleled circumstances. People like my sister, teaching smaller dance classes and still connecting with families.

These are the people who are trying. These are the people it's easy to criticize from the sidelines. But they are the ones who are doing something. My Sensei has always been fond of saying, "Never let what you can't do get in the way of what you can do."

I have a friend who directs a youth choir. He makes a conscious effort to never start his instructions with the phrase "Due to Covid-19 we can't...". Rather, he says, "We are going to...".

I have respect for these people, doing the best they can with what they have. They have a mindset that starts with focusing on what is possible, rather on what is not.

I've gotten past the waiting mentality. I'm still hoping things go back to more of what they used to be. But I'm trying to focus on doing what I can, rather than complaining about what I can't do.

This mindset is one that sees each opportunity as a gift. It is one that is thankful for what I do have. The opportunities might not be exactly what I want, but they are my current reality.

A wise man once said, "The way I see it, life is a pile of good and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don't always spoil the good things or make them unimportant."

Yes, there is a global pandemic. And it's hard that the culture is saturated in fear right now. It's hard not being able to see the people we love. But all of those bad things, don't have to spoil the good things. And sometimes, those bad things become opportunities to excel, grow, and change.

The truth is I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a family who isn't highly at risk in this pandemic. I have a church that has been striving to still meet together and encourage each other. And I have opportunities to become a better person and grow. My hope is to make the most of every opportunity. Yeah, maybe things won't get better. But the moment where I choose to do something, the moment I choose to keep moving forward, is a moment that cannot be taken away from me.


About the Creator

Jessica Norris

Passionate writer that is enthusiastic about writing engaging, compelling content. Excels in breaking down complex concepts into simple terms and connecting with readers through sharing stories and personal experience.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  • Sandra Tena Cole2 months ago

    I love finding piecesike this, which reminds us that what we've gone through over the past few years has not been imagined. Yours is particularly inspiring and encouraging ❣️

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