The world turned upside down.
I’m one of the lucky ones.
I was disappointed when campus closed halfway through the Winter 2020 semester. I was upset when my summer internship was cancelled. And, yeah, I’m going a little stir-crazy in self-isolation. But, the fact that I have time to be frustrated about those things is a huge privilege.
If you aren’t worried about being able to pay rent next month or contracting COVID-19 while at work on the front lines tomorrow, you’re one of the lucky ones too.
For those of us least affected by this pandemic, I think it’s important to reflect. There’s been a lot of talk about getting the world back to “normal”—but, is that really what we want? “Normal” was over a million households without enough money to put food on the table. “Normal” was an underfunded healthcare system. “Normal” was the mistreatment of workers we finally recognize as essential.
Maybe instead of trying to get back to normal, those of us lucky enough to be unaffected should take this time to visualize what the new normal should be.
The world will need time to heal in the aftermath of this pandemic. Re-examining our priorities will allow us to facilitate that process.
Here are some life lessons to take from self-isolation.
Essential means essential
When’s the last time you got upset with a minimum wage employee because they wouldn’t accept your expired coupon? Or the last time you made a joke about how, if you don’t study hard enough, you’ll end up working at McDonald’s?
These are the people keeping the world afloat right now.
In “normal” times, individuals who provide indispensable services are scoffed at and belittled. We are privy to a strange, unwarranted sense that manual labour is easy and that those who provide it are unskilled.
We clap on our porches for healthcare workers. And, we should—they deserve it. But, we need to grant the same respect to the people who collect our garbage, build our roads and drive our busses. We cannot function without them. Not now, not ever.
Essential means essential. Keep that in mind next time you look down on someone whose work uniform doesn’t include a blazer.
Mingling can’t buy happiness
Going to concerts, restaurants and parties is fun. It provides a sense of connection and a way to unwind. However, I’d argue part of the reason staying in is so difficult is it forces us to sit with unpleasant emotions.
Usually, if you have a bad day, you can make yourself feel better by grabbing coffee with a friend. You can go see a funny movie and forget about it. You can distract yourself from the things that are hard to feel by suppressing them with fun.
Yet, after you’ve finished your coffee, after the credits have rolled, your hard feelings are still there.
We currently have fewer options when it comes to deflecting the tough stuff. When you have a bad day, you have to feel it. And that’s really scary. It makes you ask yourself, “What do I truly need to be happy?” and, perhaps more importantly, “How can I find it without validation from others?”
I don’t have an answer to that. But, I know I’ll continue going on walks and prioritizing alone time long after campus reopens.
There are many ways to say “I love you”
Not only does wading in difficult emotions force us to examine our relationship with ourselves, but it also requires us to look at our relationships with others.
If you’re someone who prioritizes quality time as a way of showing affection, you’ve probably found the last few months really straining.
It’s almost like we’re all in a long-distance relationship with everyone we care about. That gives us an unprecedented opportunity to inspect our relationships from a near-external perspective and figure out what our loved ones need in order to feel cared about.
In other words, the way you tell your sister you love her will most likely be different than the way you tell your grandma. And, that’s okay; love looks different on everyone.
Through social distancing, we can learn how to express affection towards others in a way that resonates best with them—an essential part of community care.
The human spirit
Near the top of 2020s ever-growing list of buzzwords is “the human spirit.” It’s been the subject of news articles, advertisements, and think pieces. At the risk of sounding bitter, I find it rather vapid.
The phrase, “the human spirit needs to get us through these times,” implies the human spirit is an independent essence, existing with or without our intervention. It’s like when people say, “Our society is bad,” or, “Our society is so judgemental.” We are society. We are the human spirit. If we want to change things, we can.
It’s great to see people supporting each other amid this pandemic. Every time I see a story about students volunteering at food banks or teachers going the extra mile, my heart lights up. That doesn’t have to stop when the Eaton Centre reopens.
We can choose to be socially conscious–whether or not there’s a global pandemic. We can continue to recognize and reward those who keep the world moving. The human spirit isn’t magic; it’s us.
Everything comes down to us.
Stay up-to-date with these student-friendly sources of information on COVID-19.