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8 life lessons from the pandemic

“Dressing up? At least in the beginning, not so much. … But after a few months, I did start getting dressed and even putting on makeup.”

“Hello world!” I say, as I step outside, blinking into the glare of a world turned upside down by COVID-19, a world that is finally realigning itself to something more closely resembling “normal.”

As someone who had truly created a CDC-approved life for the past year or more, I find myself feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle waking from his 20-year slumber and asking: “What did I miss?”

Funny thing is, the world, for the most part, feels wonderfully familiar and even more beautiful than I’d remembered. A hug feels more life-affirming. A smile, more heart-warming. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I expected things to seem more different. Instead, the biggest changes, I’ve discovered, are within myself.

I have realized I will never be the same person I was pre-2020. I suppose you don’t go through something like a global pandemic without a few life lessons along the way. It’s also true that it’s probably worth reflecting on what those life lessons might be. Here’s some of what I’ve learned:

Home should be respite.

Whatever is going on outside, make your home a place you enjoy being. It should be a place where you can find comfort, where you feel safe, and where you can find simple joys and happiness.

We all depend on one another.

Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together, and our success or failure depends on everyone doing his or her part. The words “essential workers,” became the phrase of the day during lock-downs and COVID surges. I hope we never forget how much we depend on grocery clerks, truck drivers, factory workers, public service employees, teachers and one another. When one part of the system breaks down, we all suffer. It’s important that we all work for the greater good.

Make health the priority.

It should be obvious by now that without good health, nothing else is possible. We can’t travel, we can’t work, we can’t take care of our children or grandparents. Hopefully, we will focus on our health and never take it for granted again.

Do it now!

If there’s something you really want to do, make it happen. Don’t wait. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Five years from now? That might not be possible. If you really want to do it, don’t wait!

It was never about having the time.

Remember that little lie we used to tell ourselves? The one about all the things we would do “if we just had time?” Well, you had time. Did you write that novel? Did you lose 20 pounds? If not, that’s okay. Now you can quit beating yourself up over it and just admit it was never about time. It just wasn’t worth the effort to you, not right now anyway.

I was doing it for myself, not others.

A big question that was answered for me was whether I was truly doing things for myself or to impress others. In the beginning of my sequestered life, I learned that cleaning was definitely for myself. No one was coming over, but I wanted things tidy and clean. I just like things that way. Dressing up? At least in the beginning, not so much. I spent most days living in pajamas, only to shower and change into — more pajamas. But after a few months like that, I did start getting dressed and even putting on makeup, and some days even styling my hair. It just made me feel better. I plan on remembering this going forward. I’m not going to worry about what others think. I will do it for me.

Adaptability is the secret to life.

Planning is good. Goals are great. But adaptability is the key to it all. Plans are going to get ruined, and most of your goals are going to be at least delayed and more likely never realized, at least not in the way you expected. So, how will you handle this? If you’re adaptable, you will figure it out. And now we know we can. We figured a lot of “stuff” out in the last year. We should be proud of this. We made it. And now we know: We can make it through.

The children are watching.

This is probably the most critical lesson of all of this past year. A barrage of issues were thrown at us as parents. We didn’t have time to prepare. We didn’t know how to react, but one thing’s for certain: the children were watching. How you handle adversity has a big impact on how your children will react when life throws them curveballs. This is the greatest lesson we can give them. COVID is just the beginning in a long line of obstacles our children will encounter. You are their greatest teacher in how to handle the challenges of life. This is a lesson I will surely never forget: We teach our children how to cope.

Sheri Smith
Sheri Smith, of Scottsdale, is a freelance writer and mother of two.

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