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4 Things the Covid-19 Pandemic Taught Me About Myself (and Life)

Even during the worst parts of our lives, there are lessons to learn and grow from whether they are good or bad. As much as I don’t want to accept it, Covid-19 has taught me a lot about myself and the things I needed to work on for a more fulfilling life. 

I have to start living for myself.  

I have always been the kind of person to care too much about what other people think, and I can easily admit it is one of my worst qualities. I am always second-guessing myself and asking for the opinions of others to ensure those around me agree with my decisions. I’m tired of it, and I refuse to let others’ ideas of me dictate how I live — whether it’s on something as simple as my outfit or as big as my future career. I realized that at the end of the day, when you take away all life’s distractions, you only have yourself. I won’t lie and say I don’t slip up sometimes — I do — but this realization has been a huge step towards happiness for me.  

Use this time to remember that you weren’t given this life to be like everybody else. If you are not happy with yourself without being validated by others, who are you really? The worst feeling would be to wake up one day when you’re older and realize you held yourself back because you feared what others thought.

Everyone has a different timeline. 

Being a transfer and first-generation student, I am constantly comparing myself to my classmates and wondering why I can’t be as talented, as successful and even why I can’t articulate my words to sound as intelligent. I’ve come to realize that every person around me has a different background and skillset which impacts how we all live life. Some were given ones that gave them the resources and support to get to places quicker than others, and I’ve been working to learn that’s okay. I realized I was chasing a clock that doesn’t exist with the belief that I needed to be on par with everyone around me with the best internship, grades, public speaking abilities, you name it. I now know that’s just not realistic. 

If you are using your skills the best you can right now, that is enough. Remember that it’s okay if you don’t get your perfect job or internship right away or if you feel like someone is doing better than you. You need to do what is best for you; your time will come.

Material items really don’t bring happiness. 

Growing up, I was always very poor. I never had the trendiest clothes or the newest technology like my friends at school. I was the girl who walked around in the same outfits every week, wearing the same pair of jeans and hoping no one would notice. I have always despised this part of my life and romanticized this insane idea that I will only be successful when I can afford the most luxurious brands and fanciest things. I would wake up every morning and convince myself that that was the reason I needed to get out of bed and it would lead me to happiness. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what is missing in my life when everything I once knew was gone. Through the shock of adjusting, I never once have wished for the newest Chanel bag, the trendiest Cartier ring, or even the shiniest G-Wagon that I would once die to have. I knew none of it could bring me happiness at a time like this, so why would I expect it to bring me overall happiness? I yearn for travel, for laughs with friends, for concerts, for the classroom, for hugs and handshakes, for the smiles underneath the masks, for the first-times and for the experiences.

This time taught me that we take all of this for granted and need to start appreciating the things we do have. Experiences are more valuable than material goods will ever be, and the sooner you realize that the better off you will be.

Don’t just settle for what’s “normal.” 

Since childhood, the 9-to-5 lifestyle has been made to seem like the norm. The pattern of school, work, marriage, kids, more work, retirement and the hope that you’re healthy or wealthy enough to travel and experience more when you’re done is common. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of life and choose what’s practical, but this year I have had so much time to reflect on what I truly want. Things are rapidly changing, and remote work will be offered a lot more often, so who says you have to follow the rules? Who says that I can’t travel the world and experience life while working (and while being safe given COVID)? Losing someone in my family this year taught me that life is short and the time we have is precious. I dream of meeting people with new perspectives, trying foods I’ve never heard of and seeing sights I imagined were only in the movies. I dream of a life where I can rest knowing I did all I could to learn about the world I was lucky enough to live in and did it my way. I want to work to live, not live to work. 

No matter what you choose to do with your life, make sure you’re doing it your way and not the way you’ve been taught to believe is the only option. Don’t be afraid to try something you think is impossible; you lose every opportunity you don’t take.  

The lessons this pandemic has taught me will stay with me forever. Although this is one of the hardest times of our lives and has hurt so many of us, it’s important to stay positive and look toward the future with hope. 

Samantha Casolaro

Chapel Hill '22

Samantha Casolaro is a junior at UNC, majoring in Advertising and Public Relations aspiring to work in the fashion and beauty industry. She loves to spend quality time with friends, binge watch TikToks dedicated to fashion and Harry Styles, and listen to Miley Cyrus’s cover of “Heart of Glass” on repeat.
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