Although we’ve all viewed the COVID-19 pandemic as negative, we cannot argue it taught us important lessons that we can carry throughout our lives.
It was a bit of a challenge to reflect upon lessons I learned from the COVID-19 pandemic due to all that I’ve lost because of it. I think back to what the last two years of my life has looked like, and there has been enormous sadness, milestones I was never able to fully reach, loved ones lost, and much more. I now look back on these tragic events, however, and see a lesson in each one that I will carry with me throughout my entire life.
1. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
I was a senior in high school at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The date was March 12, 2020. We were six days away from putting on my school’s production The High School Musical, when our director received a call from what I assume was the administration of my school informing us to leave rehearsal and head home, as our district was shutting down for two weeks for cleansing due to a new virus circulating around the globe.
I was heartbroken, but hopeful because it was only two weeks. Well, two weeks turned into a month then two months, then our show was eventually canceled as well as the rest of my high school career.
I was an innocent senior full of happiness and hope for what the near future was to bring. My chance to star as the lead in a musical, graduating in-person on a stage in front of my friends and family, starting my college experience like everyone else in the years before me. Yet, I did not have the chance to experience any of it.
I soon learned the universe can throw unexpected curveballs that can change the course of your life in an instant. Live each day to the fullest because you never know what will come the next day. You may never have the opportunities you have right now again, so do not be afraid to take chances.
2. Self-care can do so much for the soul.
After we were sent home that March afternoon, quarantine began. I hit a point where I needed to find something new to do. A new hobby, or a new show to watch. This resorted to discovering a concept I did not think too much of prior to the COVID-19 pandemic: self-care.
In order to distract myself and raise my happiness level which was really low due to losing my senior year, I began to go on runs. I would run up and down my street in order to stay fit, and I would have so much energy afterwards. Running led to discovering more hardcore workouts that I would do in my basement or outside, and this led to eating healthier. I began to feel better about myself than I ever had before.
I also began to journal once a night to let all of the emotions I was feeling out of my head and onto paper. Another form of self-care I took up was cleaning my room, car, and anything else I felt was dirty. All of this reached a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, even though life was at the strangest of times. Today, I still practice these forms of self-care in order to maintain feelings of contentment.
3. Nature can lead to happiness.
When I would go on runs, I often ran in my neighborhood field which provided complete serenity, and it still lingers today. It overlooks much of my hometown, where I can even see my elementary school. When I visit this field, I feel nothing but peace and tranquility.
I began to spend much time there during quarantine, walking my dogs, gazing at the views of my town, reflecting upon the last few months. It became a so-called “happy place” for me. I also gained a greater appreciation for sunsets here.
When the weather shifted from March’s coldness to a warmer spring, I also did my school work out there, tanned, stared at the sky, anything that made my soul happy, and it all worked. Not only do I frequently go on walks now, but one of my favorite things to do now is finding places to watch the sunset.
4. Cherish time with loved ones.
It was just after Labor Day weekend in 2020. I was a freshman in college when I received the news that both of my grandparents on my mother’s side, as well as my aunt, had COVID-19. I checked in with all three of them who seemed to be doing just fine. I was not worried, as they were all in great health. One day, I called my parents to check in and I asked how everyone was doing. I noticed an off-response when I asked about my grandfather specifically. I was assured he was fine, but I could tell something was off.
I came home around a week later for my brother’s soccer game. The night I came home, I was told my grandfather was in the hospital with severe symptoms from COVID-19. This came as a shock since he was not at all sick. He was in the best shape he could have been, and he did not have a history of bad health.
Two weeks after I headed back up to school, my family came to visit for my 19th birthday. At this point, my grandfather was on a ventilator. On October 18th – my birthday – my family returned home as I was on FaceTime with them that night. My father received a call, so my mother muted the FaceTime and the phone fell. I kept asking what was happening when my father answered telling me they had to go see my grandfather because his condition was deteriorating quickly.
After a one-month battle, my grandfather, who we called G-Pop, passed away around 12:30 a.m. on October 19th. I know that he waited until it was not my birthday anymore because he was the kind of man who would have done anything for me and his family.
I had not seen him since I left for college in August, and I would do anything to be able to see him and have a conversation with him again. I began to cherish the time I had with each and every loved one in my life. This is my favorite lesson to have emerged from the pandemic despite that it is the one which hurts the most.
5. Appreciate everything: big or little.
As the pandemic carried on, I realized just how much was under-appreciated. Visiting family, attending classes at school, hanging out with friends, going out to restaurants, traveling, shaking hands, seeing faces…and so much more. The biggest to the littlest things were taken for granted.
As we approach the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have obtained a greater appreciation for life. I have learned to treasure every opportunity and everything that I come across. Gratefulness is a value I now make sure to incorporate into my everyday life. Appreciating everything, big or little, makes life that much sweeter.