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  • Writer's pictureMegan Erin Lai

Finding the Light

It's no secret that there's a lot of negativity in this world and its magnitude is continuously revealing itself in the current climate. We see it every day as we're inundated with news of the latest social, political, racial, cultural, health, and environmental issues. We see it deepening the division between people of different ideologies - strangers ceasing to recognize the humanity in one another, and family members effectively disowning each other. I do believe there is such a thing as righteous anger and that you should do all you can to fight injustice, but every now and then, I think it's good to take a step back to recharge and take care of your mental and emotional health, even if it's just for a few moments.

Though I've been learning to adjust and most of my days have been good, once in a while I still find myself struggling to find ways to stay positive and motivated. At times it feels like everything is out of control and hope is dwindling. Sometimes I even question the value of what I'm doing, and how, despite all of the hard work I've put into building and shaping my life, I'm still struggling to make progress because of all of the unforeseen circumstances at play.

I've always considered myself to be introspective, but boy have I had a lot of extra time during isolation to dig deeper. One benefit is that I've reminded myself of what I can and cannot change, and what actions are within my power. I cannot singlehandedly fix every problem - no one can. I can, however, control how I respond - how I grow, how I evolve, and how I "meet this moment." I've chosen to get more involved and educated about politics so I can understand and speak out about our country's shortcomings, but I'm also choosing to look for all of the good that remains in this world and evaluate how my decisions help spread light and create an environment that values and sees the humanity in everyone.

For instance, I've begun to clarify how I feel about this life I'm pursuing - the life of an artist. Back in college, when I was still pursuing a dual degree in acting and chemistry, I had to make a choice: commit to chemistry and a stable, predictable career, or commit to acting and a more artistic, albeit unconventional life. Don't get me wrong, I loved chemistry and was upset about giving it up, but I ultimately chose what I felt I couldn't live without and what gave me the most joy. It's also the path that allows me to share stories and encourage empathy - something we need more of these days. Unfortunately, thanks to COVID, it's much more challenging right now to create art the traditional way, but a key thing for me has been remembering why I love it, why I think it's so important, and what it adds to the world: light.

Early on in quarantine before one of our drives

During isolation, a frequent pastime of mine and my mom's has been going for drives. We've both always loved driving, but it's taken on an even greater significance while being stuck in the house for months. We have our usual route that we'll switch up with a few different turns here and there - the variety is astounding, I know - but even though the path is known, the joy and freedom remain.

Last month, I went to an audition in Chicago (where everyone was masked and/or socially distant), and afterward my mom and I drove down Lake Shore Drive. The sun was shining, the lake was a beautiful bluish green, the windows were rolled down, and great music was blasting in my car. As cheesy as it sounds, I thought I'd cry from happiness.

Here's the interesting thing: I still saw the strange new normal of people wearing masks, reminding me we're still in the middle of a pandemic, and I also saw people not wearing masks (prolonging the pandemic), but for a moment in time I felt entirely happy.

I felt hope.

It reminded me that there is joy to be found, and there is light in this world, even if it's a little harder to see sometimes. It exists in the smiles and laughter shared with friends, even if they only happen through a screen right now. It exists in the sunny days that illuminate the nature and beauty of the world around us. It exists in the notes and phrases of music that make up our favorite songs. It exists in the spirits of you and me.

That joy - that light - is what keeps me going.

When I've spent hours reading and listening to the news, when I've been shamed for my beliefs or had my character questioned by people with opposing views, I remind myself of the good that remains in my life. After all, that's what makes all of the bad days worth it and all of the good days possible.

So, when it seems hopeless or pointless, find the light - whether it's through listening to music, talking with loved ones, dancing around your room, taking a walk, or cooking your favorite food.

And when you notice others struggling, be a light for them. Tell your friends and family how much you love them, send a silly video to make them smile, and remind them that even through the bad days, they matter.

Now, more than ever, it's imperative that you find the light because it'll show you that there's still something worth fighting for - and living for.


*Below: a small sampling of moments and people who've brought joy and light to my life


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