Joe Sleven '13

Category Manager, adidas

Joe SlevenReflecting on 2020, I can’t help but think of the Michael Chabon quote, “Man makes plans … and God laughs.” For all of the planning, life-mapping, or scheming we do, I don’t think the vast majority of us ever envisioned a year like this.

Originally, I thought this might be a galvanizing moment, something that would cross societal lines, but that vanished just as quickly as the novelty of working from home. Masks were politicized, suffering became unbalanced, and protocols were disjointed or inconsistent. It all made for a very murky environment, one that trended in the wrong direction.

I did my best to stay informed, but the more information I looked for, the cloudier the situation became. I constantly took those click-bait headlines hook, line, and sinker. My incessant scrolling was simply lining the pockets of the outlets where I sought truth and direction. I became jaded knowing that regardless of politics, the high tides of uncertainty had raised all media boats. This isn’t to say the news can’t be trusted—it’s more important than ever to identify proper sources and ensure we amplify their coverage—but I worry about the labyrinth we’ve created for future generations. Doubt is becoming more sophisticated, as proving someone is wrong is held in higher regard than being right. Compromise seems gone and dialogue has halted—not an environment well suited for progress.

After these three paragraphs, I’m sure you think this has all gone on to create a fragile mental state and a lack of optimism, but it’s just the opposite. Sure, I have times when I get in a funk, but I also have more desire to help out than ever before. In the novel The Man Who Saw Everything, Deborah Levy struck a chord when she wrote that her character was “…paddling in the shallow end of life’s problems.” If anything, 2020 has shown how wildly fortunate many of us are, and how we’ve failed to pass along that privilege to others. In taking inventory of all my blessings in life, I’ve never felt more of a need to share them.

I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who’s eager to learn and do more to champion disenfranchised groups, or to pass along those values to future generations. And I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who’s still seeking out the truth, or who’s having conversations to help educate others on these issues.  I’ll leave this period of our lives with more intention and purpose than I’ve ever had before, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.