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Wrestling between progress versus precaution

What's on our minds as things reopen

As we wake up to an alluring summer and the outdoor beckons – our inner fears stir. The truth is, we are tense and frazzled about the world opening back up... and things could just as easily get worse. Social unrest has been added to the mix. New York used to be cool. Now it's just a nightmare.

New York is my home away from home. Back when I was at NYU, I didn't feel like a New Yorker, but fast forward to 13 years going on 14 later, I own my plot of air space in Manhattan and call it my home away from home. Normally, that makes me feel awesome. But now, I'm reading articles I thought I'd never see in MAY 2020 about people re-considering ever returning to New York...for good! That's...insane! I feel that's not going to be me, as I pack the bags to head back sometime this month. I can only hope that fate doesn't find a way to kick me out because I do love our city, it's people, my network of family and friends there - my work family is an extension of my real family. I can handle losing some, but not ALL, and definitely not forever.

My First Time in New York

Years ago, I had this happen to me. I was headed to NYU Stern business school for college, contrary to my unwavering declaration to my family that I would never choose an urban college experience and preferred a small school with maybe two thousand students max. Oops :)

Before that, it was the year 2000. 20 years ago we moved to this country from Singapore. I didn't understand the concept of "moving" continents or leaving life and friendships behind. There was no Facebook or social media, and many of us have lost touch since. When I went back to Singapore in 2017 and met up with friends who never left, they had such clear memories of me leaving and were thoroughly upset with me for not keeping in touch. But I was ten...and I wasn't told by my parents, "this is goodbye forever." I was told: "We're going to see snow! Y2K is coming! Yay!"

Is it déjà vu now because I feel like it's happening again in 2020. The atmosphere is fraught with anxiety induced by social media, with the strain of social distancing compounding our tension and uncertainty.

Even as I stay connected to my social groups I question when we'll be able to see each other again. I am secure in my friendships with my closest friends and I can see us conceivably hanging again, but what about wider, different circles that bring value to my life - who inevitably might fall off my radar? So many challenges – so many unknowns.

What Our "First Conversations Back" Might Look Like

Today, I reach out to people without the certainty that I'll be able to see them anytime soon. With the closest friends, hanging out again doesn't seem so far away. But as a guy who's got pockets of friends in different circles, when will we see each other again? And when we do...what does that look like having gone through this time in our lives, apart?

I'm worried that when we go back to being on set or an audition, is this going to be the elephant in the room? Or are we all just grateful to be back to the world as we knew it and it's almost like things are "back to normal?" It's a heavy cloud that lingers above us all. The weight of the world carries a whole new meaning, and while Atlas shrugged, I think a lot of us are confronting the struggles we encounter in order to revive.

Declare Change

This has become the year that sprung upon us with raw, painful fear, forced us to face many realities, forced us to reconcile in short forced us to grow up! We could choose to see this time in one of two ways: raw, painful, fear and what if? Or we could choose to see the bright side: how can we grow from this? What innovation can arise from it? How can we better in service of ourselves, our loved ones, and the world at large?

This is our collective rite of passage – when I want to tell myself that things will pass, maybe not soon but in time. I hope that's not me being idealistic or delusional, yet I do believe that in time, we may just come out of this a stronger nation. I came here as an immigrant, and now I'm a citizen. Living the dream and believing we can take on anything. We are fighting two wars now, #COVID and cultural civil war against racism and systematic brutality. As I start to pave my way forward in this new world order.

Finding Ways to Connect & Create

This catastrophe has been a jolt to the system, a global reset. But unlike most of what's occurred in my life, this one happened to all of us standing right where we are. We look around and nothing's really different, but everything's changed.

I'm really curious how you are finding communication with your loved ones and friends during this time. We're all definitely bored of the zoom calls as a substitute for hanging out - I used to take it for granted that we could double date in the city and go to a pottery class together! If that going to happen again, it's really hard to say when. But does that mean we don't go on double dates and saunter around with our heads hanging low, with a sign that says "woe is me?" No. Way.

The answer, as always, is somewhere in between.

We'd love to hear how you find ways to connect create and communicate with your loved ones. One of the really simple, effective ways that I've been able to do so is through a shared iPhone album for my family called "Covid Cocoon." In it, I upload pictures from fond trips down memory lane, funny throwback pictures, and snaps of the food or activities we're doing from home. Sometimes I even screenshot articles to share with the family to arrive at new perspectives and continued conversations. That's been a big thing to come from the events happening this week with #BlackLivesMatter - finding a way to sustainably talk about what's happening without blame or shame, and finding our shared path forward.

We are stronger together


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