An obedient today for a better tomorrow
Nominated by Bronwen Rees
While this year has been nothing short of tragic, every life saved and every curve flattened has been a collective effort in patience and obedience on an individual level.
When I was asked to write about ‘obedience’, it seemed more of an abstract concept than an all-encompassing mindset for daily living. But in a way, there has never been a more obedient time in history than our current pandemic-ravaged and socially isolated lives. When word of the outbreak exploding in Wuhan and surrounds first spread, I chastised a good friend over Instagram for reposting what I thought was alarmist content. She assured me it was from a reporter based in Wuhan and she was just sharing insights otherwise muffled from the wider media. Wary of pseudoscience and worrying she’s been in those LA health-food shops for just too long, I meticulously checked the WHO data sets and calculated the death rate every single one of those early days. My logical brain using those numbers to reassure itself that a reality in which we are confined to our homes as our essential worker’s race to build hospitals and respirators was a dystopian future I would have no part in. To date there 350,000 reasons why I was wrong. As a global community, we have now spent multiple months being obedient. People everywhere, united in doing the right thing, in staying apart, not only out of fear but also for the global good. Entire workplaces operating out of respective bedrooms, friends and family awkwardly tapping elbows and standing nervously across the path. First dates sitting in freezing and mosquito-ridden parks, hovering 1.5m apart trying to ignore the frantic urge to lunge at someone, anyone really, to feel connected and human and not confined to a computer screen. While this year has been nothing short of tragic, every life saved and every curve flattened has been a collective effort in patience and obedience on an individual level.
Playing by rules hasn’t been fun, but it has been a reminder of the things we can save and the things we can achieve if we’re all a little truer to ourselves.
This weekend my far-too-young cousin in the UK unexpectedly passed away. A heart attack, not COVID-related, but the current distancing measures don’t discriminate. So now we find ourselves commiserating into a screen, dialling in to inform elderly family members we’re not sure have the emotional or physical fortitude to withstand the news without a shoulder there to cry on. It’s a surreal event that has made our small and fractured family feel suddenly smaller and more distant than ever, but hey, they’re the rules and abiding by them is the only thing stopping us shrinking further. Falling short of having more poetic words; It’s a deeply shitty time to die, to give birth, to be wed, to celebrate, or to be disobedient in nature. However, as with most shitty times, our exercise in obedience has given time for many un-shitty things to also flourish. Weeks stuck inside within a sea of global alarm has given those lucky enough to be in good health and stable homes pause, to reassess what makes life worth getting out of the house, or even just getting out of bed. Friends around me normally in the throes of 20-and-30-something ladder climbing (social and professional), weeknight wine binges and neverending Hinge dates, have cultivated veggie patches, perfected preserving lemons, or disappeared to the country to work on that book. The stress I once felt at needing to work from home now vanished, no longer feeling the need to prove my productivity unmonitored. There’s no avoiding the fact that we’re heading into an economic storm, but maybe the newfound desire for a smaller quieter life will soften the blows. My hope for this short age of intense obedience is that we emerge from it less obedient to the things we once were. A home-cooked meal with a small number of friends now seems all the richer for the loss of extravagant parties that would impress those who didn't quite make the invite list. Shopping for clothes once hanging off the airbrushed bones of some perfect creature (an almost-always disappointing direct comparison on receiving the parcel in the mail), now seems an unnecessary excess, because if your friends have loved you through this time in your sweatpants, you never needed to look like that anyway. The world has spent so long bending to the rules of structures and expectations that in a time of crisis have proved entirely without value. Playing by rules hasn’t been fun, but it has been a reminder of the things we can save and the things we can achieve if we’re all a little truer to ourselves as individuals, and act in the best interests of everyone else.
Passionate about all things people, Hayley has an extensive history in project management and client services. With these roles spent in a range of industries, from music to medical, she is a self proclaimed ‘pathologically curious’ individual, with a fondness for making complex and dynamic projects feel simple. If you ever want to chat humans, human-centred design, or just want a chat, Hayley will be more than willing to meet that need.
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