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How the Pandemic Taught Me to Be Grateful

Op-ed

When the pandemic first started, how long did you think it would last? I was very optimistic and thought that all the chaos would be over in a week. I was very wrong, because two years have passed and there are still people dying from Covid-19. For most people, as far as I can tell, the beginning of the pandemic was a very tedious time to exist.

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It’s 2020, and I have just moved to a new country. I had barely settled into my new school, and I was excited to do well and make many good memories with my classmates. “2020 is going to be my year,” I remember telling my sister.

However, seemingly overnight, the entire country was put at a stand-still. My world froze. Through my window, where I once saw crowds of people walking and going on with their day, now, I saw nobody. The absence of people terrified me. I didn’t like having to always see that there was no longer anyone there, so I drew the curtains and left them that way for a really long time. During the time I had my curtains closed, I lived in darkness. Both metaphorically and literally. Literally, because I refused to let in any sunlight, and metaphorically, because I blocked out everyone in my life.

Since then, a lot has happened, both globally, and in my life. What are the things that I am grateful for? What have I learned from this ongoing pandemic? As we transition to 2022, it would be great to ponder on some lessons we have learned from the last two years so that we can live a more fulfilling year. With that said, let’s get right into them.

Life

As of now, there have been 5.5 million deaths from Covid-19 reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO). That’s a lot.

It made me realise something. It’s not impossible that I am next. If I were to die tomorrow, would I have any regrets about all the things I did or didn't do? Am I doing things right now that make me happy? Shouldn’t I make the most out of life while I am still alive? I lived for everyone other than myself until then and this was an enormous wake-up call. I still don’t like that it took me this long to realise it, but better late than never. It also changed the way I interacted with people. Anyone could die at any moment for any reason, and I don't want to let someone die thinking I don't care about them.

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People

The next thing I am grateful for are the people in my life. I don’t think I appreciated them enough before this, and so I knew things had to change. There are many ways to appreciate people, but the easiest way is to listen to them.

I am going to admit that I wasn't exactly a good friend or sister before, but I have decided to change. Frankly, I am still not quite there yet, so I am still trying. Relationships take work and it is important to remind people every once in a while that you care about them. While it may seem obvious to you, it might not be to them.

It is important to note, however, that not all relationships can be salvaged. Life could be gone in a flash and we don't have the time, space and energy for the toxic people in our lives.

I decided to rethink my relationship with everyone and decided to cut off any that was not working any longer. I am sure many of us experience this problem. We don't let go of someone because we don’t want to hurt their feelings or because we fear that we will be lonely. Sometimes, it’s better for both parties to let go. People come and go in our lives and we should know when it’s time to start a new chapter.

Technology and Science

Another thing I have grown to appreciate more is technology and science.

Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone. There are still many who don’t, whether it's money or accessibility. I am grateful to have the means to own a phone. With my phone, I was able to look at important updates about the pandemic and keep in touch with friends and relatives. I also managed to attend online classes with my laptop. Even the ventilators used in hospitals to save Covid-19 patients are a result of technology. The systems used in hospitals and all the equipment as well. I just never really thought of it.

Modern technology has even allowed us to create vaccines for a pathogen in the span of one year. To me, that is so cool!

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The Small Things in Life

Living on a smaller scale needs us to see the minor details of our life, instead of the greater bigger picture. I didn't do much during lockdown and that’s okay. I got some rest instead. Taking some rest is pretty underrated and I hope more people become aware that rest is not a want, but a need. I also learned to appreciate things like the wind, the flowers, and the smell of grass a bit more. I never thought much of nature, but staying at home for long periods of time made me see things better.

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Myself

I believe people don't appreciate themselves enough. Many do appreciate themselves, just not enough. I will have to say that I used to be one of those people who didn’t. I still have a lot to learn about myself, but I have at the very least taken the first step towards self-love. That first step being realizing that you’re important. A lot of time locked indoors has led me to appreciate my own company more.

I never gave time to myself before the pandemic, as I was so busy all the time. Busy with school, busy with friends and busy with babysitting. I never had the space to breathe until lockdown. Thinking and reflecting a lot about my feelings has made me understand myself a lot better. As an extrovert, I never understood how spending time alone could be nice. At least now I know better. If there's one thing I have learned, it is that being alone doesn’t have to equate to feeling lonely. It's not the same.

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I hope this helps anyone who happens to read this. Some of these may not seem like much to a lot of people, although to me, they were groundbreaking. Now tell me, what have you learned from the pandemic?

Tamzeeda Tarannum Shakira
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Tamzeeda Shakira is currently a student in Brunei. She is highly interested in science, philosophy and literature. In her free time, she enjoys writing essays, reading books and swimming. Shakira aims to make the world a kinder place for everyone.