People making the most noise in these times of COVID-19 pandemic are likely those who lost a lot and have a lot more to lose as the crisis persists. It seems though that it is not necessarily those who lost loved ones per se who are the most shrill about this pandemic and are the ones who are the quickest to lash out at perceived scapegoats and launch into quests to find blame. Rather, it is more likely those who foolishly sought to find life’s meaning in their “bucket lists” of personal goals and resolutions. Suffice to say, achieving a lot of the items in these “bucket lists” is now way beyond the reach of most people — specially Filipinos.
Pre COVID-19, bucket lists were a social media fashion statement. On their timelines, people humble-bragged about having one, humble-shared the subset of these they plan to do for the year, and humble-reported on the number of items that had been ticked off. Legions of “influencers” built their “personal brands” on the idea that people who don’t have bucket lists are sad losers. People have turned their lists of world landmarks to take selfies at, restaurants to dine in, or wines to sample, among others, into their gods. They’ve made the percent of items in those lists that they’ve ticked into the measure of their life’s worth.
Now that COVID-19 had thrown a wet blanket over all that chi chi grandstanding, we now hear “reports” of people suffering “mental health issues”. Perhaps some may be due to legit reasons — like being unable to visit loved ones or being stuck in a dysfunctional household putting up with debilitating cabin fever. However, it is likely that the “mental health” screeching we see on Twitter, for example, would likely be accounted for by the usual suspects of over-sharers to begin with. When you are one to make a circus of even the most mundane event in your life, even normal things like being sad about not being able to jet off to Hong Kong when your “weekend starts” becomes a “mental health issue”.
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Indeed, the irony that seems to fly above the heads of these “influencers” and “thought leaders” is that all this loud whining on social media over what COVID-19 had “stolen” from their lives could be behind the very “mental health” illnesses that everyone seems to be suddenly beset with. Rather than encourage others to apply a bit of healthy perspective and really think about whether these lifestyle “losses” they wail about are really things to go insane over, perhaps our communicators should focus more on helping their followers recalibrate their expectations.
It may also help to highlight that a lot of the means to achieve these “personal goals” were unsustainable and even unethical to begin with. To cite some examples, the ideas that one can hop on a plane every weekend for some quick R&R at an island resort or shopping mecca, that one can source cheap trinkets from a factory a thousand miles away and dispose of them after a single use, that one can prop up an economy with mere consumption and little production, or that an entire chi chi lifestyle could be built upon household servants who are paid slave wages have been all but found to be crooked to begin with.
High expectations, after all, are at the root of chronic disappointment. A life spent making and chasing lists of life “goals” that collectively amount to a total missing of the whole point of life is the real tragedy to behold. Evidently, those who lack the mental toughness to quietly stare down what this pandemic throws at them or, even better, find opportunities to build character by embracing new realities will likely be the ones who will keep reminding you that the new normal sucks. Well, it only sucks if you fail to appreciate that life is a continuous embrace of a world that is always changing. A bucket list, on the other hand, is often static and a hindrance to people’s accepting what life is really all about.
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