Connection unstable

Hailey Echan, Features Editor

Photo Illustration By Hailey Echan

2021. Will it be another year of Zoom calls and social distancing? Or will it be a year of reconnecting, rebuilding and revisioning what was dismantled and forgotten?

Although some would say 2020 was a year of awakening, change and growth, others would say it was a year of despair, isolation and chaos. I would say it’s been a year of all of the above. No one saw coming what last year had to offer, but even in previous years that have marked history, people found a way to make it through. 

That is what we have done. We made it through. We finished the chaotic 365 days, but by no means have we fully dealt with the repercussions of last year. That was just the beginning. What now? 

There is still much to fight for and much to mourn. We lost people along the way; we even lost ourselves along the way. Human connection has always been important, but it is now more urgent than ever before. 

Due to the waves of COVID-19 that hit the world, human connection was substituted with online signals. 

Sure, before the pandemic hit WiFi routers and the newest and best laptops were in high demand. The difference now is, these items went from luxury to necessity. 

Molly Callison and Hailey Echan hugging and enjoying the outdoors at Camp Casey during October of 2019. (Courtesy of Hailey Echan)

Friendships remained, weddings were celebrated, families continued to gather for reunions, birthdays, and graduations; just all on a screen. Our only channel of commemorating and communicating became virtual.

Seeing one another on a screen was all fine until a notification popped up that said ‘internet connection unstable.’

Connecting through a screen is our only option. When that is threatened there is no back up. 

It is now a problem when our internet connection is unstable, but what if we got an alert that said our ‘human connection is unstable’? Life through a screen is necessary at this time for people’s safety, but that does not mean our desire and need for deeper connections should be ignored. 

I survived 2020, but by no means did I thrive. Without engaging with people the way we were created to, it isn’t possible to thrive in the same ways as any other year. Is it even possible to thrive at all in this environment? 

I, personally, have found it helpful to remember the end of the year does not signal the end of a season. For some, knowing the pain isn’t over is detrimental. For me, it provides more motivation to keep going. The light at the end of the tunnel exists, but we’ll never get there if we stop now. So as we leave 2020 behind and step into 2021, let’s remember there is more than a beginning and an end. There is an in-between too.  

There is no end or solution without the in-between. We don’t get the privilege of starting something, closing our eyes, then waking up to the problem already being solved.

Jamie Hoffman and Hailey Echan connect over a breakfast at Denny’s during March of 2020, just before the pandemic hit. (Courtesy of Hailey Echan)

We are in the midst of a pandemic. We are in the middle of fighting against racial injustice and inequality. We are in the core of an economic downfall. We are knee-deep in all of it. 

Middles can be the hardest because that is where we can really get lost. 

It’s the messiest. It’s the most daunting. It’s where our momentum diminishes. 

But that’s not all. It’s also where personal growth happens. It’s where relationships become stronger. It’s where change in our lives occurs. 

If I’ve learned anything from experiencing life via a screen in all this, it’s that I can’t make it through on my own. We’re in the middle of a fight and making it through without deeply connected relationships is near impossible. 

Let’s not forget to pursue human connection as we continue to promote and fight for human health and rights. 

With a vaccine making its way through cities and the political climate shifting, we might be experiencing the beginning of the end of the chaos that 2020 brought. That is cause for celebration, but it is also more reason to keep moving forward. Technology has done its best to keep us connected, but there will never be a substitute for the relationships created in simple everyday moments.

There is no replacement for getting to be a part of history. I get to see God move in ways no one thought possible. I get to be a part of the fight for justice and equality for all. I get the opportunity to not give up. I get to hold onto my relationships with friends and family tighter than ever. 

Welcome to 2021. Welcome to the middle– where human connection is more important than ever.