During this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down and changed not just the way we live and work but also how we think and behave. Every part of the world has been affected, and every aspect of life has been impacted. Our everyday routines were brought to a stop, and any sense of normalcy was lost. While we stop and look at the world around us, I cannot help but realize what I used to take for granted. If anything, perhaps there are some life lessons to take away from this pandemic.
1. This world is interconnected. We often think of each country as a separate entity and being very different from one another. Within a few months of the virus first being identified, the virus spread to nearly every country, and a global pandemic was declared. Despite the differences and distance between places, we are battling the same virus and having the same struggles. It’s a reminder of just how our world economy and society are interconnected on many levels, including supply chains, communications, technology, and travel.
2. Humans are social creatures, and we need social interaction and human contact. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of social interaction and human contact within almost every aspect of our lives, including education, employment, entertainment, and recreation. Efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, including physical distancing, quarantine, and stay-at-home orders, have prompted and exacerbated social isolation and loneliness. Along with 35 million other individuals (accounting for 28% of the population) in the United States, I live alone, and this has meant little to no social interactions for months. And as much as I consider myself an independent person who has lived on their own for years and moved numerous times to new cities without knowing anyone there, this pandemic has made me realize how much I miss social interaction and things as simple as a hug or coffee with a friend at the café.
3. Humans are adaptive, and life is more flexible than we think. The pandemic has been a time of extraordinary change, and we have had to rapidly change and adapt to the evolving situation. Many individuals have lost jobs and have been forced to find creative ways to pay the bills. Many others began working from home. Schools turned online with virtual learning. Many physicians started offering telemedicine. This pandemic has been a testament to just how resilient we are as humans and our ability to be flexible and creative in the face of uncertainty.
4. There is goodness and humanity, even in the darkness. At the start of the pandemic, there was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) among hospitals and health care facilities, and many health care workers were reusing the same disposable mask for days or weeks at a time. Immediately, community members gathered together to procure masks, 3D print face shields, and hand sew masks and scrub caps for health care workers. Restaurants were donating food to hospital workers and first responders. And people were volunteering to bring groceries to the elderly. These acts of kindness and appreciation from the community has helped keep me and many of my fellow health care workers going, working day after day during this pandemic.
5. Life is precious. Be grateful for what we have. With over 225 thousand lives lost to the pandemic in the United States to date (and over 1.1 million worldwide), this pandemic has made me re-think my priorities and remember how precious life is. It has been a reminder to appreciate the smaller things in life – the things I often take for granted. With so many deaths each day, I am grateful for my family and friends, even if it means video calls and text messages while we cannot see each other in-person. With so many people falling ill, I am grateful for my health. With so many people losing jobs and becoming homeless, I am grateful for the food in my fridge and a place to call home. This pandemic has made me re-evaluate my life and assess my priorities and served as a reminder of how precious life is and appreciate the small things in life.
Christine Lau is a physician.
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