My fam and I were hanging out in the kitchen the other day and my dad mentioned something to me. He said, “You spend your entire life preparing for the worst and hoping for the best”. My initial reaction was “Holy shit Dad, that’s a little dark for a Friday morning…isn’t it?”.
But it’s not. It’s actually kind of genius. And in reality, I’ve spent my entire life “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best” without even realising it. If you’re not convinced, I’ll give you the example that got me on board:
When I go skiing, I wear a helmet. I’ve only had a handful of terrible falls in nearly 18 years of skiing, but I still wear a helmet. Do I hope to fall on my face and crack my head open every time I buckle my boots? No. I hope to have a fun day on the hill where I beat the crap out of my legs on moguls. I expect to have a “usual” day skiing where I don’t endanger my life (or do so within reason). I wear my helmet, but not because I expect to fall.
And that pattern (as my Dad so kindly pointed out) is all over my life. I get vaccinated. I don’t hope to come in contact with polio, the measles, or tetanus, however, I still get vaccinated. I save money for “emergencies” that I don’t think will happen. This idea of preparing for the worst is the definition of security, when you go to a concert they don’t expect every person to have a gun or knife, but they still make you empty your pockets and check your bag.
But what do I do with this realisation? Do I change my behaviour? Not really, I should still prepare for the worst, because the worst happens when you least expect it. And I should still hope for the best, because otherwise it would be a pretty sad life to live. The psychology student in me thinks it’s both important and interesting to know why people do the things they do. But, what if you use this lesson to diffuse anger?
Let’s be honest. 99% of my daily conversations are about covid-19, and practically everyone is angry about something. The conversations started out pretty much the same across the board. People were upset about losing opportunities, missing their friends and family, and of course, the lack of toilet paper. However, as the world begins to open up, piece by piece, the anger has shifted. And this new frustration generally falls into one of two camps:
Starting with the group 1 people. I understand why they feel this way. At the beginning of quarantine, health professionals were projecting sky-high infection rates and hundreds of thousands of deaths in Canada. When your options are “quarantine” or “apocalypse”, you tend to choose “quarantine”. And covid-19 came and continues to come, I’m not minimizing the damage it’s doing. People are dying, the economy got hit with a freight train, and social isolation has made me lose my mind, but was it apocalyptic? No.
DISCLAIMER: If you work as a health professional, frontline worker, essential service, I argue you may have witnessed an apocalypse. I’m not saying what you saw was anything but horrific, I’m simply addressing my fellow cohort who spent the last nine weeks watching Netflix.
So, for anyone who’s angry about “quarantine being a waste”, I have to ask you: what did you expect? You were presented with a horror story and told the solution was to go inside. And frankly, you did exactly what you’ve been trained to do. Prepare for the worst. I do the same thing when I get into my car. I buckle my seatbelt. I don’t expect to get T-boned in an intersection or rear ended on the highway, but I still take precaution.
When covid-19 showed up on our doorsteps we were all forced to get into a car, and we were told to wear seatbelts. Some people didn’t. Some people cut the seatbelt out of the cars and took to the street in protest screaming “Fuck seatbelts!”. They complained that the seatbelts were restrictive and unnecessary because they had never crashed a car before. But just because you’ve never crashed doesn’t mean you never will. All of a sudden a car comes speeding out of no where and because you decided the restriction of a seatbelt was too much, you get launched from your car like a rag doll.
Plus, let’s be honest, if we had refused quarantine, we probably would’ve gotten the apocalypse they told us about.
And then there are the group 2 people. The people who are furious at the lack of social distancing, handwashing and mask wearing. Just as I did with our friends from group 1, I ask you to look at the situation with a new lens. Because yes, there are people breaking the social constructs we have created out of ignorance, but a lot of people may be doing it out of optimism. Just as we prepare for the worst, we hope for the best. Hard as you try, you can’t get mad at people for thinking this way, because you do it too.
Have you ever been running late for work, and you’re confident you locked the door, but you don’t have the time or energy to go back and check? That, my friend, is optimism. You lock your door every morning because you’re preparing to get robbed but you never hope to get robbed. So even though the 30 seconds or 20 steps back to the door aren’t the end of the world, you simply hope that nobody chooses to knock on your door while you’re not home.
Don’t be mistaken, I’m far more a “group 2” person. When I see a large group of people sitting together in a park, part of me smiles at their optimism, and part of me clenches my teeth and mumbles “Darwinism” under my breath. But in reality, I can’t get that mad because we have all had a time in our life where we don’t go back to check if the door is locked.
So, keep preparing for the worst, because if it gets there and you’re not prepared the worst will be a nightmare. I’m just hoping that maybe by changing your perspective on the situation you’ll be more forgiving of weeks of lockdown, or to the people who just can’t seem to grasp the severity of the situation. I’m still going to prepare for the worst, as well as hope for the best. Put a password on my phone even though I hope to never lose it. I’m going to GET THE COVID-19 VACCINE WHEN IT BECOMES AVAILABLE even though I’m engaging in safe health behaviours. And hopefully, you’ll all remember to buckle your seatbelt, lock your door and wear your ski helmet.
From me, with love, to you,