I have experienced depression in my life, as I know many of you have. The symptoms are clear: you feel helpless, hopeless and doomed. Behavior becomes reckless, unpredictable and reclusive. It clouds your thinking and actions.
I sense a collective depression in our region, and it’s no surprise if you read the headlines about us from around the world. We’ve had some terrible things happen locally and globally over the last year. My tears are private, but offer no comfort or nourishment.
I need a community who weeps publically for what I weep for: peace, solidarity and progress.
I need a community who recognizes that turning a blind eye to the issues does not create conditions for us to contend and compete in the global marketplace.
I need a community who remains hopeful as we navigate some of our darkest hours.
We entertain thoughts that the work that we’ve done to date, the tremendous investment of time and resources to projects and relationships, has been in vain. We consider that maybe the problems are too big to solve and concede defeat. We are relentlessly reminded by others of our shortcomings, only perpetuating our darkest hour.
This collective depression absolutely cannot be our new normal. Helen Keller reminds us that, “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” Those terrible things cannot and should not define who we are as a people. They can, however, catapult us to the next level if we know how to harness them.
I know we are still trying to sort the past year out. This is an okay space for us to be in. It’s normal. It’s also normal to have diverse perspectives, interpretations, and recommendations for moving forward. And it’s okay to disagree about that. It is healthy for us to debate on the kind of future we want and how we mobilize to accomplish it. Achieving anything of significance is an excruciating process.
But let’s remember: we are focused on achieving something significant. And because of this, we’ve got to hold ourselves to a higher standard and acknowledge that there are rules to engagement. Those who violate those rules should be held accountable. They put us all in greater danger. We can take our region back from those who may attempt to take advantage of where we are in the process of healing. Nothing positive comes from spewing bullets or invectives, just greater division and desperation.
I believe our region is right where we need to be: the intersection of overwhelmed and the next level. Can you see it? I understand that our better selves are on the other side of our current struggle. And I admit that this is hard. We are having conversations today that continue to stretch and strain, conversations that have divided us by our diverse and divergent experiences and points of view. In order for us to change the trajectory of a generation, we have to stick with the discussion, stay at the table, do the hard work, and push through overwhelmed and seize the next level.