Feeling lost is normal. Here are a few ways we can find ourselves again in 2021.
2020 made most of us feel lost, but not like Dorothy. We didn’t find Oz— anywhere. Behind our fear of COVID, behind masks and news stories that told us how lost the world was becoming— we didn’t feel like ourselves. We were buried in wildfires, race wars and lockdowns. We were separated from loved ones and confused by Tweets from a president claiming most of our loss was either non-existent, no big deal, or a complete lie.
And so we still felt lost.
We were lost amid pandemic debates, among charlatans, chameleons, and in how little we felt we could do to make anything different. As we watched what appeared to be thousands of atrociously deeply lost white men climbing all over America’s Capitol, we especially felt lost.
Here are a few ways we might consider finding ourselves again in 2021.
We can stop being followers.
Each of us came into the world on our own. We were born individuals, with minds that perceived things as only one mind could. But then came the expectations. There was pressure, influence, and all the needs the world placed around the perimeters of our waking, eating, sleeping, emotional states, and our work. So we adjusted. In doing so, we stopped seeing things our way first before adjusting.
Once while driving, I followed a couple of cars by a school bus with its flashing lights and stop sign extended on the other side of the street. I missed the signals because I was blindly following. The policeman who pulled me over slapped me with a hefty fine, a lecture, and traffic school. Like a baby again, I started bawling. I was mortified. But I needed the wakeup. Even if everyone else had sped past that bus and I hadn’t intentionally broken the law— I could have killed an innocent child while following others.
In the same way, in 2021 I could be a follower. I could not research. I could say I support climate change but not investigate how I can reduce my own carbon footprint. I could claim support for refugees without understanding the larger issues of refugee integration, healthcare and job placement. I could say Black Lives Matter without knowing that the world needs more than a statement — we need change in how we write, speak and see. We need to rehaul how our systems, businesses and communities operate.
The last four years have proven that we’ve got to consider more than a box to tick on a political agenda. While we need unity, we also need our own questions, doubts and original thought. We’ve got to look both ways, slow down, and wonder what we might have missed that made people follow a man in horns and a fur hat. How did they become vulnerable to leaders like Trump and Q who were using them for power and political games? What happened to those thousands of mostly white guys who broke windows, storming into the Capitol on January 6th, willing to act with unbridled violence? Why were they following?
We can listen to the people who aren’t like us.
Winston Churchill said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
Often people ask me why I engage, especially on social media, with those “on the other side” who argue and don’t share my political or social views. I don’t engage for long with trolls or bullies. But if a person debates or opines respectfully — why not listen? Much of my learning has come from folks who are entirely different from me. I understand freedom more fully because I met women fleeing oppression in Georgia, Uganda, and Afghanistan — women who haven’t had rights but possess wisdom often unnoticed. I understand better the complexities of democracy because I’ve spent time with people who fled oppressed societies where they couldn’t express opinions. And in the same way, I can learn about those who believe in different religions, in conspiracies, or in Trump. Though I might disagree, I can learn from other real-life perspectives rather than through public ridicule, stereotyping and other people’s conclusions.
We can admit that none of us has all the answers, and be suspicious of anyone claiming they do.
This one’s obvious. And Socrates knew it when he said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
It’s when we always side with our crowd that we become lost. Unity doesn’t mean conformity. We can grow together through differences. We can build bridges by compromise. We can find a way through most challenges by seeking what’s good not only in ourselves but in lessons from the “other”— and build toward that.