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Unprecedented sadness!

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Tierrai Tull is an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and University College London

Fear, anxiety and uncertainty are natural parts of this life sentence. Yet, right now, it seems like we’re experiencing them at all once — at an accelerated pace.

A professor at University College London told me that every generation believe they live in the worst of times, and they are hardly right. I think he’s right in a philosophical way. And wrong in every other way. How do we even measure the worst of times? Even the definitions and application of the word “worst” have changed over time. It’s relative to me.

Existing right now is hard, regardless of what my public policy professor says. But it won’t last. Whether you find yourself in a phase of hopelessness or are energised and excited about uncertainty because you can create solutions, one thing is clear: we need to have empathy for one another more than ever.

In her book The Atlas of the Heart, Brene Brown discusses the differences between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is like looking down at someone in a ditch, saying, “Yikes, that looks really bad” — while remaining comfortably outside the ditch, disconnected from the other person’s reality. On the other hand, empathy demands vulnerability and the courage to get into the ditch with someone metaphorically.

This should not be confused with comparing or embracing pain that isn’t yours. Sometimes, you genuinely will be disconnected from the struggles of others — and cannot relate. Empathy helps you sit in and share darkness with others, not experience it.

In Bermuda, conversations peak about the cost of living, a new tropical cyclone or hurricane rears its head every five business days because of the unprecedented heat of this year — and the inequalities that come along with it have not stopped.

During the pandemic, everyone’s favourite phrase was “these unprecedented times”. My friends and I would joke about how we missed “precedented times”. Even reading the news has been difficult. This comes from a student who pays for newspaper subscriptions to just about everywhere. In any case, embracing how I feel, despite how yucky — anger, bitterness, despair — helps me navigate life authentically. It’s OK to be sad. Unprecedented and all. As they say. It’s necessary to embrace wherever you are, even if it’s awkward or anxious.

This year especially has been difficult for many people; it’s almost as if we’re alive at the same time. Having a group of people who affirm my reality helps me embrace my sadness — in a supportive, non-groupthinkish way.

Bermuda Youth Connect is a part of this, and we created a podcast to discuss things we care about and are sad about. Similarly, in its ideal form, this column is almost like Bermudian society in conversation with itself. And a (shameless) plug: our latest episode, a discussion with seven different Black men, is an authentic, vulnerable mood-booster. Have a listen at https://spotify.link/7iGZ2uw2bDb

Tierrai Tull is an undergraduate at the University of Toronto and University College London

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Published September 20, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated September 20, 2023 at 8:13 am)

Unprecedented sadness!

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