The World is my Oyster?
Adults have been telling us for years — “the world is your oyster!”. They get very excited to say this to young people, like it’s some precious gift or prophecy. I’ve been hearing it since before I knew what an oyster was, and after I grew too cynical to believe it. Platitudes have never done it for me, this one was no exception.
Because I never really felt like I had any oysters at all. First I was too young, and then I was too busy — with school, friends, life. I figured, maybe when I’m really older — like when I graduate college — that’s when I’ll have it figured out. That’s when I’ll know what I want, when I’ll start an exciting career, move into my first apartment. That’s when the world will really be my oyster!
I graduated college yesterday. Was it two days ago? And this is not what I was promised.
Those same adults who swore up and down that I could do anything, that this was the most exciting time of my life, that my hard work would pay off — they don’t have much to say these days. My virtual commencement ceremonies were peppered with phrases like “unprecedented times”, “resilience”, “uncertainty”. No oysters.
COVID-19 stole the oysters. Hijacked the excitement, the hope, the pride. Left my peers and I with fear and uncertainty. For the first time in my life, I don’t know what’s coming next. I don’t know when I’ll next see my best friends, I don’t know when companies will unfreeze their hiring processes, I don’t know what city I’ll be living in next year. And it’s scary.
The thing I’m finding most difficult about the current circumstances is that I am constantly oscillating between two mindsets; trying to come up with a plan, find a job, be productive, and giving in to the seeming futility of such efforts. One day I’m desperately scouring job boards, the next I binge Game of Thrones and accept that this is all out of my control. I think it would be easier if I could commit to one.
But I do find solace in the universality of the COVID struggle. I’m not the only unemployed college graduate, I’m not the only one worried about a recession. I’m not the only one who has to force herself to take things one day at a time. I’m reminded of this when the cashier at Whole Foods tells me to “hang in there!”, when I wave to the neighbors from our balconies as we cheer the nurses at 7:00 PM. We are truly all in this together.
So sometimes I try to think about this lockdown as a game the whole world is playing. Walking down Manhattan streets trying to avoid coming within six feet of anyone is the same concept as “the floor is lava”. Trying to get in and out of the grocery store as quickly as possible feels like a relay race. Attempting to communicate with friends over Zoom is like a round of broken telephone.
Thinking in this way, finding camaraderie, putting a whimsical spin on the situation, helps me a lot. I stop thinking about all that was taken away and try to focus on what I can get out of this. Yes, I missed out on graduation and senior festivities, I don’t know when I’ll get a job. But there is a lot I can take away from what we’re going through right now. Relationships I can strengthen, new skills I can pick up, more time to think than I’ve had in years.
Maybe even enough time to track down some oysters.