I strongly debated whether to write a post about the one thing we are all exposed to on a daily basis and the reality we can’t escape from. Like myself, I’m sure millions of people are tired of waking up in the morning and seeing all broadcasted and online media saturated with news, memes, stories, instagram live videos, and articles about the pandemic. And yet, here’s yet another site featuring a post about it. It’s currently 4 o’clock in the morning as I’m writing this, and although I’ve debated whether to put out another post about the virus out in the world where there’s more than enough stories about it, I just felt the need to let it out of my mind – all of my thoughts.
The pandemic has tested us in various ways. In a matter of days of the global outbreak, the abnormality became our norm. What we grew up seeing in films suddenly began to unfold before our eyes in the media and then right outside our homes within days – empty streets, closed stores, and grocery stores filled with worried people stocking up for doomsday.
Political leaders are being tested for their vigilance and care for their nations. People all over the world are instantly exposed to leaders who are judged, scrutinized, and compared to other nations. Their words and actions shape our views of the nation’s politics on a global scale. We continually ask ourselves, “Who’s the better leader? Who is more compassionate?” And then we wonder if these leaders are acting on their genuine compassion for each human being of their nation or out of a battle to appear as the better political figure over others.
Companies are being tested for the ways in which they care for their employees. Are employees seen as a valuable asset or just a number? As many of us have been exposed to several businesses who’ve been transparent to their customers and clients on how they are treating their employees during this time, it is also easily becoming a quick comparison battle of which businesses hold stronger values for their workers.
Schools are being tested for their quality through their academic perseverance for their students. Schools become divided on how they react to school closures. Will they continue to teach children, and if so, to which extent are they willing to have their quarantined teachers reach out to their students to continue giving them the right and privilege to learn?
And then there’s us. We are being tested everyday by this virus across all aspects. We are forced to rewire our brain as we navigate the pandemic on a day-to-day basis.
Socially, we are changing. Kids will perhaps remember this for the rest of their lives as some odd moment of limbo. In my case, I can easily relate this to the ice storm of January 1998 that hit Quebec and stopped all operations and closed all schools for two weeks. That moment in my life felt like a limbo phase where we were forced to live outside of our norm. This moment will shape kids, just as any other experience in their life does. It may shape the way in which they think, or it may have them think twice about washing hands even long after this pandemic is over. Young adolescents who have never even heard of Employment Insurance are learning about it as they navigate the application online. As adults, we are forced to juggle our responsibilities – loss of jobs or working from home, spending time with kids, managing finances, etc. Keeping up with the news has become our daily norm. We’ve turned to social media to share our quarantine diaries, and we’ve turned to video chats to keep in touch with our loved ones where even birthdays are spent via FaceTime or Skype. We are changing the way in which we interact with one another, whether we’re spending time with our family indoors or starting group video chats with friends.
Psychologically, we are evolving. People will think twice about how they manage their finances, what companies they decide to work for, or which president to vote for next. People have been pushed through the stages of grief for their jobs, funds, and control. And as we mourn through our days, we try to navigate our daily lives with what we can, as best we can. When we come out of all this, our behaviours and thoughts towards just about anything will change – but will it last? When we slowly make our ways back into civilization, we will think twice about elevator buttons, restaurant door handles, subway poles, and escalator hand rails. Will this feeling last? Or will it dissipate and we’ll resume our lives the way it was before the pandemic? Our opinion about essential versus non-essential workers have been shifting over the last few months. Garbage pickers are applauded for their continuous work, shelf stockers are viewed as front-line heroes, and the workers delivering food across the cities are praised for supporting small restaurant owners survive the crisis.
