It seemed like it would be a monumental event. Rather than logging onto Zoom, I left my dorm room before my microeconomics class to walk to Schermerhorn Hall. For the first time in a year, I was going to attend a class in-person. As I shuffled into a row and settled into a seat, I did not feel the overwhelming excitement, relief, and sense of normalcy that I thought I would. Instead, I felt quite unmoved.
My anticlimactic response to finally being in-person highlighted the extent to which this past year has changed my perspective on my experiences. Whether or not I could be in-person suddenly seemed less important, and while change is a natural occurrence, my perception of what is worth my attention and anticipation has undeniably shifted due to the pandemic.
Along with many others, I want to move on from the COVID-19 era and the trouble it has caused my routine and mental health. Still, this year has pushed us to reevaluate the way we perceive our lives in great depth, and that must carry on past the long-awaited end of the pandemic. It is imperative that we process the ways this year has positively changed our outlook on life. We must maintain our new, nuanced understandings of what is worth our energy.
The pandemic has imposed difficult, unforeseen roadblocks to the next steps in my life and the lives of many others. My plans to see family and friends were dismantled and my expectations for my first year in college were entirely different from what I had imagined. Yet amid these unwanted changes, I’ve learned to become more flexible. The pandemic has given us the chance to realize the extent to which we can forgo unnecessary expectations of future plans and adapt.
Collectively, we have experienced diversions from what we thought would be the next chapter of our lives. Living during a time in which school is online and lockdowns are common has made us embody the true meaning of adaptability in order to deal with these unexpected circumstances. As we taught ourselves to manage the unfortunate and sometimes devastating situations that the pandemic put us in, we also learned to embrace the more positive changes in our characters.
Personally, I have relearned the value of what it means to take time to have conversations, stay in touch with people, and let people know that I care about them. The barriers of social norms that once seemed resolute came crumbling down with COVID-19. As we rebuild, we must take into account how our new perspectives can prompt us to continue to shape a more positive sense of social connection. In the time we’ve been physically apart, our sense of how we can direct our energy to strengthen relationships has grown stronger. This is a newfound outlook that should undeniably be carried forward in life.
Our ability to adapt has been tested as the pandemic forced many of us to endure the most difficult of circumstances. There is immeasurable merit in not forgoing all the ways the pandemic has made us more versatile. Now that we have a new view of what we can endure, we have a true chance to grow and examine what we can change about our attitudes toward our daily interactions.
It is no secret that a return to normalcy often sheds the sentiments of abnormal times. As we slowly but surely inch out of the pandemic era, therefore, more conversations must be had on what aspects of this past year could perhaps have altered our lives for the better.
Summer is approaching, and it is a blessing to see that the pandemic’s grasp on life is hopefully coming to an end. May we not solely lament the damage it has caused us, nor pretend it was better than it was, but understand the ways it has changed our behaviors while also recognizing how these changes can push us to improve as individuals.
As vaccination rates increase and sights are set on returning to normal life, reflecting on the pandemic may serve as a catalyst for progressivism within our lives. This reflection constitutes a personal journey for each individual. And it is one most worthy of our focus.
John Towfighi, CC ’24, is an associate opinion editor studying history and economics at Columbia College. When he is not lounging on Low Steps, he is often pondering Ray Charles’ life and playing piano in buildings across campus. He can be reached at email@example.com.
To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.