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Times Like These

When assessing the times in which we live, maybe Dickens was right

Charles Dickens wrote one of the most famous opening lines to a novel in literary history: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Few of his contemporaries would have argued with him.

But this is 2020. We have a worldwide pandemic which is slowing and dragging down what had been a strong economy. As a result of the lockdown and slowdown, unemployment is at dizzying heights. And if you’re over 50, there is a good chance that you’ve gotten the short end of the stick at every turn.

Are these the worst of times? Are these “the times that try men’s souls” as Thomas Paine wrote.

No doubt that these are uncertain times, difficult times. But there is a historical perspective here. When you think of our times as being “uncertain” and “difficult,” ask yourself one question: Compared to what?

Thomas Paine issued his regrets in 1776. Charles Dickens wrote “A Tale of Two Cities” in 1859. Their times were tough. Then again, during our (Baby Boomers, that is) lifetimes, legendary comedian Lenny Bruce lamented that in his day there were unbelievable levels of stress because “changes were happening, happening, happening.”

But they couldn’t network on LinkedIn. They couldn’t interview for a job on Zoom. They couldn’t send documents and images around the world in a blink of an eye. Comparatively speaking, they had it pretty darn tough.

Our times are tough times. But compared to what? When have times not been difficult? When have people not struggled? When have “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” not bedeviled the strongest and most competent among us?

No one is saying that 2020 is a picnic. This is especially true for the older job seeker. Times are tough, but they’ve always been tough. And when trying to face another uncertain day, we leave you with one last ancient quote: “This too shall pass.”


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