What Would they think

Recently, I’ve been missing a dear friend of mine who passed away over a year ago and listening to his music on youtube. I enjoy listening to his voice at the beginning when he introduces his songs and explains what he’s done. I’ll share one of his videos. He was a very private person, which is why you only ever see part of his face, so he is probably rolling over in his grave right now as I share this video.

Jim was a talented musician, and was a child of the 60’s if you couldn’t tell from his paisley shirt. We worked together for several years before I took the position I am currently in at SUNY Oneonta. We used to have late night chats as we closed the library about anything and everything, although we usually ended up circling back around to our mutual love of the Beatles and Tolkien.

We carried on conversing, even after I moved, until his sudden and very unexpected death in January of 2019. As I was listening to his music the other day, I began to wonder what he would have thought of the situation we are currently living in. I can imagine some of his frustrations and some of the unexpected joys he would have ultimately found in the stay-at-home orders.

I’m sure that in one of my “down” moments during this past semester, I would have written him an e-mail complaining about something and he would have ultimately come back with something wise, poignant, and witty to make me rethink my view on the matter in only the way that Jim could.

Thinking about Jim made me also wonder what other members of my family would have thought about this situation. My one grandfather, a social butterfly if there ever was one, would have somehow come up with every excuse possible to visit my parents and other people to have someone to talk to. He was a big cooker, so I’m sure he would have been annoyed with people stock-piling, even though he would be doing it himself as well. I’m sure I would have also heard him complain and use his favorite phrase of “them people” to refer to something. “Them people” was always the phrase he used to refer vaguely to anyone or anything. You could never be quite sure who “them people” were because it was his catch-all answer for any question. Media, healthcare workers, grocers, bank tellers….they were all “them people” at some point in a grandpa story.

I also wonder what my husband’s parents would have thought of the situation. I never had the privilege to meet them since they both passed before I met my husband. I often wonder what they would have thought of me, but especially now that my British husband has started a life with me here in America. While both of my parents are immune-compromised and live in WNY, I at least still have the potential to go see them if need be. What would my husband and I have done if his parents were still alive and then got sick with the coronavirus a whole ocean away?

I’m sure some people would think that these thoughts are all an exercise in futility. Why worry or wonder on things that can never come to pass? Yet, I find it oddly comforting and fun to imagine different conversations playing out with deceased loved ones in my head or out loud with other family members. It provides a weird connection to normalcy.

Advice from a Millennial to Gen Z

The world is a scary and frightening place right now. The future is full of uncertainty, with a possible recession looming. Many of you are frightened and scared, and you have every right to be. Some of you are getting ready to graduate and job prospects look scarce, if they currently exist at all.

I understand. I feel your pain. While I didn’t graduate during a global pandemic, I did graduate at the time of the Great Recession (late 2000s). There were very little job prospects for people my age. At my graduation ceremony, the commencement speaker “lifted” our spirits with a comment about entering one of the worst job markets in America’s history. It was true. there were hardly any jobs, especially in my chosen field of teaching at the time, and what was available was heavily sought after by experienced teachers that had been let go due to financial reasons.

My friends and I are now in our 30’s. Many of my friends are now working in fields that have nothing to do with their major in college. Many of my friends are just now being able to buy houses. Many of my friends are just now having children. Many of my friends are just now becoming semi-financially stable and I’m a bit afraid what will happen to them if we enter another recession. I consider myself one of the lucky (and privileged) ones with savings, a good job, and a house. The savings came from living with my parents for way longer than anticipated, the good job only came in 2017, and the house came this December.

I don’t write these things to be depressing. I don’t write them to scare you all with a dismal future. I write them to share advice from what my generation has learned.

Don’t get hung up on what life should have been. This advice is a good general piece of advice, but is especially important to generations shaped by recessions. Life will be different than what you planned – it was going to be whether or not we had the pandemic/recession. The more you hang on to a preconceived notion, the more you miss out on opportunities to move your life in a positive, albeit different, direction. The greatest parts of my life are ones that were never part of my original plan.

Learn how to market your skills. You might be unable to find a job in your field. Figure out a way to take the skills you’ve learned to market yourself for a new field. For example, I need to be able to communicate effectively when I work with people at the reference desk. I can translate that skill set to any customer service oriented position. In fact, I have. I worked for a short while as a front desk clerk at a hotel.

Don’t be bitter. It will just weigh you down. It’s okay to be angry and frustrated, but don’t let it consume you.

Accept the situation you are in. The people who survive crises and traumatic events are the people who are prepared. They are the people who swiftly move out of the denial phase and accept the situation they are in. They can react to situations so much faster than others because they don’t deny it is happening. That, in turn, puts them two steps ahead of the rest. Be two steps ahead.

Hope. Don’t lose it and don’t give up on it. It will serve you well in the future.

I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice I received from the amazing Dr. Daniel Payne my sophomore year of college. Every test is just an opportunity to succeed. We’re all being tested right now. Seize on your opportunity to succeed.