COVID Check: 14 Lessons I Learned While Infected with COVID-19

The past year has been a bit of a whirlwind. 


In March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by the CDC and we’ve been dealing with it ever since. I know it’s true for me, and probably lots of you, too, that the pandemic has taken a toll on my mental health. Thankfully, I have been blessed to be safe, healthy, and surrounded by family during this time. However, it’s also been challenging to constantly cancel events, wear masks, and become fatigued by constant work and isolation. 


I’m sure plenty of you can relate, too.


With all that being said, the pandemic hasn’t been all that bad—and I think a lot of you can probably agree. Although we’re constantly afraid of being sick or spreading a relatively silent virus, there have been lots of opportunities to soak up each and every moment of our lives and truly be thankful for all we’ve been blessed with.


I will admit that—although it was unexpected—the past year or so has been a real blessing in disguise. And the ultimate one came on a Friday morning when I found out I had the virus I had been avoiding and fearing for almost a year. Although it was a horrible moment to realize I had been unknowingly spreading a virus, it was more of a blessing than I could have ever imagined.


As I packed up my things and went to the isolation housing on campus, I was scared of what I would find there. COVID numbers had been low on campus, so I was a bit worried to be there by myself. I never expected to find a community of like-minded people who would become some of my best friends. For the next week, I was able to relax, enjoy the little moments, and become a part of a new community that I had been desperately praying for days and weeks before.


Although I learned infinite things throughout this time, here I’ve listed 14 things that I learned while infected with COVID-19.


1. Take a moment to breathe in the fresh air.

Even before college, I have lived a go-go-go lifestyle that has left little room for reflection and self-love. While I was in the Tau Center on campus, I was left with a lot of time to enjoy the little things in life. Myself and many of the other people in Tau (safely) went on walks to enjoy the fresh air and renew our minds and bodies. Even if it’s just for five or ten minutes, a walk can be so refreshing because it gives you a chance to physically get moving and mentally reset. It also gave me many chances to enjoy the city I had lived in for more than six months yet hardly explored up until that point.


2. Set a sunset timer on your phone and go find somewhere beautiful to witness God’s creationit’s always worth it.

One of my friends in Tau, B, had a sunset timer on her phone. Every day, the timer goes off 45 minutes before sunrise to let her know that it’s time to get somewhere beautiful and see a breathtaking part of the day. During my week in Tau, we were blessed with amazing weather and had the opportunity to see the sunset from new places almost every day. Although it may seem like our lives were taken in an unexpected turn, this showcase of beauty also reminded us that, even though we aren’t in control, the sun rises and sets each and every day, whether we tell it to or not. Even when we don’t have control, God does. We don’t have to tell God what to do—he just does it. Sometimes it can be hard to give Him control, but it is oh so worth it in the end. After all, hindsight is always 20/20.


3. There’s always a new hike or path to takefind some friends and go on an adventure.

Along with going on lots of walks in the area and at the lakes, we also went on a few different hikes in more secluded areas. These spontaneous adventures also showed me that there is always something new to explore. Before, I had constantly let my introverted-ness control me which prevented me from doing the outdoor activities I had an interest in but had never really participated in. Meeting my new friends who had these similar interests helped me to branch outside of my comfort zone and try new—and even rewarding—things. After our time at the Tau Center, we took these activities beyond hiking and now have become avid rock climbers… I’m even belay certified!


4. Even when you fall down, always have the courage and strength to get back up. Even when it seems impossible, there’s always a reason to keep going. 

Immediately after my phone call with health services that directed me to the Tau Center, I was really knocked down. After receiving my diagnosis, I felt guilty for unknowingly further spreading a virus that I had been so carefully avoiding. However, I quickly realized that I couldn’t continue to wallow in my self-pity and make myself miserable in isolation. Instead, I chose to look at the bright side. After my diagnosis, I made a contact tracing list and realized I had only exposed four people. In contrast, I knew one person who exposed 26 people—and that was just in one of the clubs he was in. Although I don’t mean to put him down for his situation, I used it as a way to look at the bright side. Not only that, but all of the friends and family I exposed never contracted the virus, which gave me peace of mind knowing that my loved ones were safe and sound.


5. Always bring a pair of hiking shoes for unexpected adventures.

When I came to Tau, I tried to pack light because I didn’t really know what to expect—plus I didn’t want to carry in a ton of bags or overpack. As a result, I decided that a single pair of white Vans would be suitable for a week of isolation. Obviously, as I have told you about many of our outdoor adventures, they were not. Since then, I have gravitated towards shoes more capable of outdoor activities in case such a situation were to arise. While in Tau, I was thankfully able to borrow a friend’s pair of hiking boots, but it definitely taught me that fashion doesn’t always mean function. Plus, her boots were super cute, which obviously means I’m just not buying the right fashionable shoes.


