The Lessons We Learned (and Missed) One Year After Covid-19

It’s been a year guys. Let’s try to get something out of it.

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

Like anyone else who has been fortunate enough to live through 2020, I am still in shock of what the last year has brought. Hearing March gives me a bit of PTSD and I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if a global pandemic didn’t take place. As much as it was a tough year, there are many things we can take away from our experience to have an easier time going forward. But we also need to make an effort to really reflect on the past year and see the lessons it provided to take into consideration for the future.

The pandemic tested our friendships and relationships. If we lost some, that’s okay.

For some couples quarantining together, it made them stronger and more connected. I’ve seen a couple of proposals on my timeline and I can’t stop but to think, “wow, it’s amazing they came out of this stronger.” But on the other hand, I also can’t imagine going through a breakup at a time when so much isolation is taking place. Some couples realized in quarantine that their relationship was not for them. For single folks, we probably relied more on friendships and hopefully you and your friends made time to check on each other. But it might have made you realize that maybe your friend was not so great after all and the pandemic highlighted that. Either way, the removal of people who no longer serve you is a blessing. We get to focus on our current relationships to make them stronger and have more time to create new ones.

We need to slow down.

In March, many of us were concerned that we would be bored with many activities in our daily life no longer taking place. Some were mindlessly swiping on dating apps and some just spent all their time on social media. We won’t really have a time like this ever again (fingers crossed) so we should take advantage of the extra down time even if that means time to rest. For those who live in New York, we are always used to working on something or on the go. Maybe the pandemic is showing us that we need balance. We need a break. And a break is okay.

When one of us is sick, not all of us have to be sick.

In corporate America, we often come into work knowing we are sick because we don’t want to “waste a sick day” and we have too much work so we think we have to go to the office. I hope after the Covid-19 crisis we normalize not going to work when we are sick. There is no reason that we need to infect other people when we are still contagious. Stay home and stop spreading germs. Stop making employees feel like that can’t take a day off for their health.

Respect personal space and be more conscious of germs.

The last week of the life I knew, I remember being on the subway in New York and hearing the message on the speaker telling people to wash their hands and explaining the proper way to do so. It baffled me that it took a deadly virus for people to wash their hands and do it correctly. It also made me question when was the last time the subways in New York were really cleaned? I hope going forward we are more conscious of germs that do not need to be spread. Also, let’s give people personal space in public areas even when we don’t have to be socially distant. I should not hear you breathing down my neck in the grocery store. It’s not cute and it’s unnecessary. Keep your distance from strangers.

America is dangerously more individualistic than we thought.

United States of America. At a time where the states needed to be the most united, it’s like we were the most divided. In the beginning, I had faith in the country because America is supposed to be a global powerhouse. It was nice to see us come together with #StayHome and cheering for the healthcare workers on the frontline. I felt a sense of global community with every person I passed telling me to stay safe and wishing me the best. But that seemed to go out the window once spring hit. People were sick of being in the house and it was survival of the fittest. Those who live in Florida or Atlanta seemed to be living a different reality than us in the New York City area. The comments like, “I’m going to live my life” and “I’m not going to live in fear” started coming up with no regards to the people who simply do not have that privilege. America is like a teenager going through a terrible phase. But when will the phase end? Americans are accustomed to doing whatever they want, but at a time when many of us had to sacrifice, others took that for granted. If the states can’t be united in a crisis, will they stay united in the future?

Racism doesn’t stop during a crisis, if anything, it becomes heightened.

The disparities of black people living in very populated places with terrible air quality and living in food desserts were all made very clear. Additionally, we saw many women leaving the workforce and many women of color losing their jobs at alarming rates. We can see the gender and race gaps in many ways in this country, but what is America going to do about it? Will there be laws to help inequality or will we just go back to, “that’s just the way it is?” Even now we are seeing Black Americans not being vaccinated at the same rate as their counterparts even though we are more at risk for Covid-19 and complications from it.

Fake activism is not cute. Please stop.

