By Chloé Webster
“Certainty creates strength. Certainty gives one something upon which to lean. Uncertainty creates weakness.”
Author of "The Great Influenza," John M. Barry writes this about the 1918 flu epidemic. While reading this for an AP Language assignment, I laughed to myself. This parallels perfectly to the COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing over one-hundred years later.
I do not think I have ever experienced a time in my life where the future has been this uncertain. We do not know if we will go back to school. We do not know if we will get the end of our sports seasons. We do not know if we should make plans for summer break.
We, quite simply, do not know. Period.
Barry was right when he wrote about certainty giving us something to lean on. Whether we want to admit it or not, up until a month ago we were leaning pretty hard on that crutch of certainty.
I myself was leaning on the certainties that my class would get presented with flowers from the seniors at Springfest … That the songs I have been learning all year in choir would be sung in New Orleans … That the hard workouts before and after school would pay off at track meets … That Beale Street Music Fest weekend would bring some epic new memories … That all of the stress and late nights of third quarter would be worth it because the best quarter was about to start.
Then, the crutch disappeared. Without these “fourth quarter traditions” to lean on, uncertainty crept in and created a “weakness” within me.
This “weakness” came in the form of anger, confusion and sadness. Because I, like many of you, had plans made months (and even years) in advance stripped away in the matter of days, I felt hopeless. What can I look forward to now ...
What can I lean on now?
Well, we have two options. Lean on nothing and fall completely on our faces … or, lean on the people around us (not literally though! Six feet apart!) by having the kinds of conversations that fuel humanity’s need for companionship.
Because one thing is certain. These feelings of “weakness” are being felt by every human being who has lost control of how they live: every person who must work from home, every person who is forced to go out in the world and be at risk, every person who can no longer see their best friend, the list goes on.
We are facing an universal crisis and in this crisis, we must realize we are not alone. COVID-19 may be creating uncertainty just like the flu epidemic of 1918 did. However, now, we have the means to communicate, connect and continue to be companions with one another.
That should be what we lean on. That is the “certainty [that] creates strength.”