Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be “independent.” In-dependent: To not depend on anyone or anything else.

My Chinese roots and my parents have always reminded me the value of being a part of a collectivistic culture, which meant that the needs of a group are emphasized over the needs of an individual. However, I was raised and socialized in the United States, so it is hard to break away from the individualistic and capitalistic ideals of the Western society that have been ingrained in me since childhood.

What I’ve come to realize is that the illusion of independence has created a belief system that we must only depend on ourselves and no one else, or else we are seen as a failure. With this mindset, we are each isolated on our own islands.

Alone, on our islands with our Egos, constantly comparing ourselves with others and wondering if we are stronger, better, or smarter.

What if collectivism was something that we were taught to value in the Western society? What would our world look like today?  

Perhaps it is delusional to think that we must be “in-dependent” when so much of our existence depends on other people and our planet. We depend on our mothers and fathers to bring us into this world. We depend on our friends and lovers for physical and emotional companionship. We depend on our doctors and nurses for our health. We depend on Mother Earth for nourishment.

Maybe interdependence, collectivism, and unity is exactly what we need to survive this pandemic.

Perhaps it is time to get off of our islands and lean on each other for support, whether that is financial, physical, or emotional support.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and connect with your friends, your family, or your neighbors, however you can. Because we are all in this together.

In these times of physical distancing, it isn’t about isolation and survival of the fittest.

It is about survival through love and community.

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