If someone would have approached us a year ago and told us that, in 2020, the country would essentially shut down for three months; the busiest thoroughfares in cities across the world would be empty of traffic; schools and colleges would close for an entire semester and blockbuster releases would be put on hold indefinitely, we probably would not have believed them.
Tales of mass shutdowns and cancellations of in-person gatherings, from sporting events to concerts to graduations, sound like scenes from an outrageous sci-fi movie with an unbelievable plot. Not real life, right?
We’ve all changed this year. We’ve lived through historic times, and it’s nearly impossible to experience something of this magnitude without it having an impact. The time-out from regular life forced us to reexamine our values, our relationships and our lifestyles, while determining whether we are living a life of design and not one of default.
Now that most lockdowns have ended and life is starting to return to normal in many states — or at least a warped variation of “normal,” — let’s take a few moments to reflect on some life lessons we can learn from living under lockdown.
There’s not much in life that is truly essential
When federal and state governments mandated that all businesses close their physical stores unless they were deemed essential, many of us were forced to confront the reality that there are very few things in life that are actually essential. The raging pandemic turned reality upside down. Suddenly, that weekly manicure, daily latte from our favorite coffee shop or Friday night sports bar we thought we could never live without seemed silly, frivolous and completely unnecessary. Forced into our own homes with just our immediate families, we quickly learned what is truly important in life: Family. Friends. Health. Happiness. Everything else is really secondary.
Now that many businesses are reopening, we can use the opportunity the lockdown presented to reevaluate the things in life we call necessities, wants and needs. In practical terms, this can mean rewriting our monthly budgets, changing our daily habits, deciding to donate more money to charity or shifting our financial priorities in another direction.
There’s wonder in everything
When daily rituals and routines we’ve always taken for granted are disrupted for an indeterminate period of time, it lends a new sense of appreciation for the small things in life:
•Sending our kids off to school
•Hugging our parents
•Going to work
•Shopping in crowded malls
•Having an adequate supply of toilet paper
And so much more. Let’s not lose the sense of wonder this surreal time lent to the everyday blessings of life or take for granted the important work of teachers, nurses and those who work in service industries.
Nothing compares to an in-person interaction
At first glance, the lockdown was the party-shy introvert’s dream. There was no longer an antisocial element with missing out on various events, from graduations to birthday parties to baby showers. During lockdown life, you could even attend a black-tie affair in your sweatpants; all you needed was a nice-looking top and a Zoom link.
But the lockdown was also one of the loneliest times for many people. It highlighted the universal need for social interaction, even if it’s as small as a few words exchanged with the clerk while at the checkout counter or the pizza delivery person. And when it was over and people began having in-person visits with family and friends again, there was a newfound appreciation for face-to-face interactions that was previously lost in a social world gone virtual.
Let’s not forget that initial excitement at seeing our family and friends in person again after months of virtual visits. We can let the lessons learned in lockdown continue to impact us positively by resolving to be fully present when spending time together. Whether that means resolving to turn our phones on silent or to put them away completely, this mindfulness can help strengthen our relationships forever.
We are stronger than we know
The first week of the lockdown brought many of us to the edge of panic and despair. No leaving our homes unless it’s absolutely essential? Work from home for the foreseeable future? Kids home from school without play-dates, indoor attractions or playgrounds? It all seemed so impossible, and many of us wondered if we’d make it past that first interminable day.
And then one day passed, and we realized we hadn’t lost it — well, not completely anyway. Another day went by, and then a week, and somehow, we were doing it. We were rolling with these strange new circumstances, adapting to a new routine, a new way of life, without falling apart. And many of us were even thriving under the newer, relaxed routine. We were riding out the lockdown like champions! Of course, there are those with especially trying circumstances and some who have suffered mightily. Be mindful of this and empathetic as we encounter and interact with others.
Let’s not forget what the lockdown taught us about our own resilience, strength and courage. When pushed into a challenging situation, our true colors shine. 2020 has been a year unlike any we’ve ever seen. Let’s use these unique circumstances to grow in ways we never have before.