To say that the past year has been challenging would truly be an understatement. Never before have I experienced a year that seemed to drag on for decades, yet also pass in the blink of an eye. It has been strange and unpredictable. It has been filled with grief, loss, and growth. For myself, the past year has brought many changes and unexpected insights. First of all, I have never spent as much time in my pajamas as I have since the pandemic. Secondly, I essentially lost track of time. Monday seemed to blur into Tuesday then Wednesday then Thursday. Thirdly, I learned how to brew my own kombucha. Yet, in the midst of all these new experiences, I found that the biggest changes for me were the changes in my perspective.
1) I started to value my family more.
We sat together for dinner on a Sunday night, as my dad rambled on about the pandemic and my mom pretended to listen. I laughed as we ate and cracked jokes about running out of toilet paper. I thought about how my parents still went out for work every day, and how COVID-19 was taking lives all over the world. It made me realize the fragility of my loved ones, and that my time with them is not a guaranteed right but a privilege. I started to savour the moments we spent together, and I learned how to be grateful even for the moments of frustration and conflict. In Chinese culture, most families rarely express their feelings. In the midst of the pandemic, I decided to make a conscious effort to tell my parents what I love about them. I hadn’t realized such a simple thing could bring so much joy to my parents and myself.
2) I learned how to take more responsibility for my mental wellbeing.
In the beginning of the pandemic, I was flooded by waves of emotions such as loneliness, stress, anxiety, and frustration. I wanted to blame it all on the pandemic, and I told myself that I would be better once COVID-19 went away. However, as time passed, I started to understand that the pandemic wasn’t causing these feelings – it was only uncovering them. Many of us have dealt with loneliness before, even with packed schedules and social media. Many of us have dealt with stress and anxiety, long before the pandemic and most likely, long after the pandemic is over. I realized I had to take responsibility for my own mental wellbeing. I took this time to book some counselling sessions, and discover ways to care for myself through painting and exercise.
3) I let go of the need for control.
Most of us like to be in control of our lives. From the small things such as deciding what to eat for dinner, to the big things such as deciding to move to a different country. Yet, with the arrival of COVID-19, so many plans were thrown out the window and stopped in their tracks. I had wanted to take half a year off after graduating from my bachelors degree to travel, but that wasn't possible. I saw weddings being postponed, trips being cancelled, and schooling being delayed.
I tried to use the pandemic as an opportunity to practice letting go of control, and learning how to adapt to the inevitable changes. I woke up one morning and admired the bright sunny sky. I thought about how the sun came out as it pleased, and how I had not even one bit of control over the weather today or tomorrow. Still, it was a beautiful day. Perhaps there are times when things are not in our control, but instead of being frustrated, we can simply let go and understand that both sunny and rainy days are okay.
These are just a few of my thoughts and insights that came out of the crazy past year. I learned that family is more precious than I often realize. I learned I'm responsible for my own well being. I learned, through counselling, that sometimes unaddressed stress or feelings will manifest as anxiety, so it's important to keep checking in with yourself. Through all that, I learned about my strength and witnessed my growth. I hope that we can continue to keep reflecting, sharing, and connecting with each other. May the next year be a little less overwhelming for everyone. I hope you can take some time to reflect on the pandemic lessons you may have learned and recognize the resilience inside that has carried you through it all.