Fair warning: this is a long one!
As I mentioned in my last post, I am still a bit unclear as to where we stand, as a society, on Covid these days, and, predictably, a quick scan of Google and Facebook did nothing to help clear up the confusion.
While mask-mandates are being abolished from airplanes, the number of Covid deaths in the US has surged into the actual millions. Seemingly everyone around me is getting sick (including my poor sister and her husband, for the SECOND time – luckily their 7-month-old is fine). At the same time, my workspace also officially reopened this week, soo, yeah…strange times, indeed.
I keep thinking of my grandparents, and their parents and grandparents, who lived through World Wars. HOW did they get through it? How did they keep going, without knowing how or when or even IF it would ever stop? What sort of effects does that kind of long-term anxiety and turbulence have on individuals? And how do those effects impact the following generations to come? (Side note: No wonder all Millennials need therapy 😂)
The obvious answer is that they simply didn’t have a choice other than to get through it – to keep calm and carry on. And, for better or worse, adversity does inspire change and innovation, and often acts as a catalyst for social development and progress.
I don’t know about you, but on a personal level, I absolutely feel like a different person post-pandemic. It’s not all bad, but I definitely feel like I’ve changed. After taking some time to think about it, I came up with my own little list* of the most significant things that I took away from the last two years. Read on if you are so inclined!
*Please note that these are my personal takeaways. As such, they are not right or wrong or true or untrue. They are also not exhaustive and may be subject to change if I so choose!
My post-pandemic take-aways:
💡 There is way, way, WAY more to life than work. Obviously, this is not a hot take by any means, but having gone through burnout resulting in long-term sick-leave during a pandemic, this was a HUGE realisation for me. I really want to go more into my burnout story some time because I know my experience is all too common among my peers, but I’ll be honest: I’m still struggling with over-working. I’m doing one million times better than I was at this time last year, but it’s a long road. It has taken a medical intervention, followed by strict rest, frequent therapy, routine exercise, medication, and lots and lots of support to get me feeling as physically and mentally healthy as I feel today. As cliché as it sounds, it’s made me see that work is just that – work. Instead of work, I want my life to be about things like friends, family, connections, food, travel, love, passion, purpose, fun, play, adventure, and all of the other things that make life great.
💡 Disabled and elderly people are –shocker!– real people*. There were so many COVID deaths that could have been prevented, and most of them sadly targeted elderly or disabled populations. Worse still, some people actually defended the lack of adequate response to these deaths, saying that they were either inevitable or a necessary evil (or both!), essentially insinuating that these populations are expendable because of their lack of ‘contribution potential’ in society. Everyone deserves to be protected as much as possible, because every single life is significant. The pandemic really opened my eyes to the ways disabled populations are discriminated against on a daily basis. For that, I am grateful, because I really wasn’t aware before Covid of how ableist so many aspects of our society are (think of public spaces, transportation, car design, architecture, etc.). I realise that I, too, had little interest in or regard for these populations (due in large part to our society’s collective dismissal and stereotyping of disabled persons), but now I know better and I vow to advocate for these groups whenever possible from now on.
*This statement is meant to be HIGHLY sarcastic!
💡 As an addendum to that thought, there are a LOT more immuno-suppressed folks than I thought. And I’m married to one! The severity of the pandemic really hammered home for me that just because someone looks perfectly fine, it doesn’t mean they don’t potentially have an auto-immune disorder or something else that makes them more vulnerable. So even if I have an immune system tougher than premium Swedish steel, I need to remember that this is not the case for most people – and to protect myself for them!
💡 Travel is bad for the environment….and also non-negotiable for me. Ugh, this is a tough one. Blame it on my upbringing, but I realised that I really rely on travel and upcoming travel plans to bring me joy in my everyday life. Ofc, travel doesn’t need to be done by plane, and the pandemic definitely made me more curious and proactive about exploring my immediate surroundings vs. always going overseas, but MAN…I have really missed travelling, and especially travelling for work. Work trips are tiring and they can be a bit of a headache, but until they stopped altogether, I didn’t realise how much they help me to get more work done and actually enjoy my job.
💡 I feel like I don’t know how to ‘human’ anymore. It was only (lol) 2 years of working from home and social-distancing, but sometimes I literally cannot remember the most BASIC human transactions. More than once, I have found myself having a mini panic-attack when meeting new people because all of a sudden I have no idea how to kiss someone hello (who starts, which cheek first, do they do 2 kisses or 1 or maybe 3??!). Even the ‘back-and-forth’ of buying something at a store can be a struggle. Is anyone else experiencing this, or is it possibly an ADHD thing? I have no idea, but it is exhausting. It almost feels like I am re-learning a language. Whatever the case, I dearly hope that this is a temporary issue, and that soon the basic rules of human interaction will come back to me, just like riding a bike. Fingers crossed.
💡 Better access to factual information sadly does not necessarily mean better understanding of and trust in factual information. Dear lord. So much more to say about this (again, maybe one day), but I think this sums it up sufficiently for now.
💡 The pandemic was like a busy international airport; it brought the absolute best…and the absolute worst out of humanity. I think everyone had significant moments during the pandemic that really highlighted how kind and great humans can be…and sadly, probably just as many (if not more) experiences that revealed how ugly and cruel they can also be. Not too much to say about this one, but it’s interesting to me how much more visible (or maybe how much more meaningful?) these moments seem to be in difficult times.
💡 Masks are always going to be a ‘yes’ for me, dawg. Having barely gotten sick at all in the last two years (not counting allergies, unfortunately), I am never going back to traveling sans mask. Never!
And there you have it. I’m sure (or at least I hope) there are way more things I’ve learned since Covid began, but those are the ones that stick out to me the most up until now.
I’d love to know: how are you feeling? Have you also been a slave to the emotional strain of living in these odd and isolating times? As I said, I’m still working from home and trying to avoid unnecessary contact with others, but I’m also starting to feel a bit like a fanatical, agoraphobic germaphobe, and I truly don’t know if I am overreacting or not. Conrad and I have been vaccinated and boosted, of course, but even that doesn’t feel like a guaranteed way of not getting sick. Gah! Stupid Covid.
Let me know what you think, and if there’s anything (profound or not!) that you learned about yourself or about the world during the pandemic. And if you’re anything like me, you *may* want to also write that thing down somewhere, because history has this really annoying way of repeating itself and, you never know, it might be useful one day ✨😉✨
Much love, always,
ETA: I did not even mention the horrific terrorist attack in Uvalde, TX (and the one in Buffalo, NY the week before that) in this post because, like almost everyone I know, I find myself speechless as news continues to come out. Furthermore, I am also speechless because I am SO F*CKING FURIOUS at the lack of effective action on the part of the US government, and their cowardly, greedy crusade to continue to willingly sacrifice ACTUAL CHILDREN to protect some ridiculous, outdated laws that were created by a bunch of racist old white guys over 200 years ago (who didn’t even consider women or Black people to be people!). (Also, me right now >>>)
I’m continuing to call my reps and read the scripts I’ve been instructed to say, I’m donating what I can, and I’m voting in every single election possible, but I still feel so helpless. If you know of any other ways to do something to help, please send them this way. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves ❤️