Looking beyond the narrative…

Have you ever experienced a book you love being made into a film—only to feel extremely disappointed by how much never actually made it in and the extent to which it was simplified?

I would suggest that something similar takes place when real-life stories are shared in various forms of media. Just as novels or even television series are much more detailed and complex than films can afford to be in such a short space of time, the truth of any situation is always much too complex to condense into a good headline and article—and is usually so nuanced that it might often raise more questions than it does answers.

In the current pandemic—which seems to be endlessly dragging on—there are many complex situations taking place that were difficult to imagine a couple of years ago as we freely enjoyed our lives, mobility, health and perhaps a level of unity. The stresses and strains associated with COVID-19 are numerous and far-reaching—and like the novel coronavirus, they do not discriminate. I think it is safe to say that no single individual has had an easy time of it since that fateful week in March 2020.

All health professionals have been under added strain. Many academics have been called to the frontline. Some paramedics have lived for periods apart from their families so as not to put them at risk. Some have children who have schooled at home for part or all of this period. And some have lost colleagues, friends and even family members—whom they have likely not been able to spend the time with, or say goodbye to, in the manner we expect to be able to do. Health professionals have faced the added stress of working with personal protective equipment (PPE), knowing what PPE to don, and how to adequately provide comfort to your patients despite the barriers it presents.

Not everyone agrees on the way through this pandemic, and after the rollercoaster of emotions we have all been on for more than 18 months, not to mention lockdowns and other restrictions that have arguably dampened the collective human spirit, it can be tempting to want to identify where (or on whom) we can place the blame for why we are still in this extremely frustrating situation.

However, none of us knows what the other is going through. And while I am aware of various divides and disagreements that are cropping up among us in workplaces, friendships, families and societally, I feel that what we have to share from this pandemic far outweighs any differences. While our challenges have been unique to our situations, none of us has been without challenges. What is needed now is for us to come together, recognise our sameness, reconnect with one another, listen to one another, and value the diversity of ideas that spring forth.

It is always simpler and more convenient in the short term to have a clean-cut narrative that provides answers, and not questions. But the truth is usually a patchwork of many shades of grey; and in order for us to come through it, we must acknowledge the unknowns, explore the multitude of potential answers, and relearn and rebuild—together, and not apart.

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