Gratitude and Perspective: Lessons From the Pandmic

In-person events were few and far between this semester.

This year was, to put it lightly, not very good. Through countless instances of awful events, 2020 has proven itself to have been easily the worst year that our generation, and even many of those before us, have experienced to date. To even try to sugarcoat that would be an insult to the struggle that so many have gone through this year, so I won’t attempt to do so. Looking forward, however, I’d like to try to push towards optimism, even if for no other reason than to maintain my own sanity. 

With the COVID-19 vaccine looking closer and closer every day, evidenced by both Moderna and Pfizer recently touting the effectiveness of their respective vaccines as they near completion of clinical trials, there is reason to hope that things will get better soon. This vaccine will liberate the world from the strange and uncomfortable circumstances that we have been placed in for nearly a year now. Once again, we will be able to breathe clearly in public, shake hands, attend concerts, and do so many of the things that we took for granted in years gone by. When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, though, I feel that it will be important for us to keep in mind some of the things it has taught us.

There are so many things about life that I, and most others, from what I can tell, took for granted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether we talk about in-person classes, club meetings, or intramural sports, there are so many things that I have realized that I took for granted. The concept of online school might have sounded intriguing prior to this year, but now I can honestly say that I will never, for the remainder of my time here, skip another in-person class on purpose. The opportunity to interact with others in a classroom setting is absolutely invaluable, and so much is lost over Zoom that class becomes nearly irredeemably awful. Even the best of professors struggle to keep class engaging over Zoom; how could it possibly be engaging enough when students take class from bed and have no real accountability? As I move into next semester and look towards my senior year, I cannot even imagine the idea of wanting to take another online class. 

The same rings true for all other in person events and activities on campus; I will cherish every single intramural game I get to participate in, take advantage of every opportunity to drop into professors’ office hours and go to all of the ridiculous campus events that I used to think were just for freshmen. The perspective which COVID-19 has offered on education has been priceless, and I sincerely hope that others will join me in celebrating these opportunities when the pandemic becomes a distant memory.

COVID-19 has offered time to reflect as well. When the entire world came to an abrupt halt, most of us thought that this whole thing would be over within a few months; even Villanova only cancelled classes through Easter when we were initially sent home in March. Time dragged on, however, and we were all forced to acknowledge that this would be how our lives looked for a while. So, we settled in and were forced to deal with ourselves much more often than we had before. This was certainly uncomfortable at first, but as it dragged on, I began to realize things about myself that I had failed to in the past.

I discovered new passions, had the time to think over many of the beliefs I had held for granted, read things I would never had considered previously, and had the opportunity to get to know myself. This was an incredible opportunity, and I have seen it reflected in my friends and family as well. For some it has resulted in discontent, but even in this discontent there has been a recognition of things that had previously gone unchecked because of our busy lives. As the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end, I hope we never forget to take time to ourselves for no other reason than because it forces us to be alive for a momentt

The pandemic has been a tragedy for humanity, and its swift end will be something we all will rejoice in. It would be a waste, however, if we did not carry on with the lessons we have all learned over its course. Gratitude and perspective are things that I fundamentally lacked prior to this, and things I firmly hope that I will never lose sight of once it is behind me. 

I think we have all changed as a result of this pandemic, and I sincerely hope it will be for the better in the long run. If nothing else, I can at least move forward with some sense of happiness just knowing that people might have actually made a habit of washing their hands.