Sarah Grace Goolden
A year has elapsed since our whole world was turned upside down due to COVID-19. We have spent the last 13 months locked inside, isolated from our friends and family. Many lost jobs or businesses. Online school has crippled student learning. Mental health has taken a communal nosedive during this tumultuous and upsetting time in history. Sometimes it’s hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. I will argue, though, that you have to.
It’s easy to focus on the negatives of 2020 and 2021, even if you are not a pessimist. After all, we have been stripped of many of the comforts and joys we have come to know and love. Something as simple as heading to the movies on a Friday night after work with a group of buddies has been deemed unsafe. Even small escapes such as going to the grocery store is cause for panic. It seems like we are all on house arrest with no probation in sight.
However, it is important to try to look for the good in all the heaps and heaps of bad. Is this easy? Of course not. It is absolutely necessary though. It is essential to focus on some joys in life so we are not bogged down by the impossible difficulty of this pandemic.
Firstly, I would like to commend all of us for banding together to stay safe during this time. Masks and social distancing became a requirement and most everyone has stayed very respectful of these changes. Everywhere you go you will see people masked up and retaining an appropriate distance between one another. These are small and possibly annoying adaptations on our part which have saved lives.
It is beautiful to me that as a community we have come together to keep everyone safe. This includes not just our friends and families but our neighbors and strangers. I think back to the earlier days of the lockdown where Italian citizens were singing to one another from the safety of their balcony to connect in a pandemic-friendly way. We are nothing if not flexible.
Another benefit to come from this strange time is the reduction of carbon emissions. While we were stuck inside, automobile and public transportation use slowed to almost a complete stop. Companies used fewer fossil fuels. This halt in emissions has led to cleaner air for all of us to enjoy.
Although climate change still threatens our planet, it was beautiful to notice the shift that could be made as the conversation previously deemed reduction impossible. China, the world’s biggest carbon footprint contributor, cut emissions by a quarter during this time. The Earth has benefited heavily from our lack of production and transportation.
In the past, food workers were treated as dispensable. Their jobs were viewed as unimportant and they were treated as such. However, during the pandemic, we realized the importance of those we now deem “essential workers.” Employees worked tirelessly through these dangerous times to sell necessary items, such as food and medicine, to the public. This raises another argument, though. If these employees are so essential, why are we not paying them adequately?
Praise can only go so far; monetary reparations are necessary to truly repay what these workers have done for us. The minimum wage debate still persists in Congress but it remains the same: a measly $7.25. If essential workers are essential, why are we not reimbursing them properly?
Finally, there is the improvement of the individual. This is a very stressful, difficult and sometimes seemingly hopeless time. However, if we do not look at the positives, we are bound to mope around in the negatives. I have more time to enjoy hobbies than I ever have before.
Reading and writing have become a part of my everyday life, rather than a passion that is put on the backburner. Online yoga classes have made exercise from home a breeze. This pandemic can be a time to take a breath and truly reflect on yourself and your needs, which are often ignored in our bustling lives.
This year has not been easy and it is likely the stress will not let up soon. The need for positive thinking, while acknowledging and validating the ugly, is fundamental to our mental health. Yes, it’s been hard and you are in your right to be exhausted. However, we can all tip our hats to some kind of human effort and take a second to crack open a book and enjoy this required vacation.