Challenging our Thoughts
In just a matter of days, an abnormal life became our sudden norm. Our everyday “thinking inside the box” is being challenged on a regular basis. We are learning that there is possibility beyond our normal way of thinking. Even experts are re-evaluating all types of behaviours in all aspects – social, financial, health, etc. As we learn about how businesses are suddenly operating in such a way that we never imagined before, our eyes are opening up to possibilities in which we did not see before. Large companies may begin to realize that a work-from-home method is feasible, and can help to reduce cost in office rental space – especially considering the need to recover finances post-virus. On the other hand, when the crisis ends, which businesses will be left? Some types of businesses that were already struggling prior to this pandemic due to inevitable changing times may close forever. We may never walk into a movie theatre again to watch that blockbuster Marvel movie with all your movie-lover fans on opening night, or watch your kids grow up to take their date out to the movies for a romantic comedy. We may never live through another movie-going experience, anticipating upcoming films and indulging in freshly popped buttery movie-theatre popcorn. With retailers already filing for bankruptcies and announcing store closures across the nation and globe, we may later walk back into shopping malls and eerily find several empty commercial lots. Those little hole-in-the-wall restaurants will perhaps also never see light again for the hardworking families who no longer have means to feed their children after a rough journey to immigration and settling to build better lives for their kids. We may become more frugal with our finances, but we need to realize how better to use our money instead of not spending it at all. We need to realize that if we have a bit of cash we can spend on indulging ourselves in junk food or a video game, then we can spend the extra money on these local businesses who are doing everything they can to survive during this time.
In our homes, parents are learning more about their children after being tied to a “Monday to Friday sending them to school for 8 hours in a day”. Normally, parents see their kids in the morning to send them off to school, to feed them dinner upon their return 8 hours later, and then put to sleep. And now, with all the added hours parents get to spend with their children, they are not only helping them learn in alternative ways, but parents themselves are learning about their children in alternative ways. Parents are not always directly exposed to their kids doing homework or facing academic challenges. This moment is a time for parents and children to form a bond, to understand them better. While many of us have moved on to deep-cleaning our homes, spring-cleaning and going through old storage, we are not only travelling our minds to the past, but we are also forced to think ahead – do I really need these old electronics? We are re-evaluating our necessities and de-cluttering our homes to not only free our space, but our minds as well. While we re-evaluate the necessities in our lives, we think of the people and the stuff we are grateful for. When we will step ourselves back into civilization, we will not only think twice about proper hand-washing, but we will also be grateful for the essential workers who never stopped working for us. We will share more heartwarming and meaningful “thank you’s” to city workers, health professionals, restaurant workers, and flight attendants bringing people home.
The Good & The Bad in Us
When the World Health Organization officially announced the global pandemic, people ran to the stores. The world suddenly learned that day that toilet paper was an essential item. And then it was chaos. News stories about a couple who thought it was smart to purchase two entire pallets of Lysol wipes only to sell them at a ridiculously high price of $80 per piece. Immediately upon hearing the news of the pandemic, people’s response was to panic-buy, but that wasn’t the response for all. Some fell under the category of fearfuls who hid away in their homes with stacks of essentials hoping it would keep them safe. And then others fell under the category of hopefuls who immediately thought about sharing what essentials are left for people other than themselves. The panic-buying shed a light on our humanity and created a split between two types of people. While some thought this pandemic was the perfect opportunity to earn some extra cash, others looked to reach out to their families because they realized that they were more important than profit. We hear dividing stories about citizens assaulting front-line workers, while others tell us heartwarming stories of communities who sing on their balconies to keep the faith of humanity alive. In a sudden apocalyptic-type of moment, this eventuality brought out either the good or the bad in us.
And finally, the most important one to share with you. The truth we need to face in the midst of this pandemic is having to face yourself. The isolation has forced us to test our ability to cope with the void and with ourselves. Before all of this and at least at some points in our lives, we’ve all thought about the hypothetical of what we would do if we didn’t need to go to work everyday. And here it is, facing us now. Without jobs but an ample amount of time in our hands – what do you do? Do you break the rules or keep routine? Do you continue to actively learn online or do you take a break from school altogether? With all that time in our hands, we ask ourselves the same question everyday “What now?”. As some of us run out of things by Day 2 or Day 15, we still ask ourselves that same question on a daily basis. There’s only so much gaming, reading, cooking, or crafting you can do. With the uncertain reality of the length of this self-isolation, we have to get creative with what we decide to do next after we’ve done it all. Humans are meant to socialize – we thrive on it. And when we are shut out from the world, we need to trick our minds into thinking that we are not imprisoned in our homes, stripped of our ability to socialize. Feelings of loneliness can increase the likelihood of depression and anxiety, which is why we need to come together even when we physically can’t. Video chats aren’t just for keeping up to date with friends, but should also be used to check in on our elders or friends who may experience loneliness or even anxiety from all the uncertainty.
