Thinking back over the course of the last two years, I have been struck by the unprecedented times in which we find ourselves. As a result of the pandemic, we have experienced uncertainty and worry for our future at both the individual and collective levels. The last many months have forced us to come to grips with how little control we actually seemed to have, as the COVID-19 virus spread from nation to nation until it reached our shores and then marched across the country from city to city like a devastating and unstoppable wildfire. Today, it would be nearly impossible to find anyone who can claim that they have not been negatively impacted by the pandemic, with over 600,000 deaths nationally attributed to the disease according to the CDC and millions more globally, school closures, travel restrictions, lockdowns, increases in depression and anxiety, bankruptcies, career and job losses, and nosediving national and global economies, to name a few. The negative effects of the pandemic are well documented and have profoundly affected our society.
However, there are two sides to every coin. I believe that while the pandemic has been devastating, it has also had a positive impact in some unexpected ways. It is with this thought in mind that I informally polled my co-workers here at the PSB office to see how their experience matched with my own. It was refreshing and uplifting to hear others share some of their positive experiences and reflections on things that may not have been possible if not for the pandemic. And in opening this topic, I realized that I, too, appreciated some of the very same things my co-workers shared without consciously knowing it at the time. The following are some of the most popular observations.
1. More time with family. As a result of the lockdown order, we had the opportunity to spend more time with our family and loved ones. Many of us got the surprise pleasure (and, many times, frustration!) of being with our children to see what they experience during their school day. Others talked about finding ways to connect with distant family by setting up regular virtual family dinners or meetings or chats that helped them feel closer than ever before. Many mentioned bonding with their families in new or previously “lost” ways, such as cooking together, playing board games, having discussions and just spending more quality time together.
2. A slower pace to life. Many have used the time of the pandemic to reflect on the busy nature of life and schedules that existed just a short while ago. When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, all social gatherings, school, after-school, daycare, sporting events, clubs, birthday parties, playdates and casual get-togethers ended.
3. Self-growth and learning new hobbies. With a slowdown in our lives, many of us turned our attention inward to find things to do with the increased time on our hands. Many used the opportunity to promote their own professional development by taking online classes or finishing a degree. Others shared that they learned how to cook new dishes, took a deep dive into baking, learned to play a musical instrument (or two) or subscribed to HBO to finally find out why everyone was so upset about the final episode of Game of Thrones.
4. Financial incentives. While many lost much, incentives were put in place to help get people through some of the worst times. Lowered car insurance rates and premium refunds, cheaper gas, suspended student loan payments, public service loan forgiveness payments being credited during the suspension period, child tax credits and federal stimulus payments, among others, all went toward many feeling that they could get through this difficult and unprecedented moment in our history.