by Jason Eno Samuel
We’re in a global pandemic. Racism is trending. And my mom has Alzheimer’s.
Hi, my name is Jason, and unbeknownst to me, I redeemed some pesky airline miles for a one-way flight to Hell. I suffer from severe motion sickness and anxiety and there’s neither Dramamine nor tequila on board so naturally we’re experiencing an abundance of turbulence with zero signs of landing any time soon.
Sans metaphor, I hate my life.
But jokes aside, 2020 has been a revelatory year of division and distinction. For instance, in the midst of these pandemoniacal times, some people are working remotely from their lake house in B.F.E., perfecting sourdough bread recipes, assuming some semblance of control on social media during their interrupted sense of structure. Meanwhile, the rest of us are dodging bills and numbing ourselves by binging copious amounts of worry, Netflix, and cheap booze (or other preferred vices) as we tally up our bucket list of failures.
Before you click on that X to protect your piqued pride, I recognize that this dichotomy doesn’t paint a complete picture. It is far more complex. I offer addendum 1a: Banana breads have totally maintained bipartisanship.
The COVID-19 crisis has rendered me, and millions of other Americans, jobless. Whenever I’m 3 glasses deep in boxed cabernet, I live my full out Downton Abbey fantasy and proclaim, “I hath been furloughed!” Take a moment to visualize a Black Lumberjack-Dame Maggie Smith hybrid!
Here I am on lucky week thirteen of no j-o-b quarantine purgatory. It only took seven weeks of calling, emailing, tweeting, and promising the soul of my first born to procure my unemployment benefits from the state.
(OHIOJFS, Do better!)
Yes, the world had a collective meltdown. We were sent to our respective homes for a three-month virtual timeout, forced to press pause and reflect. Technology, Internet, and media kept us connected, but it simultaneously unearthed our cantankerous truths, and now social media’s ablaze, oversaturated in filtered “transparency.” Sending select emotional trends on a loop: Overwhelmed. Angry. Exhausted. Uncomfortable. Confused. Restless. Fearful. Love.
And the one we’d love to sweep under the rug: Hate.
At this point, we’re just hurling these emotions at one another like we’re competing in a dodgeball tournament to the death. We’re headed straight into the Great Emotional Blackout of 2020 caused by a surge in self-absorption, over-sharing, and reckless sensory abuse with little to no counterbalance of fact-based research and learning, active listening, or dare I say, practicing empathy. Emotional overload is inevitable if we abandon sincere care of ourselves or others.
I must confess-I am guilty. I’ve been immersed in my own selfish narrative for almost 2 years, and it has only intensified with the stay at home orders. I am constantly consumed by loss of what was or could have been. I stumble repeatedly toeing the line between my roles as a son, a caregiver, and an artist, most days succumbing to woe and defeat. I awake gasping for air, suffocated by obligations I did not ask for.
When the quarantine was mandated, I remember thinking: finally, people will get a taste of what it’s like to be me. Suddenly stripped of cozy routines and left to sacrifice, adapt, and survive. I am not proud to admit that. I am, after all, a flawed human being, attempting to do better.
I must be better for my mom, the most selfless human I’ve ever known. We watch the news religiously, bombarded by images of masks, coronavirus death tolls, protests, riots, police brutality, and the graphic deaths of unarmed Black men. It’s all so heavy. She doesn’t fully comprehend the details of these uncertain times, and honestly, I don’t have the answers. I simply tell her that I love her and reassure her that she is safe. Time is so precious. Her Alzheimer’s continues to progress, and my heart breaks everyday. I cry A LOT.
(FYI, the shower is a great space for an impromptu acoustic set and/or a fierce ugly cry, depending on your mood.)
We are all entangled in varying ephemera that will soon dissolve so now, more than ever: how can we ignore the magnitude of humanity’s outcries? I challenge us to transfer our pain into passionate love. No matter where you align your beliefs on the spectrum of religion, politics, or even conspiracy theories, universally we have all been afforded a unique opportunity to take a gigantic leap into a brand new normal.
I implore you to relinquish the exhausted habits that prohibit fully embracing this evolution.
Born and raised in Cleveland and beyond, Jason Eno Samuel is a loyal son perpetually seeking life balance through art, culture, knowledge, music, and experience. Follow his journey @Groove2jason on Instagram and Twitter. #leadwithlove #blacklivesmatter