Crucial life lessons I learned from the pandemic


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It’s been more than a year since Corona hurled into our lives and upended everything we know. It has been a crazy year- at times, it feels like a different lifetime (remember people? remember going places?). 

At times, it feels like it was just yesterday when we all started learning about social distancing, lockdowns and quarantines. When I take time to reflect over the past year, I realize that this year has been a massive year of growth and learning for me. I sat time to write some of my thoughts on the lessons I learned over the past year. 

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1. People are amazing and have so much ingenuity

When corona hit, I was flabbergasted (in a good way) at the incredible way people adapted to the new reality. From teachers who switched to online platforms to people who started businesses to cater to the new world to non-profits who switched their services to help people in need- I was amazed and awed.

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2. People are kind and selfless

If one thing this whole experience taught us is how much regular people are capable of immense kindness. I’m talking about the neighbors who went shopping for quarantined people. 

I’m talking about volunteers who brought oxygen tanks to people’s homes, so they don’t need to go to the hospital. I’m talking about people helping other people get vaccines, medicines, and other things they need. I am frequently touched by the kindness the regular person has for someone else.

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3. It’s really easy to be selfish

When we learn history, we judge the bystanders- those who sat by and did nothing or those who acted wrongly in the face of crises. What I didn’t realize was how easy it is to become selfish and self-centered. It is extremely easy to find a reason and an excuse to act wrongly. Corona has taught me to remain vigilant against this dark side of myself.

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4. You need less than you think

When you think of all the trappings of our “past lives,” it is amazing how we survived without many things. Things we took for granted: school, vacations, play dates, family visits, restaurants, entertainment. We made do without all those things, and we survived. These things are great and important, but we can do without them when we need to.

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5. You decide the mood

As a parent, this was particularly felt. We will be almost a full year of corona which means that we will spend every event and holiday in some form of quarantine or lockdown. It was hard work making each event festive and memorable without many of the things we usually do. There were meals without guests, birthdays without friends, vacations without trips and even Sukkos without a Sukkah. 

But my attitude was able to create unforgettable memories with my children. Even though it was not easy, we (I) can make extraordinary things happen by sheer force of will.

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6. Kids don’t need much

Kids can be happy without a lot: no more extracurriculars and no more fancy activities. But the kids were mostly OK without those things when we had a positive attitude and did fun stuff with them. They don’t need gymnastics lessons and exotic trips. They were happy with mommy doing yoga on the floor with them. 

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7. People Matter

I am a pretty introverted person, and I never loved going to parties or hanging out with people. But once we couldn’t anymore, I realized how meaningful these interactions meant to me — having people and friends around make such a huge difference in our lives. Although we spent a lot of time talking virtually (which was great!), nothing replaces that face-to-face meeting.

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8. Physical distance shouldn’t keep us apart

Over the last few years, I’ve slowly lost touch with people who live far away from me. It was just hard to keep up with them. But once we started doing everything over zoom, it seemed silly not to reconnect with those friends and family. 

Why shouldn’t we have a virtual option for all family events, big or small? I would never have attended my niece’s birthday party in the before times (they live in a different country), but once there was a zoom option, we joined, and it was really lovely. We shouldn’t let distance keep us from the people we love.

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9. Community Matters

I love my neighborhood and community and this year only showed me how much they mean to me. Having friends and neighbors who care about you (and vice versa) is undeniably amazing. If you don’t have a community of people who care about you, then it’s time to create one. Your community does not need to be a physical group of people- you can create a community anywhere: in person or online. 

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10. Heroes exist everywhere

Doctors, nurses, teachers, paramedics, grocery store workers, orderlies- the list goes on. Every single one of them was a hero. Even though there was little recognition and absolutely no glamour, they got up and went to work every day, doing their best to save lives and help people live.

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11. The government won’t save you

This was a harsh reality and probably could have been predicted, but it was a sobering reminder that the government does not care about you as a person- you need to plan and prepare to make sure you and your family are OK. You need to create and be part of a community that will help you in a time of need, and of course, you need to be of service to other people.

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12. We need to take better care of our most vulnerable

The pandemic has shown us most glaringly the issues and inequities that our society has always had but has become clearer and starker now. We need to do better in the way we treat our grandparents, our elders, and our disabled friends and neighbors. We need to realize that not everyone who is vulnerable looks vulnerable at first glance. We need to figure out how to do better to make sure this is a learning opportunity for us and not move along our merry way.

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13. Emergency fund is a must

 I will admit, recently (as in before corona), I had been second-guessing the need for an emergency fund. It seemed like a lost opportunity cost to have it sitting in a savings account instead of being invested. Boy, was I thrilled that I had ready cash available to me. I have redoubled my efforts to save for a fully-funded emergency fund, and I encourage others to do the same.

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14. Living a frugal life is good

I have always lived frugally, but I realized how lucky I am that I already trained myself to do without so many things when lockdown hit. The less materialism you have in your life then, the less you have to lose. There is wholesomeness in simplicity, and simplicity, in my opinion, leads to happiness.

On a lighter note, Kindles are awesome! When the libraries shut down I used the Libby app to get books on my Kindle for my kids and I and it really helped us “survive!”

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