March 2021 marks a full calendar year since COVID-19 entered our lives and unleashed a world of uncertainty. Like the morning of 9/11 or the assassination of John F. Kennedy, we will all likely remember exactly what it felt like, and where we were, when a virus forced us into our homes indefinitely.
The events that followed would unfold much like a tsunami– a single catastrophic blow followed by a series of precarious waves. Government orders became a life raft without a paddle, keeping us afloat with expectations but without real direction. Soon, days blurred into a single hourglass as we watched our time evaporate. And with it went our jobs, lives, comfort, stability, and maskless faces. We’d no longer be the same because nothing was the same.
But, a year later, there’s hope. We have vaccines, businesses are reopening, travel bans are lifted, and loved ones can gather once again. Our tomorrows are more promising than our yesterdays, for the first time in a long time. So, now that the worst part is behind us (fingers crossed) what have we learned? What will we take away from it all?
Here are 5 lessons I learned from COVID-19:
How to be an Optimist
1. How To Be an Optimist
The saying, “someone always has it worse,” carried me through the worst of times. When my family got sick, when I lost loved ones, when my company dissolved, when everything I knew turned upside down, I acknowledged that I was still more fortunate than others. Those who lost so much more.
COVID-19 taught me that in changing my perspective my mindset would shift as well. Every moment became an opportunity to be grateful for what I did have. I learned how to accept the growing pains by turning negatives into positives and literally counted my blessings every morning. It wasn’t easy. Days would go by and I’d accomplish nothing, except the ability to say I was fine. For months the mere concept of staying happy and healthy saved my sanity, because I didn’t allow myself to fall into despair. I was sad, I was struggling, but I knew I still had tomorrow.
Being an optimist amid chaos didn’t mean things weren’t wrong, or that I wasn’t sad. It meant I could overcome the situation because I was hopeful for the future.
2. To Take Advantage of Today
Tomorrow takes on a different meaning after being locked down or closed out. When real life turned into Groundhog Day, only without the benefit of Bill Murray, every day became a lost opportunity. The gym session I postponed, the grocery shopping I put off, the people I forgot to call, the prolonged ‘we should get together sometime,’ they no longer existed as part of a hypothetical timeline. Tomorrow was stolen and my brand new 2020 planner became a relic of a pre-pandemic world.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, as time blended together, COVID-19 taught me to take advantage of the day ahead. When nothing is guaranteed, not even toilet paper, following through on even the simplest task becomes a foundation for the future.
3. That We’re All Part of a Global Community
The onset of the pandemic was marked, in my mind, by two defining moments. The first, when I assumed a sickness in China wouldn’t make its way to New York. The other, watching videos of Italians in lock down singing from their balcony. One instance elicited fear while the other inspired hope, and that would come to define my year ahead. A year where death tolls made headlines and reports of heroism turned pages.
Between international flights and the internet, our world is more connected than ever. When an outbreak in China made its way across the globe, in a matter of weeks, ‘halfway around the world’ quickly ended up in our own backyards. But, unlike the Spanish flu, thanks to technology, the pandemic of 2020 connected us. We had TikTok trends, video calls, Netflix ‘Top 10s,’ baby Yoda, and the ability to see, in real time, how the rest of the world was responding. Some of us doom scrolled while others searched for hope in a haystack. It all proved that we are linked, in some way, shape, or form.
COVID-19 taught me that, and it created a sense of togetherness in the most isolating of times. Every single person on the planet experienced the same thing, a notion that is concurrently heartbreaking and freeing.
4. Copywriting as a Skill
When the newspaper I worked for dissolved, along with the entire life I built around it, I felt displaced. I didn’t just lose a job, I lost a family, a home, an entire community and, along with it, financial security. The economic tole of the pandemic was inescapable and I was caught in the wake. Companies were downsizing, office spaces rendered useless. With nowhere to turn, or so I thought, I searched for a way to make money independently. That’s when I tapped into copywriting.
Once the world went virtual, content became currency. No one passed by traditional ads anymore or met in person, which meant that digital storytelling could make or break a business. People were going online for everything– from workout videos to product purchases. In an ‘aha’ moment, I knew my decade long career as a journalist would benefit those that solely relied on the internet for their livelihoods. I could edit, write, proofread, and create countless forms of content for others because I made a living doing just that. The only difference was I’d be doing it for the business directly, not a publication.
COVID-19 taught me that I had a lucrative, transferable skill– writing. Prior to the pandemic, I never considered copywriting. But in a sink-or-swim situation, it revealed a new horizon of possibilities. As I began to take on clients for projects, I built a side-businesses. It awarded me some financial relief, both physically and emotionally, while also providing me with a purpose again.
5. What I Really Need
With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I questioned what I wanted most. In the beginning it was Amazon. Without travel, without events, without a social life, I wanted something to look forward to and tracking packages became a hobby. But, with fluctuating income, the joy of opening boxes quickly dissolved into guilt and I was forced to find happiness elsewhere.
When the familiarity of the outside world faded, physical desires dwindled and external comforts like events, food, working out, or even shopping, no longer satisfied me because they no longer existed. At the time, I lived at my childhood home, after a tumultuous setback only a few months prior. As isolation continued, I ached for personal freedom and solace. I took to the outdoors on weekends– walks on the beach, hikes in the Hudson Valley– and quickly discovered that what I really needed was to reconnect with myself. So, I did just that. I got my own apartment, started a daily walk routine, read more, cooked more, and got involved with more non-profit work. COVID-19 taught me that as my distractions waned I attracted more of the life I truly needed, and wanted.
Take The Good, Leave The Bad
In the months, and even years, ahead we will rebuild from the wreckage of COVID-19– the political unrest, mourning our deceased, financial impact, addressing our mental health. But through a worldwide restoration comes personal reflection, an opportunity to learn from what was lost. In taking something positive from an unarguably difficult situation we can come out of it with understanding. Maybe it’s blind optimism, or perhaps it’s just hope.
I’d like to acknowledge that COVID-19 impacted everyone differently. My heart goes out to all of those suffering right now. You are not alone. If you need assistance please comment below and I will refer you to an organization that can help.