Unprecedented: without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled
If you’ve opened any eblast, letter, or article in the past month, odds are you have stumbled across this word. Unprecedented is our new, default buzzword (sorry, innovation, you’re out). It’s appropriate; it expresses the uncertainty, confusion, and loss we’re all feeling in some capacity. But why does it resonate so well right now?
I would argue that even before COVID-19 changed our world, we were still seeing glimpses of unprecedented occurrences. Babies are learning how iPhones work before they can talk. You can have your groceries delivered to your home through an app. My parents know what memes are. We experience new sensations and situations frequently, so why does this feel so different?
Maybe it’s because we’re facing a strange crisis. It’s different from others in our lifetime because it’s an invisible threat that looms over everyone. A virus doesn’t target a church or school or government building. It won’t attack in the middle of night and we can’t stop it with a security system. Instead of fighting with force, we now fight by staying home, keeping six feet away from our neighbors, and living in sweatpants for the foreseeable future.
But, larger than the COVID-19 crisis itself, I feel a sense of global togetherness that makes this whole experience entirely unprecedented. This isn’t isolated to one specific country or group of people, but is truly impacting all of us. Sometimes it feels like camaraderie, sometimes it feels overwhelming, but either way, unprecedented seems to take on greater weight because it’s assigned to an experience we’re facing collectively.
In smaller unprecedented moments, we learn from them and adjust accordingly. I think what truly makes this word special is the implication of surviving the unknown and growing because of it. Our world won’t be the same after this; it will evolve and change for the better. And so will we.