Written by: Alaa H. Katerji

       The norm in some of our social media platforms is to remind us, every now and then, of our previous activities and unforgettable moments that were once shared. Since the whole world was under strict lockdown over the past summer, we had no other choice but to revel in summer virtually. Those reminders brought back lovely memories that were the balm to soothe our scarred hearts and souls: family gatherings, adventurous trips, joyful outings, inspiring quotes, insightful articles, successful moments, etc. 

         It was as heartbreaking as it was soothing to be locked in memories during the summer of 2020, a summer like no other worldwide. Under the heavy weight of unrest and trying local as well as global circumstances, institutions had no choice but to adapt to challenging business environments. Families floundered to the echoes of separations and upheavals; individuals were barely able to cope with deteriorating personal, professional, and familial affairs. Most importantly, children were barely able to withstand strenuous fluctuations that they’d never previously experienced. 

         Here we are again in farewell to an arduous summer; it’s September. It is that month of the year whereby everyone must resume activity after a brief interlude. Regardless of the overall situation, it is the time of the year where school commencement puts everyone back on track, not only in the education field, but across all other sectors. At this time of year, parents and entire nations go back to re-establishing routines that jumpstart a new academic year.

         As we race to prepare ourselves for the challenges to come, we wonder: what kind of routines should we set? How do we best brace for a humdrum school year that seems to be brimming with hoards of change? How can we ensure stability and positivity in the face of a gloomy and tumultuous future? How do we deal with debatable divergent perspectives that struggle to draw a better future in this period of uncertainty?

         A thoughtful introspection and contemplation of these questions lead to extensive scrutiny of the past, and of how our ancestors survived hinge moments: such as disaster aftermaths, sudden gross historical changes, plague periods, crisis, regional and global insecurities, etc. What becomes evident in retrospect is the duality of communal and individual responsibility, and their role in making informed humane decisions, ensuring survival, as well as engineering the rise of mankind. As stories filter through of incidents where personal interests and greedy attempts were put forth and above public benefit, it becomes apparent that these attempts rarely ever change history or last for long. What really lasts is people’s willingness to persist and prevail against all odds. This peek into the past is what drives a constant interest and probe into the studies of human nature and human behavior.

         Under unprecedented exacting conditions, people innately seek an improved state of well-being, in lieu of emotional and social fitness in particular, so as to rebuild and fortify themselves as well as their communities. As a group, they develop “new norms” and adapt to a “new normal”, one that cannot be generalized nor standardized. And yet, is strictly bound to group and societal conditions. Catering to emotional and social fitness requires the development of vital life skills which contributes to personal, spiritual, interpersonal, and intrapersonal rehabilitation. These skills mainly include the ability to manage and cope with different new situations such as relocating. They also include a willingness to restructure roles, embrace new mindsets, and deal with different emerging emotions such as intrusive negative thoughts, seclusion, stress, depression, grief, anxiety…  

         Succumbing in difficult times might sometimes feel like the easy way out to escape a stressful situation, however it harbors years and decades of self and societal shame and blame in reward for painful concessions. Succumbing also paves the way for power starved people to rule, use, and abuse the woes of nations. The vicious cycle of surrender habitually extends the suffering and agony of peoples for many generations.  As we all trudge through a stressful lifestyle, it becomes essential to teach our children and ourselves ways to: reconnect, cultivate empathy, promote compassion, and practice altruism as part of a strict emotional and social fitness diet. 

        As priorities shift, survival is no longer that of the fittest or the most affluent. It is the survival of the banded and bonded, the secret lies in togetherness. It is not only that “I” need to survive. If “we” do not band, “I” cannot subsist. In these uncertain times, we need to share responsibilities and to model a harmonious “give and take” relationship. It is at this pit stop in our modern history that each individual is held accountable to recognize their strengths and needs, and to give their all to the larger group while receiving a nurturing embrace of their respective individualities in return. It is in these trying and difficult times that individuals must forgive and move forward in the spirit of reciprocal responsible actions. 

     Now is the time for an individual control of impulses in face of societal patience. It is the time for individual communication and cooperation in the face of conflict resolutions. It is the time for collective judgment and assessment of personal and communal behaviors and their respective consequences. Now is NOT the time for personal goals and achievements that revolve around the “I”, but rather around the “we”.  It is NOT the time to instill personal rules into the game and detach oneself from the surrounding community. It is most certainly NOT the time to be toxically positive nor perniciously negative. 

         So what sort of time are we living in? The answer is pretty simple. It is the time to move on towards a bigger goal, and a larger picture. It is a fact that life goes on no matter what. And it is a fact that no one individual or society or civilization has ever lived a life free of struggles. It is we who shape this life and decide how to live it. Do we go on to document surging memories of communal actions so that they roll in our notification bars for years to come? Or should our documented memories only be restricted to light moments of rest, joy, and ennui? What lessons will our archived memories teach the youngsters and youth of the future? What behavioral or civil heritage are we leaving behind? 

      After all is said and done, now is the perfect time for all of us to heal each other, and engage ourselves and our children with our emerging “new normal”. We must craft and send urgent calls for every earth inhabitant to roll the sleeves and join in that craft a better now and a better then. Now, we work on getting notified of memories of a legacy.

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Alaa H. Katerji is the School Principal for Al-Hayat International School (Lebanon), educational consultant, and a certified   Concept- Based Curriculum and Instruction Trainer. She holds B.S. degree in Biochemistry and M.A. in Education Management and Leadership.