Yes, we are still living in a global pandemic, yes the Merriam Webster dictionary elected ‘pandemic’ as word of the year for 2020, and yes we do not want to hear the word ‘Coronavirus’ one more time, however, forgetting this extremely rough and sad year is not the option. As life is returning to some sort of new normal, with the addition of face masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, vaccination proofs, and negative testing requirements, there are important lessons that we need to take with us from this past year on how to carry on with life. That main one is that life is short and being able to make the most of every day is a blessing.
We are recognizing the many flaws in the society and systems we are living in from access to resources to inequality, and entire studies have been conducted on the lessons to take with us as we rebuild and redesign the way we live. However, if there is one thing to take away as a human being is the power of positivity. Being grateful for being where you are, recognizing what you have, the people around you, and your abilities can really impact your everyday life and everything that you accomplish. We often overwork ourselves, complain about not being good enough, compare ourselves to others, but where does that actually get us?
2020 felt like a very long year but at the same time it flew by, some made an opportunity out of being stuck at home, others used it as a time to reflect and slow down. But now going back into the world (literally), there is a sense of motivation a lot of us are feeling, the need for work/life balance is being recognized, and people are a lot more positive, friendly, and willing to try and socialize (to some extent, the new social awkwardness is a whole new topic…).
Some of our writers also have their pieces to share about rejuvenating feelings of gratitude and optimism.
We have all lost so much. I don’t want to sugar coat this traumatic experience — we’ve lost the most crucial parts of life: people and experiences — and say I’m grateful for the past two years, they almost broke me. However, I am grateful for the things I learned that kept me going and I hope I can carry these ideas and practices with me.
I learned how to be comfortable with my own company.
I learned how to cherish and prioritize the ‘little things’ like walks around my neighborhood, the sun touching my skin, and morning cups of tea.
I learned how to make time to care for myself, a non-perfect practice that will always require effort and persistence.
I learned how important it is to see the people I love — on a screen or socially distanced.
I learned how to be patient.
And most importantly, I learned how to fall apart and how to put all the pieces back together.
I’ve always been a glass-half-full kind of person, but the past year and a half have naturally tested my optimism. The United States alone has suffered an insurmountable loss (this public art installation on the National Mall in D.C. says enough), and I almost feel a bit guilty to be enjoying the luxury of New York City student life while others are grieving in ways I cannot imagine. That said, I feel lucky to be filling my glass back up a little as we (hopefully) begin to approach the endemic phase of this crisis; there are a few good things that came out of it. I found new, more productive ways to work digitally, recognized the value of time in ways I never had before, and am more comfortable than ever spending time on my own (my first-year self could NEVER– any spare moment alone would register in my brain as loneliness, and would simply have to be resolved through socializing. Not healthy!). I feel a renowned sense of clarity of who I am and how I want to spend my time, and although we’ll be living with Covid-19 for a while, I’m excited about the life ahead.
Being in university as a twenty-something has always been described as the best years of one’s life, but has that claim set too many expectations? The pandemic really set barriers to being able to experience life, dream about the future, and meeting new people as we were literally unable to do these things in the traditional ways we have been used to. Although people around the world got creative thanks to social media and the internet, the physicality of things was not there. It’s safe to say that it is a once-in-a-lifetime event for everyone around the world to have been affected by the same circumstance at the same time. Though there are by far way more negatives, there is one extremely important positive thing to take away. That is what it means to be human.
If you’re still wondering what that means, here are some human qualities to begin recognizing and perhaps practicing. Highlighted by Ernst & Young.
- Trust: This is the foundation of any relationship, professional or personal. It is built over time, it is earned, but when it is established beautiful things can shine through. It has got so much power, trusting yourself and your instinct can get you very far!
- Meaningful Purpose: We are curious and we want to know why, for the first time in a very long time everyone was fighting for the same goal: to open up society and borders, and specialists were able to develop a vaccine in such a short period of time. What if this common goal was outlined clearly for other sorts of important issues?
- Collective Cooperation: We live in a world where we are all connected somehow, we share intelligence, knowledge, resources. If we continue to combine our strengths strategically and form diverse teams imagine what could be possible.
- Imagination: We develop this when we are children but sometimes we get stuck in our ways and forget about the power of imagination. Being stuck in the same few walls for many months has a way of bringing out the imagination within us. Look at all the creative things people did, Tik Tok stories, new businesses, acts of kindness
- Resilience: This is a keyword that people around the world have been practicing during lockdowns, whether at work or at home, being a frontline worker, an online teacher, a student, a parent at home, pushing through each day, looking at the silver lining, finding joy in little moments, this is a magical quality humans possess.
- Compassion: We are all so different from one another, we speak different languages, live different experiences, practice different cultures, but thankfully we do so because our ability to look at one thing from various perspectives is what makes us grow as a society. But it is when we are willing to listen to each other, acknowledge each other, and practice kindness, and actually be there for one another that we can become compassionate
- Happiness: Joyfulness is contagious, it makes everyone around us lighter, more fun, and more enjoyable. When we do see the positive things in situations, looking at events with a glass half full approach we can start to feel happy
- Transformative Practice: As humans not only can we adapt to the environments and circumstances around us but we can learn and grow from these processes, and ultimately change for the better