Legend has it that there is an old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.
It’s safe to say that we live in interesting times, from a purely economic standpoint, that is certainly true.
How is that we have place like Valero, once the darling of the new-energy movement when ethanol came into vogue, closing before the end of the year, and, at the other end of our readership area, the Dodge County Jail is so short of staff, one pod has had to close and hiring bonuses of $4,000 on top of $20-plus-per-hour wages have been commissioned in order to encourage candidates to apply for positions.
And the pendulum swings. Eaton and Tyson Foods both announced major plant closings and layoffs in our area. Yet everywhere we look there are help wanted signs. Some restaurants and shops — even school bus companies — have cut back hours or simply closed because they simply cannot find enough people to work.
Perhaps the greatest unforeseen fallout from the pandemic has been what is being called the Great Resignation. It’s not entirely clear why, but COVID-19 has prompted a lot of people to re-evaluate their lives and their jobs. Maybe it was fear (or denial) of the disease or all that time at home made many people think that our time on this earth is limited and we should make the most of it by reinventing our lives. Maybe it was limited childcare. Maybe the government relief funds made many people realize how much more income might change their lives. Maybe it was people who were retiring anyway and the pandemic just accelerated that. Maybe it is because Generation Z is so much smaller than the millennial generation. It might be all of the above and more.
COVID-19 and our reaction to it, has accelerated trends, for better for worse, and is causing unforeseen changes everywhere we look. Supply chain issues has made it hard to find new cars, paint, appliances and furniture in many cases. In England, there are lines to buy gasoline because of shortages, and natural gas prices are predicted to spike this winter.
When you toss a pebble in a pond, it causes waves that refract off other objects and create counter currents of their own. Predictable changes become increasingly more complex and more difficult to plan for.
But humans are a resourceful bunch. We are pretty adept at learning to adapt. And that is exactly what is happening now. We are working on ways to cope. It’s not easy, and, in the process, many of the more beloved things we have come to be used to will change or go way. Time will march on and often with little taste for sentiment.
Change is a messy and sometimes painful business. We won’t do things the same in the future. When it comes to the pandemic, The After Times will not resemble The Before Times in many ways.
It’s been stressful going through all this change. We had no roadmap, and it has been filled with fear, dread, scapegoating, name calling and so much more, because none of us really had a plan as to how this should evolve, from a physical and mental health standpoint, and an economic one, to say nothing of all those ripples that led to unexpected changes elsewhere in our lives.
These are indeed interesting times. And, like another old saying goes: What does not kill you, makes you stronger. For the many that were fortunate enough to survive these turbulent times, and have been made stronger in many ways, let’s hope this leads to a greater awareness and acceptance of how we can make tomorrow better than the most recent past we have endured.
We can only hope the pandemic and is consequences have made us all smarter, kinder, and more resourceful and more resilient. Learning from out experiences is the only we humans know how to improve our lot.