If you asked me in March of 2020 what my big takeaway from the COVID–19 pandemic was, I would have had a clear, precise answer. Today, that is not the case anymore. The truth is, there’s an assemblage of life lessons, one greater than the other, which we can take back with us into the open world.
Perhaps a recurring mention on social media and every WhatsApp group is the fact, that in the pre-COVID era, we frequently took the little things for granted—the late-night drives, the smell of fresh air, that coffee at a street-side café, an evening when your friends dragged you out, the early morning flight that knackered you and that night on the beach when the ocean waves embraced your feet. It has always been the little things, a series of them actually, manifestations of which dictate our state of mind, our career choices and our overall happiness.
I have lived the past 15 years on the run. I plan destination and luxury weddings for a living. It means being in one city on Monday and another on Tuesday, sometimes switching not just cities but between countries. It amounts to little sleep, exposure to new people every week, non-existence of the concept of a weekend, and a decent amount of air miles.
Such lifestyle calls for discipline, strict diets, and rigorous workout regimes. As someone who always lives in the fast lane, I thrive in this setting. Some people rely on a sugar high or perhaps a shopping spree for their dopamine fix. Flying a few hundred people to a destination or seeing a bride walk down the aisle is mine. When the pandemic first hit us, our company was in the midst of the busiest season. I am not going to lie; deep down I was thrilled to get a fortuitous break. Waking up to zero missed calls, eating foods that I didn’t try for years, and catching up on Friends sitcom all the way back from Season 1 was a welcome change.
Inevitably, as time passed, a lot of what was happening around us took a toll on me. Human lives lost due to the virus became a daily stream of statistics and as if that weren’t enough, there were protests, riots, suicides, plane crashes, and border face-offs. There were many who were indifferent to news and current affairs but were having difficulty coping with the all-important relationship, namely the one with themselves.
It soon dawned upon me that the most pertinent and profound impact of the virus was the one on our mental health. This pandemic has locked us in with no access to the world outside, leaving us with little choice but to look inwards.
For the very first time in my life, I made an effort to address and consciously observe things that I may have bottled inside for years. Past patterns, small insecurities, old habits, and anecdotes from early years now suddenly came to the fore. As someone completely new to this recognition, I shared my feelings with a few friends, only to realise that almost every single person was feeling the same way, each for their own unique reasons.
There are many who are questioning their career choices, worrying about the future, dwelling on their relationships, changing their outlook to life, or wondering what’s their purpose altogether. Simply put, the energy projected unilaterally in the world right now is that of ‘fear of uncertainty’.
For those nodding in agreement, recognising the issue, understanding that you’re not alone, and speaking about it nonchalantly is winning half the battle. Adapting to the new normal, finding solutions to your challenges, and patiently waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel will help you cross that finish line.
So where to from here? Exercising gratitude has played a huge part in shaping me into who I am today! And with more than half of 2020 behind us, when I look back I think there’s a whole bunch of positives and lessons we can take from this experience.
To start with, we are part of the ecosystem; we are NOT the entire ecosystem. Respecting nature and our surroundings is often spoken about, but also quickly forgotten during festivals and celebrations. Nature always wears the colour of your spirit; so don’t be surprised when it reacts to your actions. Animals and other living beings are not the root cause of our problem for survival; it’s exactly the other way around.
Encouraging small businesses and fellow entrepreneurs is the way forward. Adaptability is the key, so observe the new normal, accept it and work on slowly rebuilding your dream.
Living in the present and valuing the time we spend with our family and friends is more important than worrying about the future because, to tell you the truth, the future is speculative. Baking that banana bread or reading that book is more gratifying than you had imagined! It’s okay to not feel okay!
Last but not the least, kindness is nothing without empathy; understand the struggles of others, be grateful for yours, and don’t forget to celebrate if you come out of this experience alive!