Learning to Live in an Upended World: A Light at the End?

Learning to Live in an Upended World: A Light at the End?

By Natalie Taylor


Is there a message for us in the gut-punch we received from COVID-19? Crises can present opportunities and though nobody can foretell the future, here’s a look at what months of isolation and self-reflection have wrought and what changes we might have in a post-pandemic world. 


Family and friends: Nothing like isolation makes us more aware of how important others are in our lives. We are all social beings who thrive on meaningful connections. Family and friends, even at a distance, can give us an anchor and a purpose.


Global Solidarity: What this pandemic has taught us is how closely we are all connected. Someone on another continent can affect our lives as much as our next-door neighbor. Seeing the world as a gigantic neighborhood makes us focus on how we are all living on one planet, and each individual action can becomes part of a worldwide ripple. This insight may lead people to see others less than “other” and more as “someone like me.”


Less consumerism: Is a new outfit or the newest phone really that important? Many people appear to have begun seeing that instant gratification is not the road to happiness. They are looking toward “making do with what is at hand” and curtailing spending on new material goods. After witnessing the impact of the lockdown on small businesses, people are refocusing on the local economy.


Appreciation for nature and the outdoors: During the months of quarantine, the outdoors became something special to look forward to. Like prisoners relishing a soft breeze or a butterfly alighting on a hand, we have grown to appreciate the freedom of the outdoors: a run or a walk in the park, listening to birds, the smell of grass and flowers. 


Particularly in urban areas, there is a greater appreciation for green spaces and parks. This feeling may very well continue and lead to more public outdoor activities such as concerts, lectures, or movies screened in the open air.


Home cooking vs. eating out: With sit-down restaurant meals curtailed, many people are learning or relearning how to cook and finding the joy of eating in. This is a fact during this lockdown period. The question is, will it continue in the future? 


A slowing down: After an enforced brake on activities, some are finding that a slower pace is not so bad after all. A retiree told an interviewer: “I seem to work as much as a volunteer as I did in paid jobs … slowing down … feels good.” This advice is easy for retirees, but what about those who still have to work? Interestingly, some who are at the cusp of retirement are choosing to do so earlier rather than later. Many younger people want less career pressure because they now realize work is not what matters most in life. Overall we seem to be leaning toward the words of Ghandi: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”