Alex Calvert ’14

Operations Manager, Alexa Skills Team, Amazon

Alex CalvertSuffering is the forge upon which the mightiest steel is tempered. Little did I expect that the entire world would be thrown into the crucible together this year, even as I found myself on exciting precipices: a year into a new city and job after 10 years in Portland and, more importantly, I was in the healthiest relationship I’d ever been in.

My partner, Nic, had become a life role model for me early in our dating. I was never that kid who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and spent a good deal of my twenties struggling to translate my passions into a career. Nic, on the other hand, was an individual who pursued opera in academia and, after graduating, banded together with his peers to form their own opera company, one founded with the mission to ensure diversity and inclusion in an artform historically inaccessible to most.” After a series of successful performances in February, we looked ahead at the year seeing nothing but opportunity.

Then March hit. Those in the performing arts were told their livelihood would return “after a few weeks,” then “maybe after summer,” and eventually a resigned “at some point, we’ll see.” Like most artists, Nic’s other gigs as a restaurant server and theater administrator were suspended indefinitely too, taking him from three positions to zero job security the rest of the year. As kids, as college students, as young adults, we’re told to forgo the desk job and chase our passions. Yet here we were, in a situation where the artists and entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams were being penalized the harshest. This felt...backwards. Unfair. Defeating. 

In the months after, while I found myself struggling to have hope, Nic maintained his perseverance, optimism, and rigor to better himself and his community. In a time when he could have acted as if the world was against him, he instead learned to navigate the storm to find meaning and joy—and bestow it upon others. His company performed an all-virtual opera this summer and is currently planning their 2021 programming. He’s also taking this opportunity to go back to school and pursue UX Design.

At a time when I needed it most, Nic reminded me that the only thing consistent about people is their inconstancy, and the agency we have over ourselves when little else feels in control. To change for the better. To change together.

The wave of challenges COVID-19 has wrought reveals layers of our character typically shielded by assurance and stability. Seeing my partner so disproportionately impacted compared to my own situation, and still thriving, showed me where my own character was faltering.

Now more than ever, each of us must seek out and learn from those who are flagbearers of our humanity, who provide stability in the face of uncertainty, who serve when their own cup is empty. Those who hold us accountable to ourselves when we’ve lost our own accountability, and who can teach us to be that same light for others.