Keeping Control When Everything is Out of Control

“We’re calling this ‘controlling what you can when things feel out of control.’” – Olaf, Frozen 2

Over the past 5 months, and especially over the last few weeks, this quote from the world’s favorite snowman has stuck in my head. I think it’s safe to say that everyone on this planet feels like they’ve been sent into orbit. If you think of the meme of the dog drinking coffee in a burning kitchen saying “This is fine”, that’s pretty much how it’s been for me lately.

Storefront Coronavirus note Erik Mclean

While I was trying to come up with a topic to write about this week, I felt overwhelmed to the point of writer’s block. All at once, I was waiting on COVID test results, quarantining in my sorority house, wondering how much I’ll have to pay to fix my car (which broke down in the middle of a highway, and currently sits at an auto repair shop), juggling moving all my in-person classes to online, and realizing that I won’t be able to celebrate my brother’s birthday in person because of this godforsaken virus!

That’s when Olaf popped up on my Pinterest feed, and that quote resurfaced in my mind.

Galaxy of Stars behind mountains Photo by Denis Degioanni from Unsplash

I think that people like to think that everything in our lives is a result of our own doing, or that we somehow have a way to control what happens next. I believe it was in a TED talk I saw once where it was iterated that humans are mortally terrified of the concept of insignificance, and fear comprehending that their own existence has no real impact in the grand scheme of things. If we come to realize that the patterns of events are truly illogical and out of our hands, we would go insane, because what would be the point if our actions have no meaning?

Okay, now that I touched on some philosophical ideas and gave everyone reading this an existential crisis, let’s get back to where we started – control. It’s easy to feel like control is something that’s out of our reach, and that nothing we do now will have any impact on what will happen 10 minutes from now. In some ways, this is entirely true. Nothing I do right now will speed up the time my car spends in the shop, or is going to make a vaccine readily available in the next 48 hours so I can go visit my family this weekend. If I dwell on this for too long, I’ll end up feeling powerless.

So, what can we control?

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

For starters, you get to control yourself. What will you wear today? How will you do your hair? Will you put on makeup? Are you gonna make your bed? Will you stay in bed all day? Is there a workout you could do? Do you have an assignment or a project you can make strides forward with? Each day is made up of hundreds of decisions that you get to make yourself. Ultimately, you get the final verdict on all these questions. I find comfort in the fact that I get to choose which couch to lay on as I type up this article. The best part is that none of these decisions you make necessarily have a correct answer. That’s all up to you to decide!

Hands holding phone Oleg Magni on Unsplash

Additionally, we get to control our interactions with others. If you’re reading this, it means you have access to a computer, phone, or some other device. You have the power to make meaningful contact with whoever you choose! Will you ask your mom how your cats back home are doing? Or send a funny memory to a friend you haven’t seen in a while? Or text your ride or die about the crazy dream you had? There are a lot of people in our lives, but YOU get to choose which ones you want to reach out to! With all the ups and downs that come with living in a world dependent on virtual interaction, a positive is that we get to use it to contact whoever we desire.

new years resolution no resolution Pexels

Finally, we get to control the goals we set for ourselves. Okay, so maybe some of the long-term things you’ve had in mind aren’t gonna go as planned. I have spent the last year planning around my longing to spend a semester studying abroad, but with the ongoing travel ban, I’m not quite sure that will end up happening. However, what we can do is set goals that are more short term. Maybe you’ll finish reading a book that you’ve been putting off. Or drink at least 8 glasses of water today. Or go to bed before 3 am. When everything is uncertain, it’s the ability to control little accomplishments in our day-to-day routines that can help keep us going.

typing on a laptop Photo by Burst from Pexels

The future is still a little blurry, and we have no real idea of when we’ll be able to return to some form of normalcy. But out of all the things we can’t control, we do have control over what we are doing RIGHT NOW!