6. Even when it’s hard to believe, our prayers are always answered if they’re in God’s will.

Before going into Tau, I was feeling very lonely and isolated. I was only having social interactions at work and in the clubs I was in. My best friend had gone home for the spring semester and I was feeling very challenged in the friendship department. During this time, I was often praying for God to heal this situation in my life, but I had begun to give up hope as I remained in isolation and loneliness. However, God answered my prayers later by giving me an amazing group of friends that I had been asking for all of this time. I was so thankful for this blessing and it helped me to understand that our prayers are answered not only if they’re in God’s will, but also in God’s timing. We don’t always understand God’s timingwe just have to understand that it’s perfect. In this situation especially, it is easy to see how perfect God’s timing is. If I had made friends before I went to Tau, I wouldn’t have connected as easily with this group of seven amazing people; I wouldn’t have been able to forge amazing connections that would last long beyond our isolation period. God’s timing is perfect, and this was a great reminder of this in my own life.


7. Bring blankets when the ice is thin.

You might have to ask B about this one, but I would say it’s definitely a necessity to have emergency blankets in the car when you go on adventures. On one of our sunset trips, we were standing on the ice at a pond watching the beautiful sunset. Mind you that it was early spring and the ice was beginning to melt; just a little way out from us was open water. However, we tested the waters and were able to enjoy even more of God’s creation. Unfortunately, as B ventured out further onto the ice, she had the misfortune of falling through it. Thankfully she caught herself, but as everyone tried to help her out, I bolted to the car and grabbed my wool blankets. I’m glad I had them there—and I would recommend you do the same if the ice is ever thin on one of your own adventures.


8. Whenever you’re gone, leave someone behind to feed your pet fish.

You may remember Guillermo, my beloved fish from a previous article. He was and still is the light of my life. However, when I was sent to Tau I left in haste. I left Guillermo a mound of food, but a week’s worth in a moment apparently wasn’t enough to sustain him. When I returned a week later, I discovered that Guillermo had transcended to his heavenly home. If this article teaches you nothing else, I hope you understand the importance of leaving someone behind to feed your fish—otherwise, you might not have the chance to say your final goodbye.


9. Sometimes all you need is a late-night chat.

After a day or two, our routine was pretty much set. Each night after dinner, we would play games and hang out in the common room. Once it got a little later, we would head upstairs and hang out in our rooms together. Even when the day was hard or relatively easy, late-night chats were always amazing experiences because it gave me and everyone else the chance to connect with others in ways they weren’t, before coming to the Tau Center. Now, I’m always up for a late-night chat even if it messes up my sleep schedule. You never know when someone else needs you more than anything; you never know whether or not this will be their last chance. 


10. Even when you’re in isolation, there is always a community for you somewhere.

Looking back, this was one of the most important lessons I learned during my time in the Tau Center. Even as we were isolated from the world, we found community in one another. If I had had a different mindset, I might not have had such a life-changing experience. However, I know that even amidst my loneliness, there was always community available to me. I have been blessed—God gave me community when I didn’t know where to look, but your story might be different. He might ask you to go and find the community. He might ask you to bring people into His community. No matter what situation you find yourself in, I think it is so important to understand that there is always a community; sometimes it just has to be one of your own making.


11. When eating for texture, try out popcorn, pudding, and rice.

I, like many people infected with COVID-19, lost my sense of taste. As a result, I ended up eating for texture rather than flavor. A few of my recommendations for texture eating include popcorn, pudding, and rice. While tasteless, I was especially drawn to cold foods, but eat whatever feels interesting to you and remember to eat even when it feels like a chore.


12. Eating healthier is way easier when you can’t taste.

When I lost my taste, eating became boring, which meant I was significantly less inclined to eat than before I lost it. My bad habit of overeating was a thing of the past when my taste disappeared because eating was no longer fun. Although I had some chocolate I had brought from my dorm room, I found myself holding onto it because I didn’t want to eat it without fully experiencing it. Eating is a fun activity, but healthy eating choices are even more plausible when you can hardly differentiate between foods.


13. When you lose your sense of smell and taste, it will catch you by surprise.

You won’t be sure whether or not you’re tasting or not—the same goes for smelling. But once you begin to question your senses, it’s too late. They’re gone, and there’s nothing you can do to bring them back. The pandemic showed me that even my five senses aren’t a given. Thankfully mine came back at lightning speed (just 3-4 days after I lost them), but even things we take for granted can be taken away in a moment. One day you may wake up and not taste a thing, so savor your favorite sweets while you can and always choose chocolate while you still have the chance.


14. God can be found in the most unexpected places.

I’ll be honest—I never expected to find God working in the Tau Center during a week in March, but that is exactly what happened. We never expect what we find, but I’m so thankful that I was given the gift of discernment to understand what a blessing this was and share my story with others. Although your isolation situation may be less than glamorous, one of my main takeaways is that it is only as amazing as you see it yourself. If you think your situation sucks, it’s going to suck. But if you see the bright side of things, your situation will begin to start looking up. God really was—and is—in Tau Center. And although I had Him in my life before, He is working in me now more than He ever has before.


The lessons I learned may be a bit different than what you expected or than what you learned during your own COVID experience. Even if they don’t align with every person’s story, they are authentically mine and I’m so thankful for their presence in my life. Although contracting a potentially deadly virus may seem like an odd blessing, it is one that I’m eternally thankful for and has forever altered my life.