COVID-19 has taught us important lessons that we can carry forward
There’s no doubt about it — COVID-19 has a lot of disadvantages. Many people have been out of work, not able to see their loved ones, and plans have been cancelled. While our lives have changed in both temporary and permanent ways, this has given us an opportunity to look at the world in a new light.
I couldn’t help but feel personally victimized by the pandemic at first when it hit during my exchange in the Netherlands. I had dreams of travelling Europe, slurping on spaghetti in Venice or watching the orange sun slowly set behind the glowing Eiffel Tower. But once I brushed off the what-could-have-beens, my eyes opened to the things I sometimes take for granted in my life. If there is one positive thing to come out of all of this, it is that I realized how much I have to be thankful for.
This pandemic has been an important time for reflection. Naturally I am drawn to a busy lifestyle and I don’t often take a moment to breathe when I am feeling overwhelmed. For a period of time I had to quarantine and I was unable to find a job for the summer like I normally would. In some ways, I am thankful for this slight halt in my life.
I appreciate that COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to take more moments to relax. There is no reason for me to feel guilty every second I’m not on the go. I have been able to reflect more on what I want for my future, to slow down to take time for myself and to do what I enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not that the world has completely stopped. Many people are still working, whether in-person or at home. I still have school. But I have learned I don’t need to put so much pressure on myself, because while school or work are important, my whole life doesn’t need to revolve around them.
Likithan Vijeyarajah, a first-year computer science student at Ryerson University, says he appreciates that COVID-19 has given him time to learn new things. In addition to being able to take more classes due to school being online, he has picked up some new hobbies such as coding and teaching himself new languages. Vijeyarajah says he hopes to continue to make time for his new hobbies when this is all over.
“(The pandemic has) given me time to reflect on what I can do, like when things are back to normal. It helps me understand what I have to prioritize,” says Vijeyarajah.
This pandemic has also increased my appreciation for essential workers. Before COVID-19, I was ignorant to the importance of certain jobs. Grocery store employees, pharmacists, nurses, postal service workers, teachers and so many more have shown how necessary their services are to our society. Truly, we wouldn’t be able to function without them.
Most of Ontario’s large hospitals have been running at almost full capacity. In April and May, over one-quarter of nurses had to work overtime due to increased demand. For most non-essential occupations, the number of hours worked for overtime seem to have significantly decreased.
These essential workers are the ones who have had to step up and help keep the world running. They are the ones who risk their health to be on the front lines, working tirelessly for us all.
Most of all, I have gained a greater appreciation for my friends and family. Once gatherings were limited to only those within your household, I was fortunate enough to have quite a few roommates. We weren’t overly close at the beginning but that changed pretty quickly. In that moment, these new friends were the one thing keeping me afloat. The outside world was going up in flames around us, but there were times I forgot because they kept me smiling throughout it all. Had I been traveling like I planned, I would have potentially missed out on creating these strong bonds that I will forever hold dear. This helped me realize how much I appreciate my friends and family for helping me through the most difficult moments of my life.
In a survey conducted by Narrative Research, 60 per cent of respondents say they have been able to spend more time with friends and family during the pandemic. Younger respondents were the most likely to say they spent more time with their loved ones, as many have been stuck at home with their family or moved back home to social distance.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have this. I know I am privileged to have friends to live with, because there are others who have been living alone. But I believe that living without your friends and family can also make you realize how important they are to you.
There are certain loved ones that I have been unable to see throughout this pandemic, and of course I miss them. Humans are built for human contact and when all of that is stripped away, you realize how much you took for granted. I would do anything to be able to grab a coffee with a friend.
Maybe COVID-19 is the world’s way of telling us to slow down and appreciate what we have. Moving forward, I think there is a lot that we will no longer take for granted. Personally, I plan to take a second every now and again for myself, to acknowledge the important role of essential workers, and to squeeze my family every chance I get.