Ten Life Lessons Learned From a Year in the Pandemic

Michael Beausoleil

For most Americans, March 2020 marked the true beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, it seemed the world was heading into a panic. Grocery stores couldn't keep food on the shelves and the world dealt with a shortage of toilet paper. Since this time, the world has placed restrictions on gatherings and forced us to change the ways we interact with the world. For many people, myself included, this meant I would be working from home.

St. Patrick's Day 2020 was my last day working in my office. My director assigned my team an in-office rotation but after a week our team was told to stay home to prevent contact. Since this time, the bulk of my work has been at home. If I ever go into my office, I am instructed to avoid contact with others keep my door closed.

This set the tone for the bulk of 2020 and the entirety of 2021 thus far. The past twelve months have required me to take major precautions and Many people were impacted by the pandemic more severely than I was. Still, I've learned a lot from my experiences and believe post-pandemic life will be impacted by these lessons.

1. Confusion Leads to Illogical Responses

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If you recall the very beginning of the pandemic, information was scarce. People didn't know if they needed to wear masks, if they could transmit COVID by opening mail, or when places would reopen. So they responded by buying loaves of bread by the dozen and a closet full of toilet paper.

When things like this happen on a grand scale, people will receive a variety of opinions. In our personal lives, it's not uncommon to respond illogically when we face unexpected dilemmas. Often, we don't receive the feedback necessary to understand our responses. A year later, we can laugh about the beginning of the pandemic, but it should remind us that it's normal to have wild responses to confusing situations.

2. Virtual Meet-Ups Can Be Fulfilling

We've reached a point where people are experiencing "Zoom Fatigue," which is entirely understandable. Perhaps they're just starving for human attention, or maybe they just want some time alone. Regardless, video chats seemed to be viewed unfavorably by this point in time.

At the start of the pandemic, I actually loved the virtual meetings. I was able to talk with friends across the country and I felt compelled to be social with others. I also attended fitness classes led over Zoom and was excited to see other people's faces. While this isn't an exact substitute for meeting up with people in person, I really did enjoy many of my Zoom meet-ups. Especially for people who only have limited amounts of time, video chats can be a great platform to connect with others.

3. You Don't Hate the Meetings Because They're on Zoom

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Again, Zoom fatigue has crept into my life. The phenomenon has actually been studied at this point, but when I reallythink about the frustrations with my Zoom meetings, I can't blame the platform itself. When I was having these meetings in-person, I was also dreading them. If we're being honest, there have also been meetings where I was able to go on mute and do some other things. I could have never gotten away with that in person.

Working from home has its flexibilities, many of which I enjoy greatly. Then, Zoom meetings coming into my day and I suddenly lose some of my flexibility. Plus, I might need to look presentable to be on camera. In office, I'm always presentable. At home, sweatpants are a t-shirt are typically fine. And why am I making all this effort? For a meeting I don't want to attend. Zoom itself doesn't make my job any worse, but while working at home Zoom is the culmination of many workplace inconveniences.

4. Working From Home Can Be Great

Growing up, others would label me a "people person." This influenced me to find a job where I could work closely with people and have a good amount of social interaction. There are long blocks of time where I can be left alone and plow through work. After a year, I still love this.

Many offices are considering remote or hybrid roles after restrictions are lifted. People can work effectively while they're not in the physical office, and it can improve their performance in certain areas. I anticipated I would miss the human interaction I had with in-person work. If I'm being honest, I really don't. Being remoted has shown me that I might be more introverted than I thought because I feel really productive working independently.

5. Working From Home Can Be a Curse

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The people who have worked at home for the past year have experienced many conveniences, such as the lack of a commute and the ability to dress comfortably. They've also turned their living rooms into offices, and this blurs the line between work life and personal life.

When I think of remote work, I immediately think of the conveniences. At 8 PM on a Tuesday, I might find myself creeping back into work mode. Even though I have no obligation to work during this time, I do feel I can use the time to accomplish more and reduce my workload for tomorrow. The lack of boundaries can be exhausting, and make it hard to feel completely disconnected. Since the start of the pandemic, the amount of time I've spent logged onto my work computer hasn't decreased, in fact, I am on there much more and have a hard completely ignoring work.

