The 5-month mark of quarantine in the United States has come and gone, and we are still keeping socially distant. The time that we would normally be spending out in the community, enjoying every aspect of summer, is now being spent in our homes. The interactions that we expected to have with our friends and family are now being spent within ourselves, and those kinds of conversations can be uncomfortable. But they also can lead to great reflection and understanding about who we are and what we need in life.
In the second episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast, she sat down her friend Michele Norris, a former co-host for All Things Considered
on NPR and a current contributor for The Washington Post Opinions columns, to discuss the relationships we have with ourselves and how quarantine has changed them.
The two women start the episode off by discussing the changes that have taken place in their everyday lives and the impact that the stresses of a changing world have on them. While hearing that she has some form of low-grade depression is mildly shocking, it is also humbling to know that Obama is human like the rest of us. She has the same worries and concerns about the current health crisis and racial injustices that we have, and she requires the same kind of self-love and kindness. It's okay if you aren't getting up at the same time as you were last week or if you just don't have the energy to go for that walk like you promised yourself. A key to maintaining your mental health during these strange and changing realities is to give yourself permission to not operate at 100% every day. There will be good days and days that require more effort to accomplish even one goal, but that is okay. Be kind to yourself and forgive yourself; resting and recharging are just as necessary as completing tasks.
The quarantine has allowed for more unstructured time that can feel daunting because our lives used to revolve around travel to work, actually working, and small windows of time that could be spent on our personal lives. While a routine and schedule for work at home helps combat that adrift feeling, there are still hours in the day that are now just free and left open. What do you do with this time that you never had before?
You can pick up the skill you always said you would learn one day. Or work on that project you kept putting off because there was never enough time in the day and week to make any progress. You can even work on yourself in different ways, such as working out or meditation, that always seemed too daunting before. But, there is now more time for self-improvement and reflection beyond just learning a new skill. As the country continues to realize the racial injustices that Black Americans face every day, all citizens are reflecting on the changes that they wish to see.
Obama and Norris reflect on the actions and changes that have emerged within people and as a result of this inner conversation. As Norris so perfectly stated, "The great pause needs to become the great recalibration." These reflections that we have within ourselves are necessary and vital to self-growth, but there needs to be more done. We, all of us, have the power to demand and advocate for meaningful change in ways that help us and others. Greater diversity at work doesn't mean that you lose a chance to advance; it means you have a chance to expand your understanding of the world by working with and learning from people with different backgrounds. Life is better when you interact with different cultures and experiences with an open mind and an open heart.
The silver lining from this dark cloud of Covid-19 is that we cannot turn away from the injustices and problems that face our society currently. While this is uncomfortable, the need for change is also apparent, and the advocacy that has emerged from more time at home is inspiring. We have the capacity to adapt and reshape the lived experience of all citizens for the better. And that is the key to these calls for change: change for the better. Obama and Norris both believe in the power our younger generations have to ensure "that we don't reach for normal, that we reach for better."
You can listen to The Michelle Obama Podcast | Podcast
on Spotify and join us as we continue examining the discussions from each episode.
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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