Chapter 2: Running Your Own Race

This month marks two years since COVID-19 changed all of our lives forever. From keeping up
with a fast-paced lifestyle to being forced to stay at home for months on end, the pandemic
forced many of us to slow down and take a huge pause in our lives. Those of us who had the
privilege of staying home during the peak of infection were subjected to a heightened new
reality: the social media reality. Even prior to the pandemic, social media still played a major role in all of our lives. However, in 2020 it went from being an optional means of connection to the only source of interaction left with the outside world. Due to this, all of our realities became altered as we stopped seeing the “behind-the-scenes” of people's everyday lives, and were only subjected to their “highlight reels”. Many people took this time to start new businesses, invest in their creative projects, and build audiences across many social platforms. Suddenly, the pandemic stopped being about surviving through a major historical event, but instead, thriving during it. If you didn’t somehow elevate yourself socially or economically then people made it seem like you wasted your time. Even the toughest of us couldn’t help but look around and ask ourselves “what have I done?”

When the pandemic shut down the United States, I was in my second year of college. I
remember sitting at home watching people locked down in their nice homes, making videos with their family members, and seemingly carrying on easily with their lives thinking: “why can’t that be me?” In contrast, my mom and I are the only ones in my family who live in this country. So I was at home with her, juggling the economic impacts of the pandemic, while also desperately trying to stay afloat in an accelerated medical program. Needless to say, I was struggling. So when I’d open my social media apps and see so many people getting by seemingly unscathed and prosperous, it became easy to feel bad about myself and my life. But here’s the thing I wish someone would’ve told me back then: if all you did was survive during a global pandemic, then guess what? You did enough.

The pandemic really did unveil a lot of the social, political, and economic gaps that exist in our
society. Therefore, one thing became abundantly clear: we are all in completely different places in life. Yet, even with this knowledge, many of us were able to bypass logic and still compare our lives to that of others on social media. Isn’t it interesting how easy it is to rationalize inadequacy and deny self-sufficiency? Needless to say, as we enter the second anniversary of this pandemic, we need to remember how to sharpen our logic and remember that we are all running our own race. Here are three practices that I’ve implemented into my everyday life to help me do this.

1. Fact over Fiction: Whenever I start to feel like I’m falling short or behind, I remind myself to separate facts from fiction. Ask yourself how many of your thoughts and feelings are rooted in truth, versus how many of them are rooted in lies. For example, when I realized that my state of constant inadequacy was rooted in feeling like a failure versus actually failing, it became easier to differentiate facts from fiction. Pro tip: always
choose the facts.

2. No task is too small: Every day, I applaud myself for doing the “bare minimum”. Yes, I know how that sounds. But whether it be making my bed, eating breakfast, or attending all my classes, I try to always be my biggest cheerleader. If you keep waiting for “accomplishment” via societal measures, then you might never feel like you’re doing enough. Applaud yourself for functioning as a human being in a recovering society. Anything after that is just icing on the cake.

3. Eyes on your road: As hard as it may sound, I’ve implemented periodical social media breaks into my life over the course of the past year, and my mental health has drastically improved because of it. Once I start to feel those feelings of comparison rising to the surface, I realize it’s time to take a break. Acknowledging that you need a break from the constant exposure to everyone's lives doesn’t make you a hater, it makes you mature. Sometimes all it takes is a quick break to center you back into your own life and reality and keep you from getting a glimpse into paths that don’t belong to you.

Comparison is something that will never leave us throughout our lives. After all, it is said that negative feelings are sometimes easier to feel than positive ones. The good news is that comparison and feelings of inadequacy can always be managed. As the famous J. Cole song goes, there’s “no such thing as a life that’s better than yours”. You can never be anyone else, and no one else can ever be you. And guess what? That is your power.

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    Meet the Author
    Emely Rodriguez is a first-generation Afro-Latina who was born and raised in New York City. She is currently in her final year of undergrad at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. She has obtained a minor in African American Studies and is expected to complete her degree in Biomedical Sciences this upcoming spring. Read more about Emely >