Photo: highway with trees on the sides

Discovering New Possibilities Through the Lens of COVID-19

Posted on April 29, 2020 by John Ferguson, TPF Fellow 2020/21
Moving across the country to pursue a new opportunity comes with a certain set of challenges under normal circumstances.

Finding housing, securing movers, acquiring new identification, throwing one last farewell bash to celebrate with those you are leaving behind. All of this plus so much more goes into such an endeavor, but doing so during a global pandemic? That is another challenge entirely with both positive and negative aspects that have shaped my experience in ways I could not have foreseen.

Every plan I had was altered, postponed, or downright canceled. I had a masterful plan, including concerts with friends, attending the NCAA Basketball Tournament with my dad and cousins, a special Mother’s Day weekend in New York City with my Mom, and a farewell party that would have forever altered the expectations of what a party should be. It was perfect. Ideal ways thoughtfully planned to share special moments and say goodbye (for now) to my friends and family before I moved over 1000 miles away. Enter COVID-19. Nothing. Nothing mentioned above would happen. My plans completely fell apart. My carefully curated timeline was turned upside down. No celebrations. No goodbye hugs. Nothing.

But with every difficult situation, there are amazingly positive things that happen too. My timeline blew up, but that opened up the possibility of moving sooner than expected and starting this new adventure six weeks earlier than anticipated, thanks to the flexibility of The Patterson Foundation.

Finding housing, securing movers, and coordinating all aspects of the move were done remotely by phone or online without much consternation, and the drive down was pleasant and devoid of traffic, even through Atlanta—something I never thought possible even during a pandemic! My apartment is set up and made a home in record time (for me at least), and I’ve been able to work, live, and play in new ways from the comfort of my apartment. Backyard gatherings have become zoom chats. Meetings have become virtual. Sporadic phone calls have become much more frequent, and FaceTime has allowed for a nice, though not entirely the same, alternative to the goodbye-for-now hug.

Strangely, in some ways, I feel more connected to friends and family than ever before.

So, this story leads to an interesting point of contemplation. Yes, COVID-19 has drastically changed how we live, work, and play. Yes, isolation and the lack of human contact for many of us can be debilitating and depressing. But there are many ways to adapt as we adjust to our current “normal.”

Our power lies in our perspective.
Some folks have withdrawn, others protest and bemoan their formerly active social lives, while others still seek out new ways to experience life and stay connected to loved ones. I challenge us all to be the latter. We have all essentially been sent to our rooms to think about what we’ve done in a global timeout. What might be possible if we were to take this opportunity to think, work, live, and play differently than before? To weed out the unnecessary tasks and inefficient ways of working from our pre-COVID existence? Things previously thought to be impossible have become the current norm. We have a rare and wonderful opportunity here and now to reconsider and design a new life that propels us forward and allows us to be the very best version of ourselves as we work toward reopening our communities.

The philanthropic community has long been seeking to create a more just world. The opportunity to do so is at our doorstep. Together, we can not only get through this pandemic, but also come out of it better, stronger, and more agile than before. We must continually remind ourselves to view the world through the lens of possibility. Do not focus on what we’ve lost. Instead, think of everything we might gain should we be brave enough to reimagine our society and curiously explore the many new possibilities that emerge.

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