The Pandemic: The Hero’s Journey
It is undeniable that we have gone through quite a year since March 2020. Although at the beginning it seemed like this situation was not staying for long and a quarantined life would only last a few weeks or hardly months, it, unfortunately, elongated to what has felt like forever. Processing the change was most likely the hardest thing we have gone through together as a society in a very long time. The lessons we have learned at home and with travel have allowed us to gain deep insight into why sustainability is so important.
Now that a year has passed, the situation has been controlled and studied enough for us to have a considerable grasp of it and make sense of this year in retrospect. Trying to reconcile these feelings of confusion, anger, sadness, and distress and seeing how everyone dealt with the situation differently made us think of what is referred to as The Hero’s Journey: a narrative and mythological trope where someone goes through three stages of their own adventure and comes out victorious in the end. Through the lenses of the stages of Departure, Initiation, and Return, we will be sharing how this pandemic saw us experience our own Hero’s Journey, and how it will see us thrive once we can say it is over for good.
It is February 2020 and we have heard of the news of this virus for a few weeks now. While the prospect of a global pandemic scares us, we have seen it in movies so often that most of us believed it would not come to affect us at all (it seemed too farfetched somehow). The stage of Departure is plagued by denial and unwillingness to leave our comfort zone, and the moment we were told to change our lives forever by going remote, working from home, and distancing ourselves from our families and friends, we did not want to believe it. We started fearing we could be directly affected by the atrocities brought on by coronavirus and thus, we reluctantly went home and started our journey together, apart.
This stage is described as Joseph Campbell, who extensively wrote about the subject in his book The Hero’s Journey, like one where we start facing difficulty and meet a mentor to guide us on the way. Our particular difficulty was paradoxical: some had to live through the trials of coronavirus themselves, others through families or friends, and some others only heard of it from someone else, but never directly experienced it closely. Regardless of how it came to us, we were almost completely unable to act towards fixing the issue, as we could only keep our distance and keep ourselves safe. Our biggest act of chivalry was always following the guidelines of distancing. We then tried coping the best way we could, some by creating art, other by exercising, and others realizing that simply existing and taking your time was a valuable experience as well.
I often wondered as the trope unfolded; who was our mentor in this situation? It took me a while to realize that our mentors were those in the medical field. Not only were they making sure we were safe but also informed us regularly on how to be cautious in this new normal. Without their guidance and hard work, we would not have known how to navigate this journey, and for that, we will always be grateful to them. When times got rough, they encouraged us and when we were lenient with the virus, they made sure we knew what we were fighting for so we would not let our guard down.
After months of hardship, not only because of the virus itself but also because of the toll that distancing took on us, we started to see the light. We lived through sleepless nights wondering if it was ever going to be over, if we were going to celebrate birthdays with hugs and kisses from our loved ones again, or if our social lives had to be lived through Zoom entirely. Now that vaccines are being rolled out all over the world and more and more people are safe from the virus, it seems like normal life awaits right around the corner. But are we ready?
This last stage of Return in the Journey is defined by an initial reluctance to head to the beginning. We have surely wanted to go back to what we refer to as ‘normal life’ for many months now, but when confronted with this thought, we are surely not alone in thinking it a bit scary. Some of us have forgotten how to socialize at all and some will need some time to process that close interactions will not be posing any health threats anymore. But as with everything, just like we dived into the lifestyle of this pandemic, we must also quickly adapt to living our lives again, like in this new normal described in the Harvard Gazette.
We are not coming back home empty-handed though. We are equipped with an enormous sense of gratitude, a newfound love for the simple daily tasks we were not able to perform during quarantine (like walking through a packed grocery store or making a line at the bank!), and lastly a deep sense of solidarity and compassion for those who need our help. We are clearly not the same people we were about a year ago as we faced loss, loneliness, and distress, and adapting to this new life might require a new set of tips to adjust to it. The changes we went through shaped us to become more resilient human beings, showing us what we are capable of, even when we thought we could not make it through. We come back victorious.
We hope that your return home very soon is marked by a feeling of achievement and a fresh mind, ready to take on the world as it is presented with uncertainty and new beginnings. Onwards and upwards!