6. It's Very Easy to Get Stuck in a Rut

After a full year, it's easy for life to feel uneventful and mundane. I've found myself daydreaming about changes and the opportunity to do simple things like comfortably eating in a Chili's. You'll also see people who are outside living their lives to the fullest, at least according to social media.

If it's any consolation, it's very common to be feeling pandemic fatigue at this point. People want to feel like things will get better and the current situation will improve. I keep telling myself this is only temporary. Then weeks turned into months; months turning into a year. It's hard to sit still when other people are comfortable throwing caution to the wind, but in the long run, it will be worth the time sacrificed.

7. Some Risks Are Worth Taking

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Early into the pandemic, I booked a flight to see my parents on Thanksgiving. I anticipated we would have more control by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. Six months passed, and I watched as the number of COVID cases spike multiple times. By November, flying still seemed risky, but I decided it would be beneficial for my mental health to break the monotony and see my family.

So, I flew during the pandemic. Now that I know I survived the flight, I have no regrets. I knew I would have to assume some level of risk and I would need to take many precautions. While I wouldn't engage in such risky behaviors on a regular basis, there are going to be times when you need to make decisions to benefit yourself in the short term. This trip helped to refresh my spirits and gave me an opportunity to feel less isolated.

8. It's Not Always About You

For some people, the fear of getting COVID was fairly low. Even if they acknowledged the virus, many people in good health felt they'd be fine if they contracted COVID. Statistically, they probably would have been. They would also become carriers who could spread the virus to others. There's no guarantee the next person will recover as quickly.

If I was hedging my bets, I'd probably be OK if I were to be diagnosed with COVID. That doesn't mean I want to take the chance, especially because I do have some social contact (though significantly limited). I fear the outcome for other people more than I fear it for myself, and that's why I'm masked in public and keeping six feet apart.

9. Other People Are Impacted Differently

If you've read points my prior points on this list, you might identify some biases in my experiences. I work in an office that had provided me with the flexibility to work at home. For other people, their reality is very different than mine. This means they're impacted by COVID in different ways.

I might be advocating for people to say indoors, but the owner of a coffee shop needs foot traffic. Small businesses are going to feel the impact of the pandemic much differently than me, and I can't blame them for wanting restrictions to be eased. My livelihood hasn't been compromised yet. For others, they're enduring a revolving door of regulations and have direct financial implications. At the end of the pandemic, I want everyone to be healthy. I also want to be able to go to my favorite coffee shops. For this reason, I don't know the best solutions, but I know it's important to acknowledge the frustrations of others.

10. We'll Be Forever Changed

I often hear people asked if we'll ever go back to normal. While I think we will have far more freedoms in the future, I don't think we will ever live as freely as we did in 2019. People move forward with a level of hesitation from the pandemic and a looming fear that we could go back into quarantine.

If I'm being completely honest, we were really lazy in some regards prior to COVID. People would come into work with sicknesses and sanitation was an afterthought in crowded areas. I am optimistic that some of the changes will improve public safety, even if COVID is completely eradicated. In such a scenario, we will know how challenging life can be during a pandemic. We would be wise to take precautions to avoid it in the future.

Life Post-Pandemic

I reflect upon the past twelve months with some sadness, but there are also some positive surprises. Personally, the pandemic wasn't a major disaster, but it was a wake-up call and a massive adjustment. I'm ready for restrictions to be lifted, but I am also confident in my ability to survive with limited freedoms.

I see the light at the end of the tunnel. As I write this, I have received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I know I am on the earlier side of receiving the vaccine, but I know we need a high percentage of people to receive vaccinations before we can completely lift restrictions. So, I am doing my part and getting my vaccine.

We can move forward after the pandemic, but we can't ignore the challenges we've survived. I can pull many lessons from my experience, and these can be applied to the ways I address challenges moving forward. Most importantly, we need to remember how vulnerable we can be if we don't take precautions. I feel I have learned a lot from my year in quarantine, but this was an expensive price to pay for the knowledge I received. I'd like to avoid going through it again, so I will commit to public safety as I reintegrate myself into the greater community.

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Writer, educator, and a few other things.

San Diego, CA
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