As most of us who are self-isolating at home, we experienced various stages of coping with our new reality. Some experienced fear and anxiety coupled with small panic attacks, while others embraced the freedom until too much freedom made them realize they needed structure. Although everyone may be experiencing this phase in our lives differently or in differing order, we are all still altogether going through many mental shifts. Most people were quick to fear and anxiety when they were laid off from their work and before the government had even put down a financial plan for its nation. Even people living under the same roof are experiencing self-isolation differently, and it all really depends on how we are mindfully constructed – in other words, how we are mentally built. There are plenty of people who are incapable of breaking out of the “mind revolving doors” of the fear of uncertainty. The rest of this blog is for you.
The uncertainty is very real, but we can’t control it. Focus on what we can control and that’s you. The uncertainty will eventually find its light and we’ll have answers to our next steps in life when the situation improves. In the meantime, remember that we need to face and stay true to ourselves before we end up losing ourselves. Focus on you.
Whether we’re in this for another month or a few more, this opportunity probably won’t come around again in your lifetime. Some may see this limbo phase as a pit hole in their life, but I see this as a golden opportunity to find yourself. This stupid virus may be pushing all our buttons, but it’s also handing us a chance that so many people don’t ever get to have in their lifetime. We grow up too quickly to figure out who we want to be until we’re thrown into the real world and forced to shape into an already-existing mould. How incredibly beautiful the world would be if we were all given a chance to find and love ourselves?
This moment in your life is a pause. Right now, your life has been put on hold so that you can re-evaluate it. Step back a little and see how your life has played out so far. So many people in the world are not living out their dreams because they are not sticking true to their own self-values and have stuck to norms because of social constructs. Why do we spend so much time and energy trying to please the rest of the world when the only person you should be impressing is yourself. Only you need to accept you. And when you begin to accept yourself is when you learn to love yourself.
Loving yourself allows you to grow and to experience freedom as though you unlocked your life’s biggest challenge. We have to understand that we are not robots who should live by a certain standard, but we are humans who are meant to offer the world the best version of us. I understand that it can be a great challenge in getting there, but there are ways that can help you get there. At the end of the day, loving yourself is a mental state and a change of perspective, and the shifting of one’s perspective is one of the hardest things to achieve. These are just a few of the things you can do not just to keep busy, but more to spend time getting to know yourself.
Look up meditation tutorials on Youtube or start doing yoga but before you do so, learn about the motive behind it. It’s more self-rewarding when you learn about the why in what you’re doing before learning about the how. Start reading more self-help books. There are tons of good ones out there and they are great at shifting one’s mentality. Try new things because you won’t ever know if you like something if you haven’t tried it yet. Let yourself go out of the box in order to make yourself feel like different. Perhaps this feeling of “difference” is who you really are or will help you find your true calling, for instance starting to jog around the neighbourhood every morning. If you already know how to cook, cook new meals. Take online courses. There are plenty of websites that offer free online courses with a wide selection of subjects – from technical skills like IT to gaining knowledge about the world like history. They are mostly self-paced, so you can decide to log in and learn once a week, or once a day. For those of us who aren’t in school anymore, but missed the learning aspect, this is a great alternative to get your brain pumping again, however this time you’re not only learning at your own pace, but you’re choosing to learn what you love.
Finally, I want to tell you that it’s OK to feel fear, but try not to let it consume the better part of you. It’s OK to feel lost – you will eventually be found because humans are meant to proactively find a way out of solutions. We are problem-solvers. It’s OK that the one thing you love is set aside and you can’t seem to get to it right now, whether it’s creative-writing, painting, or cooking. The time will come and that moment will feel right, but don’t ever be hard on yourself for not being able to execute the one thing you’re good at. It’s OK to not feel ourselves in times of uncertainty, but the most important thing is to get back up. Never give up on yourself because only you can control you and your output. You are not alone in this, we are all in the same boat but different types, and I know that you can do this. It’s OK because you are only human, and humans are meant to feel, and we are also meant to love.
My hope for you is to take whatever time you can for yourself. Be who you want to be, not who others feel you are meant to be. We are free-flowing human beings who may feel as though one career is enough for us, but maybe there’s more out there. Never give up on that possibility of growing you.