Test of Human Character: A Year of COVID-19
Aisles at grocery stores completely wiped clean. A woman pushing a crate full of Lysol wipes and her partner pushing a shopping cart filled to the brim with packages of toilet paper at a Costco while others rush around them, trying to get their own hands on the last pack of water bottles before they sell out again. For anyone catching a glimpse of this scene unaware of what was going on in the world, it would appear as a reenactment of a scene from a dramatic apocalyptic SciFi movie. Looking back at what was happening in the world this time last year, it is astounding how much has changed since the news of the first COVID-19 positive patient in the United States was heard.
I was on spring break of my sophomore year in college when the first lockdown was announced. Because no one expected the lockdown to last more than a week or two at most, my spring break was extended another week, and everyone was cherishing the staycation they were granted for another few days. Of course, that week of lockdown turned into months and online learning, masks, and social distancing quickly became the new normal. The transition to online learning was especially tough on students like me who found their motivation to always be at its lowest when at home. As someone who associated home with sleep and lounging, trying to finish up my organic chemistry class at my desk which happened to be a mere few feet from my bed was a struggle I had never experienced before. The lifestyle adjustment was a major one and took me a while to finally settle into a mindset suitable for online learning. I learned having a routine is everything. Without a routine, I quickly fall into an endless pit of unproductive darkness that takes a significant toll on my mental health as well as my schoolwork and every other aspect of my life. I found myself reflecting more on myself and journaling the highlights of my day as I was limited to who I could talk to and ranting to my mom as she made roti (Pakistani/Indian version of flatbread) was just not cutting it for me anymore. I found an appreciation for myself and found a sense of peace when letting go of all my anxieties onto a sheet of paper and feeling the emotions that burdened me all day flow out as my pen glided across the pages of my journal.
With the end of the first lockdown came the reality of the selfishness of humanity. As the initial scare of COVID-19 which kept people indoors began to wear off, so came the ignoance and recklessness that is the reason we are all still in this pandemic. The refusal to wear masks, the unadvised social intermingling, and restaurants and flights opening up, all of which led to an increase in cases. With people prioritizing traveling and living their lives over protecting themselves and others from a life-threatening virus, what could have been an uncomfortable few months quickly turned into a new normal that should have never come to be. I have begun avoiding my usual social media rounds during my study breaks because every time I log into Instagram to scroll through stories, I find myself watching people post about their vacations to Miami or Cancun when it has been advised to avoid unnecessary travel. Even with the vaccine, we see many cases of non-essential workers cheating the system and getting their grasps on both dosages before many health care workers
As this pandemic and the actions of many are proving this to be one for the long haul, it is important to stay grounded and remember the importance every single person plays in the spread. As the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad said “[People] should not put themselves at risk unnecessarily. That would only be ignorance, not bravery. It is sheer ignorance. Hence, we must ensure to take great care.” It is important to hone into our empathy for others and put their needs before our wants, especially right now.
As we reach the one-year mark since COVID-19 became a part of our lives, it is equally important to reflect how much good has come as a result of this pandemic. From this isolating past year, the connection between friends and family has been very limited to virtual or socially distant interactions. This lack of social interaction between the people we love has led to a heightened appreciation for the relationships we have and the bonds we share with certain people. I often find myself missing people I would rarely see before the pandemic, but I cherish our relationship more as even the occasional interactions had a greater impact on me than I would have ever known if I had not been stripped of their company altogether.
Another important point that I have come to realize from my reflection of the past year is the reliance we all have on our communities’ support. Knowing friends who have lost loved ones and being unable to be a physical support for them or having my sister’s wedding but not being able to invite anyone has brought an amplified appreciation for the support we have. In times like this, it is important to reflect and value the smaller things, no matter how insignificant they may seem.
Everyone is having to cope in this trial that we are all going through at the same time, but we are all impacted by it to varying degrees.
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