written by Lauren Alexander, Georgia Tech business student, Pebble Tossers Intern
Hi! My name is Lauren, and I am intern with Pebble Tossers this Spring helping with various initiatives like the new Teen Leadership Program. I am a third-year business student at Georgia Tech, and in the last two weeks I (like many others) have experienced my life turn completely upside down for the time being. I wanted to share some of the experiences and responses I have had thus far with you!
The last week and a half have been a whirlwind. One day I was attending class, engaging with friends over coffee and meals, participating in my normal activities, and looking forward to all of the plans I had made for the coming months. Quickly, I watched all of the expectations and certainties I clung so tightly to vanish one after the other. A slush of emotions followed, including fear, guilt, disappointment, inferiority, confusion, and anger. And yet, not all was wrong: I got to spend time self-quarantining with a loved one who lives far from me, my mom and I could cook and bake in our kitchen like we used to when I lived at home, and many leaders around me found incredible, innovative ways to adapt and carry on in the midst of social distancing.
Navigating your emotions, thoughts, and actions is hard on a regular day, not to mention in the middle of a global pandemic that is possibly the most impactful event of your lifetime. There are few important ideas that my friends and I are constantly reminding ourselves of. The first being that it is OK to feel afraid. There is so much unavoidable uncertainty in everyone’s lives that fear can feel inescapable. Along with this, though, it is important to TALK about your fear. I turn to my family, close friends, and mentors for a simple conversation, so that fear does not start to control my life. In doing so, I am able to stay grounded yet hopeful at the same time.
The second idea I keep reminding myself of is quite the opposite: it is OK to feel joy. Many people have expressed guilt to me about experiencing good things during this extremely challenging time globally. In a world filled with so much hurting and need, I say we need to relish in every joyful moment we can get our hands on (of course, we must also remain compassionate to all around us). Now is the time to find joy in the smallest of things: the chance to make blueberry scones with your mom, celebrating success in using unfamiliar virtual/ online tools, and extra time to catch up with people who feel incredibly distant. To acknowledge your joy is not to diminish the pandemic, but it is to bring a little light into this climate.
The final idea I will share is simply this: YOU MATTER. It is easy to feel small. Like nothing that you do has an impact. This could not be farther from the truth. We all must take responsibility for our responses to this crisis. We must choose to self-isolate when appropriate. We must choose to fill our extra time at home in a positive way: investing in family, completing at-home service projects, practicing self-care and love, and exploring new technologies and innovations that can benefit your community or the activities you normally partake in. You matter to your close loved ones and to the global population (and everyone in between) – and you cannot lose sight of the privilege and opportunity that comes with that.
Keeping all three of these concepts in mind, I find myself able to navigate my feelings and thoughts so that I can continue to lead and partake in the many initiatives that are important to me and those in my community.