We are living in unprecedented times.
COVID-19 has turned our collective world upside down. Everything we thought we would be doing today, this week, this month, has likely changed in light of stay-at-home orders, business closures, and job changes.
Navigating the uncertainty of a global pandemic has me thinking about the Olive Ridley sea turtles that I had the opportunity to watch hatch at Ostional Beach—a protected wildlife refuge in Costa Rica. The baby turtles have quite a challenge ahead of them when they hatch. First, they have to climb out of the nest where their mama buried the eggs. All the siblings will struggle to reach sunlight. Females can lay over 100 eggs in one nest. The hatchlings climb over one another and use their flippers to push sand out of the way, to reach the beach.
Next, the hatchlings have a long and dangerous walk across at least one hundred yards of sand to get to the ocean. On this journey, they are at risk of getting flipped over or thrown off track by things in their path like driftwood, footprints from people, or worse, a nearby predator.
I witnessed the quickening pace of the baby turtles as they reached the wet sand with their goal of the ocean in sight. Yet the struggle was far from over. A wave would come in and send the poor turtles tumbling back, sometimes leaving them upside down. I watched as some turtles rested for a moment, while others pushed on—determined to make it past the waves into the water. There’s no doubt that turtles have a rough start to life. However, our guide told us that “it is in the struggle that the turtles develop their lungs for living in the ocean.”
It’s the challenge that gives the turtles what they need to survive!
The turtles’ journey is symbolic of life transitions, and obstacles like the ones we are facing right now. Sometimes when we are moving through a significant life event, we might feel like we take two steps, or tumbles, back for every step forward. We might lose our way. We might even experience a setback so challenging that we need to take a moment to rest, reset, or get our bearings before we can move forward again. We may move sideways for a bit until we find the strength to go on.
All of those things are okay and are part of the process of change. By facing the setbacks, we develop new skill sets, gain wisdom, build strength, and resilience. Eventually, we realize we’ve reached it—our new way of being (or in the case of the turtle, the ocean)—but there are always new challenges to face. Even in the relative safety of the sea, there are new threats that the turtle may not know about yet. The same goes for us. There are always new challenges lurking around the corner.
Life is full of unexpected turns and turmoil, but that’s all part of the journey. Our struggles make us who we are. By consistently picking ourselves up, we learn what’s at our core—what makes us tick. We evolve, grow, and mature.
We will get through the setbacks that we face as a result of COVID-19, and we will collectively be more durable, more resilient, and maybe even more compassionate as a result.