I have no idea why people suddenly realized a country built by slaves is racist, but that’s beyond me. In addition to living through a pandemic, Black people had to witness countless murders from police. It was incredibly frustrating that white people just started buying from Black-owned businesses because they had guilt. It’s annoying to act like you are shocked by these actions from the police when we have been saying it for years. But what’s worse is going to protests to post on Instagram and posting a black square when you took no action to implement change. How many white people are “living their lives” even though their actions can infect Black Americans who die from Covid at a higher rate? How many of you are still treating Black coworkers terribly? Not hiring them? Not getting educated? Still not speaking up to your racist family or friends when we can’t stand up for ourselves? What has changed since George Floyd’s death? Black people have done enough, so unless you are willing to do the work I’d much rather you stay quiet like you are used to.

Accessibility is important and needs to be improved.

I came across a tweet from a disabled woman who explained how she understood people were upset being stuck in the house, but for her it gave her the opportunity to attend many events she could not have in the real world. She enjoyed connecting with people at zoom conferences or IG live concerts because with things taking place at certain venues or miles away, she simply could not have attended. I think the lesson for us is to consider people with disabilities more when we have these events. Maybe create a virtual option for those who have a disability preventing them from attending. Going forward, we need to take people with disabilities into account in events and everyday activities.

Jobs are heartless.

Most of us knew this but boy it still hurts. When we look at how many jobs panicked in March and just laid off employees with no warnings and resources, it is very heartbreaking. My job kept reassuring us that we would be safe but six months later they decided to lay us off and the reason was not Covid related. I also thought when I was interviewing and applying that maybe recruiters would have a little more compassion about not ghosting and leading candidates on because so many people are in need of jobs and money. I was wrong. The same amount of ghosting and lack of communication still occurred. In a time of distress we could all give a little more compassion.

Workplaces should consider remote work… but some are resisting.

Many people were excited when companies like Twitter and Spotify announced that they would let their employees work from home indefinitely and work anywhere. But many of us don’t work at these top tech companies and have the same luxury. I have friends going into the office when they can easily work from home and I’ve had a couple of interviews with companies telling me I would have to move to a new city for the job even though it can completely be done remotely. Hopefully, employers take into consideration the work-life balance and listen if remote work can be done and that works well with employees.

The importance of relying on “self” without being selfish.

Whether we were quarantining alone or with others, we really had to rely on ourselves to get us through the hard times. I hope we took the time to self-reflect and really think about the changes we need to make as well as appreciating ourselves. We need to know the importance and line between relying on oneself without being selfish. Selfishness is a huge reason why the virus spread the way it did.

Congress needs a reality check.

$3,200 to get through a 12-month pandemic just is not okay. America being the richest country should be able to help citizens in a time of need. 78 percent of Americans approve stimulus payments and every Republican voted against that. Congress really doesn’t believe Americans are struggling because their insane salaries make them out of touch with the majority of their constituents. It’s time to readjust how much Congress makes and maybe they will start working for the people.

Enjoy the moment. Express gratitude.

Many of us are still mourning the lives we had pre-pandemic. If anything, it makes me want to enjoy every night of my youth more and not take things for granted. Going forward we should really think about how grateful we are and live life to the fullest. Some of us have lost more than others but it’s important to realize nothing is certain. Things can change overnight. Don’t regret it.

Social media is here to stay.

With the rise of Clubhouse and Tik Tok in 2020, I think we can expect an increase on social media regardless of a pandemic or not. As much as we hate to admit it, social media is simply a part of our lifestyle now. With the pressure to be on many apps without missing out, it doesn’t look like social media is going anywhere in the near future.

It’s going to take a revolution for America to be what we want it to be.

The 2020 election year showed us increased efforts to suppress voting rights, attempts to change election results and storming the capitol. It’s time we look at America and come to terms with its terrible past, but also do the work to make the future right. If we go in the direction we are headed, I’m not sure how much longer we will see the America that we were taught to “love” when we were younger. We need to make major changes to the systems and the people in place. “This is America,” but what does that mean?

I hope 2021 is a better year and 2022 an even better year for everyone. When we look back to lockdowns and the beginning of the pandemic, hopefully we get the lessons the Universe is providing us and make necessary changes personally and as a society to move in a more positive direction.



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Kia Swinton

Jersey girl in her 20s incorporating her love of politics, culture and media to citizens worldwide.