There are times that I’m struck by the synchrony of events in the world and in my own life. There’s no need to believe in destiny or some greater coherent plan to find moments when patterns align. The law of averages does all the work. Last week, the US elected a new president (based on all available information that we have at this time). Last week, I also took a voluntary severance offer from my job of 17 years, 4 months, and six days. It’s not the events themselves that I think have any kind of correspondence. It’s the question that is forced to the forefront by these events - What now?
Assuming that the current state plays out in a straightforward fashion, a new president will be sworn in come January of 2021. For some, this is a relief. For others, a catastrophe. The context remains mostly unchanged. There’s still a pandemic, still an economic recession, still a divided country. Still a lot of work to do.
Systems are broken and people are angry. If we were smart, what we would want most right now is for politics to get very boring. The machinations of running a global superpower should not be characterized by language that we use for warfare. We need cooperation. We need understanding. We need empathy and humanity. We need nuanced, complex thinking that won’t fit into 280 characters. I hope that we get that because we can’t solve our problems without first solving the problem of not being able to talk to each other and find common ground.
The Democratic Party won the presidency almost in spite of itself. I never got the sense that there was a coherent platform beyond the words “not Trump”. The working class still needs a voice. Former immigrants don’t care as much about immigration as one might think and they certainly don’t want socialism after fleeing from their home countries where they saw it fail. The Republican Party managed to hold on in spite of the populism that it is taking advantage of. It’s not an effective long-term strategy and they need better ideas than simply defaulting to stubbornness and playing for Twitter likes. Centrists, independents, and moderates (which is most of the electorate) just want an effective government that covers what we all agree on, and we all agree on a lot. Education, infrastructure, decent jobs, innovation, community-focused policing, fairness and justice, capitalism that supports the common good, opportunity, and a baseline safety net to hedge against the vagaries of fortune.
For my own answers to the question, I have an easier time of it. I can take time off to read and reflect. I know that the structure of my day needs to include time for exercise, mindfulness, learning, growth, and challenge. I’m fortunate enough to have the space to take a sabbatical or midlife gap year or whatever you want to call it. There’s time to try new things, relax, experiment, and engage in adventure.
The time that I have ahead will in part be spent trying to determine an answer to the questions that life is posing. Not just, what now, but also what’s next? I’m grateful for this opportunity. By this time next year, I hope to be in the next phase of my career with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. I hope that we can all pause, reflect, and figure out what it is that we need to do to move forward. The world is what we make it, but we can’t make anything of it without each other.