This past year, I’ve found myself continually asking the same question: “Why?”
At the beginning of the year, when the world seemed to be on the verge of World War III, I wondered what the purpose of it was. I wondered why, as human beings, we can’t all just get along, why there has to be arguments and violent threats whenever people disagree.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I wondered what I was supposed to be learning from it. At first, I thought it was a message from some divine power to let myself slow down and take a break. But even after learning that lesson, the pandemic continued to rage on. More than that, people were dying, and people continue to die. A lesson for me to take a break didn’t seem to be a sufficient answer to the question of why people across the world were suffering.
The pandemic has now been going on for eight months, and with no end in clear sight, I’m still asking myself, “Why?”
When George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed, I grieved their losses, but at the same time, I also had hope. I thought their deaths might be the final straw in centuries of racial unrest and injustice. I thought we could come together as a nation to fight for great change in society, and that maybe America would move toward being a unified nation that values the lives of all of the people who compose it. But it’s months after their deaths, and America seems stuck in its ways of systemic racism.
The question of “Why?” circled back.
A cross country and track athlete, I found myself turning to my daily runs to solve all of the issues in my personal life. On top of national and global issues, there were (and are) plenty of instances in my personal life that came back to the question of “Why?” as well.
Running, which for some time allowed me to quite literally run away from that question, soon forced me to run into the question instead. I found myself in a perpetual cycle of injuries, one that I’m currently in the midst of.
Again, I find myself asking “Why?” But as the physical and mental pains manifested by my injuries drag on, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe the question I’m asking myself shouldn’t be, “Why?” but rather, “How?”
Large- and small-scale, “How?” seems to be a much more productive answer than a simple “Why?” While asking “Why?” might get us a short-term explanation, it doesn’t provide a long-term answer, and thus no long-term solution.
With regard to my injuries, I’m trying to delve into the “How?” How did this happen? How can I cope with my situation right now? How can I prevent this in the future?
I like to think of my injuries as symbolic of the world right now. We’re all hurting, and there are pieces of the world that feel damaged. But it is the questions we ask ourselves as individuals and each other in our communities that determine how and when we can move forward from everything that feels askew and out of place.
While asking “Why?” might give us one answer, the question of “How?” gives us many. And right now, it feels like we need as many answers as possible.
In the outside world, in the things that take up more room and importance than a simple, individual injury, maybe “How?” is our road to success and our pathway to change, the answer to fixing the things that are broken in the world right now.
Think about it this way: You’re holding something delicate, something fragile. You drop it, and it shatters on the floor. You don’t ask yourself why you dropped it. You ask yourself how you’re going to fix it, whether that means putting the pieces back together or simply cleaning up the mess. You ask yourself, “How?” not “Why?”
We’ll know why things happened the way they did sooner or later. Looking back on the events of 2020 years down the road will be all the explanation we need for why things played out the way they did. For now, it’s our task to focus on figuring out “How?” How can we move forward? How can we prevent another year like this? How can we find individual happiness in the midst of global tragedy?
They say hindsight is 2020. Maybe there’s a reason for that.