I Am Writing
Everyone has been affected by the pandemic. It’s been an opportunity for a worldwide reset. The questions that burn in my mind are these: If we are forced to live differently, can we be inspired to think differently? Is this when Zoom conferencing and workout streaming become the norm? Is this when we recognize what we do and don’t need? Is this when we go back to pioneering a healthier way of life? Imagine if we didn’t travel so much. I can’t begin to tell you how often I have to travel for meetings around the world. I love seeing the world, but flying can be stressful and is bad for the earth. I would be willing to give that up for a better, cleaner world. What if we only flew when absolutely necessary? What if we considered more than just our job or our vacation before we booked that next trip? I am self-taught, and the two ways I’ve learned are by reading and traveling—the two things that have made me who I am. (I think my endgame in life is to work at a travel magazine . . .) But we can all be more conscientious in our choices. Please don’t get mad at me for
suggesting “less of everything”: less movement, less stress. We are literally being forced to be still right now. Forced to stay at home. None of us could have predicted we would see this in our lifetime. And yet, I can see the future. A brighter future that exists for our kids—whether they’re our own kids or not.
I’ve always been the kind of person who hates soapboxes, and I don’t mean to be up on one now. Growing up in Hollywood, I felt the sting when listening to privileged people talk about others’ needs, and I especially hated it if they used their platform to take others down. I march in the army of optimism, and I’ve always refused to condescend or speak out negatively. There have been so many humans who have used their voices around the world to change it for the better. Maybe it’s their tone? Maybe if it feels inspiring and personal instead of righteous? Is that the secret sauce for humans from anywhere and everywhere daring to speak up? After all, it’s always been humans who have inspired us. Therefore, everyone has the potential to be someone who will change the world in big and small ways.
What are people thinking right now? What inventions and ideas and new ways of doing things are being thought up in the face of this crisis? What will be the outcome? The innovations? If we make it through this, and I know we will, I almost hope people don’t overindulge in the return to life as it was before. Life moving forward should be altered. Wouldn’t it be great to live differently? Think differently? Work differently?
I myself have put my shiny tech things down and picked up writing. My business partner Nancy Juvonen always tells me, no matter what I am going through in life, I
should write. Heartbreak? Write. Lost? Write. Need to communicate with someone in a deeper way? Write! How about the way we communicate with ourselves? I was so lost after giving birth the first time. I was bent so out of shape the first few days I thought I would die of fear. I couldn’t sleep or eat and I was becoming incapable of thinking straight. And then a package came to my door from a dear friend. It was a journal with small daily spaces to fill. Not overwhelming. And so I started writing to my daughter. I would say in a few sentences what the day brought. I wrote in it every day for three years. I plan to give it to her when she is eighteen, ten years from now.
What if we all just started journaling a few sentences of this journey? I always talk about collective experiences. This is a time when everyone is in the same boat. Staying home. Living in this wild and terrifying time of struggle is our new normal. Great art and community can come out of the most difficult times. Change comes from times like this. Change in perception and behavior. I invite us all to write a few sentences every day. And we will be able to look back when we are all older and see what this time actually was . . . is. But that is a small and personal idea. How we take care of each other in this moment obviously comes first. Empathy has never been more important. Maybe we’re supposed to take care of everyone and everything and have this newfound humility and respect for our surroundings. This is a health crisis that affects everyone—the entire planet is involved. And we can’t go back or ignore what is happening, and maybe this is a sign that not only do we need to save our planet but also we need to save ourselves. I think humans thrive the most when we take care of each other. And if there is a way to empower ourselves without being selfish and heal our planet without being political, just a nurturing and cultivating of our world and our lives, then we can all thrive. Humans don’t take things lying down. We are proactive and inventive. I cannot wait to see the good that comes out of this. Yes, I march in the army of optimism, and while we might be marching in place for a while, it’s okay if we fall apart and put ourselves back
together. This will be ongoing. And this is what I have for today. I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Maybe this whole thing I have written will seem beyond trivial. I am just writing with my heart and my hope. And maybe I will have even more words to illustrate life to my daughters one day.
By the way, we bought six chicks (talk about going back to the old ways). We’re gonna have eggs. I am going to kiss my kids. I’m going to pray for healthcare workers. I’m going to try not to burst into tears as my TV tells me things are getting worse. I am going to help my friend Kate with a way to donate money. I’m gonna look at the baby chickens and marvel at their cuteness. I’m going to do as much as I can today to stay hopeful, knowing I am going to fall hard and have to dust myself off again. I am going to be grateful to all of those people who are not overthinking everything they say or do. I am going to feel insecure about sharing this. I’m going to wipe the tears that are streaming down my face right now and then freak out about touching my face. I’m going to lose hope. And then I am going to reread what I wrote and realize that I was optimistic and problem-solving when I began to write. Because it’s there. It’s there to look back on. And since no one can travel the world right now, I will hold on to reading and writing. And then maybe a little escape viewing later. Thank God for all the creators who help us get a little lost right now. Thank God for all those who help us get found, too.
I am finding my words. Wobbly one minute. Full of conviction the next. But I am daring to put this into words. And just for today, I am grateful. The way I hope to be. Grateful for everything I have gotten to do. Grateful for my daughters. Grateful for
my laptop. Grateful to know when to turn off the news. Grateful to go and search for bits of wisdom rather than twenty-four-hour doom cycles. I am going to look within and go find that place inside that feels strong. That problem-solves. That believes in the high road. That knows my place in the universe. The place where I believe that something wonderful will come out of this. A worldwide reset. It will not be easy. But it’s in motion. And hopefully, in the best way possible, the world will never be the same. But also hopefully, the world will be new. That is what a reset is: it takes everything away, and we start over. Stronger and smarter. I will go back to my earlier sentence. I cannot wait to see what comes out of this. And as soon as I can, I will figure out how to get dye, because the girls want to tie-dye. And tonight the world will be full of Zoom chats and quiet moments, too, as we go back to our own private worlds. I will look for that infallible hope I own, and I will harness it.
Copyright © 2021 by Drew Barrymore with Pilar Valdes. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.