Essential, Important, and Meaningful

A few days ago, I was at the store checking out, and I thanked the cashier for being an essential worker. The person behind me in line said, “All workers are essential. People still have bills to pay. Everyone is essential.”

I do not know what this person’s situation is, but I could tell that they were frustrated and struggling right now. So, I didn’t say all this to them, but I found myself agreeing/disagreeing.

Of course, every person and every life matters. Our society is better with everyone in it –that is why I have been staying sheltered in my home for 9 weeks. I do not want to unknowingly pass COVID-19 to someone who may not be able to survive it. I believe that by working together to protect each other, we can do something really remarkable as a society and stop the spread of Coronavirus. I know that this is hard, and I’m not convinced it’s going to happen. But, I would be really proud of us if we did.

Also, I love my job. I miss my work. I miss my routine. I miss going to the gym. I miss my daughters’ teachers. I am sad about all of the cancellations that have happened over the past two months. And I know that we’re all feeling that sadness and pain in our own ways. I wish that this could be over now. I wish that being tired of the pandemic would make it end sooner. I wish that wanting normal could make things go back to normal.

But, none of that makes my work essential. Humans have some clear essential needs: water, food, shelter. Children have some major developmental windows that you really want to get some key education in during. Medical care is VERY important during a pandemic.

I teach Martial Arts lessons. My work is meaningful. My work matters. My work supports and complements a lot of those essential things. I love what I do. But I also believe that if you’re really making a choice between groceries and Martial Arts lessons, you should choose groceries. It’s not even hard. Get your feet under you. Martial Arts will be here later.

I think this is hard for us to really wrap our minds around. Because if our work isn’t essential right now, it’s not hard in the long days at home wondering “when can we go back to normal?” to get into a head space where you wonder if you are essential. If you matter. And, I’m going to save you some time and quickly answer: Yes, you are essential. You are important. You matter.

I just want to take a moment to appreciate how important our “non-essential” work is. Modern farming, technology, water utilities, and having an interconnect community, economy and world  have made it possible for so many of us to do meaningful and important work that is not essential to our survival.

We have an abundance of food, which means that someone has time to figure out how best to dye your hair pink.

We have clean water that comes to our homes via pipe (instead of so many places where people have to walk for their water), which means that someone has time to write engaging children’s books for us to read with our kids.

We have fast, safe and reliable transportation, which gives other people time to figure out how to send rockets into space.

I love that we have room in our world for hair dressers, zoo keepers, researchers, non-profit managers, accountants, middle managers, artists, singers, designers, and instagram influencers. The variety of possibilities and talents that make our lives in America easy and special are remarkable. What a world we live in.

This work all matters.

This work is important.

Cutting back to the essentials is hard. I can’t wait to get back to our important, meaningful and special lives. I hope that as we resume some normalcy, we think of how we can do our part to make it even better for everyone.

If you’re struggling, I want to share a few resources here:

Crisis Text Line (US and Canada): 741741

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or Text LOVEIS to 22522

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