While the fires of COVID-19 continue to rage around the world, here in the US we've turned a corner. The intensity of an emergency doesn't register until after it's over, and many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the events of the past year. Inevitably, our pause turns to curiosity … what happens next? What will be different, what will be the same?
An Etch A Sketch is a mechanical drawing toy invented by André Cassagnes of France. Two knobs move a stylus that displaces aluminum powder on the back of the screen, leaving a solid line. The genius of the toy is the aluminum powder. A child only needs to flip the toy and shake, redistributing it over the screen.
COVID has presented an opportunity to envision our lives turned upside down, powder redistributed. We can start over. We hoard relationships and the accoutrements of a life others have fashioned for us. We often don't know any better, or don't have the confidence to draw outside the lines until we're older. My colleague, professor Adam Alter, has done research on the regrets of the dying. One of the biggest: not living the life they wanted to lead, but the life others chose for them.
In 2000 I left my marriage, my career in e-commerce, and San Francisco. I hit the restart button and left a lot behind. The period was lonely, rife with collateral damage — but it was the right decision. COVID presents society, and each of us, with the opportunity to design a better life with … less.