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May the 4th: What Star Wars Taught Me About the Struggle and the Power of Physical Distancing

May the 4th: What Star Wars Taught Me About the Struggle and the Power of Physical Distancing

By Vignetta Charles, PhD | May 4, 2020
Chief Executive Officer, ETR

What a year to be recognizing Star Wars Day, am I right? With so much grief in the world, it feels a little challenging to celebrate anything, including May the 4th.

However, for me the day is not just a marker celebrating Star Wars’ existence (for which I am always grateful). Every year gives me the opportunity to reflect on what Star Wars teaches me about life. Whether it be embracing uncommon allies or celebrating the power of youth, I’m always learning something. This year, Star Wars has taught me about both the struggle and the power of physical distancing.

Think of Luke Skywalker’s young days on Tattooine. He was socially isolated with his aunt and uncle, yearning for a broader social network, and wanting to find something bigger in the universe to which he could connect. Luke spent time reflecting about his life, imagining different possibilities for himself and his family. I see this as a positive part of his mental preparation for what was ahead. This practice of self-reflection allowed him to connect with the Force more easily. Indeed, he would spend significant time looking inward during his Jedi training.

Or think of Rey who lived alone on Jakku. She was longing for the days when her family would return. Her time in isolation helped prepare her for the big changes to come. Those changes did not include the return of her family as she had originally imagined; but on the other side of isolation, she ended up with a deeper understanding of her own origins, a new family, and new connections to something bigger than herself.

Both Luke and Rey struggled during their respective times with social distancing, isolation and longing for something different. Ultimately, the practice of taking the time to focus inward was indispensable in preparation for what life next had in store for them.

Admittedly, I haven’t had that much opportunity for inward focus during this time of physical distancing. This is an incredibly busy time at ETR. We are designing and delivering live virtual trainings, assisting schools in planning virtual health education, providing technical assistance to organizations across the nation as they make their own transitions to virtual services, and more. Alongside that, I am tag-teaming with my husband for our nine-year-old’s distance learning and, like so many of you, I’m supporting family and friends who are in challenging situations.

All these things take time—and I have not focused enough on my own mental health during shelter in place. But this May the 4th, I will again embrace the lessons from Star Wars. I’ll make the time, even if just for a few minutes every day, to look inward, self-reflect, and know that this time is an opportunity for a powerful struggle. This time is about connecting in solidarity with the rest of the world as we work to flatten the curve. This time can help me—and all of us—prepare for the big changes ahead.

Physical distancing has its many challenges. But I will not forget the power that can come from this time as well. Thanks again, Star Wars.

May the 4th be with you.

In solidarity,

p.s. May is Mental Health Awareness month. I hope you all take the time to take care of your mental health, in addition to your focus on physical health

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