Writing in an age of pandemics, topics abound. Whether it is trying to offer a word of encouragement, looking towards the future, or tackling challenges, the options abound. Finding the words, however, can be a bit harder. In the past months, I’ve shared with you some of my experiences, celebrated our accomplishments, and tried to address topics relevant to this moment, such as racism, equity, strategic planning, critical thinking, and leadership. With the pandemic continuing to rage havoc, the uncertainty of economic recovery, the continuing struggle against racism, and a growing equity gap, it is hard to imagine the future. Sometimes it seems we are living a bad version of the movie “Ground Hog Day.” For the next few weeks, I hope to offer some insights rooted in my life journey that I hope are relevant to our lives in this age of pandemics and might help us navigate these difficult days.
As most of you know, I lost my first wife to cancer. Living with a devastating illness such as cancer is a roller coaster ride of events and emotions, with its many ups and downs, twists and turns. Whether you are the patient or caregiver, it drains you both physically and emotionally. As we struggled to cope with those difficult days, we came up with five simple rules – work, take care of family, find an outlet, don’t worry, and live life. Lately, I’ve been thinking that in many ways those days parallel our present roller coaster ride living in the age of pandemics. Thus, I thought that for the next
few weeks I would draw from those rules and think about how they might apply to our current circumstances. I might from time to time focus on a different topic that requires a timely response, but for the most part my intent is to unpack one of the rules each week.
My experiences during those difficult days in my life did not necessarily make me any wiser. The lessons learned were not things that I did not already know. Most of us know these things at heart, but as we get mired in a tangle of problems and adversity, we forget the basics. But the lessons were very clear. They are lessons that all of us can apply in life:
First, whether dealing with personal problems, illness, or work—whatever the problems that loom in our way, we must always remember that things are a bit more manageable when taken one by one.
Second, when faced with problems, the obvious solutions are the easiest to overlook. We get paralyzed by the enormity of a problem or distracted by symptoms, but we can’t ignore the root of the problem and the solution.
Third, in spite of our lofty goals, it is the little things in life that we take for granted that are often the things we miss the most when they are taken away. Ambition is fine, but it must never obscure the simple pleasures and cherished moments of life.
Fourth, life goes on, and ultimately, along with hope and faith, the greatest lesson of all is that we must trust that in the end, everything will be all right. Even when things don’t turn out as we might hope.
These basic principles guided me during those difficult days and still guide me today. They are the core principles that underlie each of the five rules, which I will share with you in the coming weeks. For now, don’t get lost in the multitude of challenges; when it comes to problems, most often the whole is not greater than its parts. Moving an entire college to online operations in two weeks seemed impossible, but we were able to do it. Take on what you can manage, and one by one, what seems enormous will become manageable. Don’t overlook the obvious. Enjoy each accomplishment
and savor the little things in life we often take for granted. Most of all, don’t forget that this too will come to an end and, even though our future might look quite different from what we might have imagined, everything will be all right in the end. Stay strong, QCC strong!