“Wow, life sucks! A global pandemic obliterated life as we knew it, the ice caps are melting and our rights are being revoked before our eyes.”
That is what the nihilistic voice inside my head could say, especially after a summer like this one.
The COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect people everywhere, while monkeypox became a rising threat. Heatwaves and droughts caused turmoil from coast to coast. The Supreme Court repealed the formerly precedented federal right to abortion.
Put simply, it’s an unsettling time to be an American citizen.
These events and their news coverage also beg further questioning from a journalistic standpoint. Is journalism inherently pessimistic? Is the way we perceive the news a reflection of our own negativity? Does the press tell and amplify stories that are meant to be upsetting?
The responsibility of a journalist is to seek the truth and to hold those in positions of power accountable.
It would be completely naive of me to believe that journalism is only sunshine and rainbows when there is ever-present wrongdoing, inequity and strife to report on.
At a personal level, however, there are ways to remind ourselves of the good in the world. Even when there isn’t complete goodness, there is always perspective.
For my own sake, I started a note in my phone this summer titled “Perspective Moments of the Day.” Anytime I saw something that made me feel a little bit brighter or simply changed my perspective in that moment, I would date the bullet and write it down.
I found this habit made me practice gratitude in moments that I otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. These entries include a variety of perspective shifts.
On June 23, I saw a father pick a flower for his daughter in a stroller on their walk. I couldn’t help but smile at the simple, yet gracious act.
On July 6, I saw a cardinal on my walk, which immediately reminded me of my grandmother. You may not believe in “signs” in the way that I do, but this made me feel as though she was with me at that moment.
On July 30, I noted that I was actually in a bad mood, but I saw a tree stump in the shape of a heart. Looking back at this note, I wonder if I had started seeking out these perspective shifts on my own, simply by changing my view. Would I have cared about this “sign” if I didn’t have a motive to recognize it?
I encourage anyone and everyone to take note of moments in their day where something simply shifted their perspective.
There are times when it is completely necessary to note what went wrong. But what about the things that went right?
My dad will often reference the scene from “The Lion King,” where Rafiki strikes Simba in the head with his walking stick.
“What did you do that for?” Simba asks.
“The past can hurt,” Rafiki responds. “But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”
While we can sit and wonder why we have been hit in the head with a giant stick, we can also learn to change our perspective. What went right? Well, we learned from getting hurt and can use it to protect ourselves in the future.
As journalists, we are constantly in search of the truth. There is truth to the fact that there will always be atrocities that are difficult to digest, some of which may even occur in our own lives. There are truths that we must come to accept, and even further, enlighten others about through the press.
So maybe the world is in peril. But what about the flip side of the coin?
We can acknowledge that the medical field has developed life-saving vaccines for diseases that would have been deadly in the past. Species bound for extinction are back on the map. A Kansas referendum in a rather shocking turn of events voted not to roll back the right to abortion in the state.
We can also change the way we view our own lives and take note of the good rather than dwell on the bad.
There is always room for changing perspective. The question is whether or not we have the willpower to do the work ourselves.