Lessons Learned: personal viewpoint


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Gillian Stawiszynski

Life pre-COVID feels archaic at this point in the pandemic. Concerts, movie theaters and large gatherings are a thing of the past, and quite frankly, the thought of any of these activities frighten me. But with this changed way of life that we all are continuously adapting to, along with the risk we all have of being exposed, I have learned so many lessons.

Personal time is everything right now, seriously.

School and Home are in the same place and it has been stressful, to say the least. The struggle of saving some time for myself while trying to balance this new work / life balance came at me unexpectedly. At the beginning of this pandemic and the initiation of a societal quarantine, I thought that not having to be in person for everything would be a breath of fresh air for my often overloaded plate of responsibilities. That was ridiculous to think. While trying to wind down at the end of my day, I found myself feeling guilty for not getting all of my work done in one sitting. After all, I always had access to this work because everything is mobile, so why wasn’t I just constantly getting things done? The truth is, we all need at least half a day every week to forget all responsibilities and do something we love while being in solitude- whether that is painting, watching your favorite sitcom, or reading for pleasure. If you find your mind spinning in circles with all of the things you need to get done, plan a night for yourself. Obviously, don’t neglect anything dire to your grades or your paycheck, but we all need to take a second to breath.

It’s ok to feel awkward in social situations more so than before.

The most interaction I have with people is at my part-time job, and my roommates (who are my best friends). There is hardly awkwardness in these situations because at work, we may chat, but there’s always a task to get done, and with my friends, it’s natural and easy to speak with them. Now that a few more things are in person, such as classes or internships, I’ve noticed social anxiety not only within myself, but in others as well. Seeing that other people are having trouble in social situations has brought me comfort. We all feel this way. Small talk is a rusty skill in my book these days. We’re not alone, though, and that’s something we need to remember. We’re all humans who have overactive sympathetic nervous systems, and that’s ok. 

Having a small circle is normal and healthy.

I like to consider myself an ambivert. It feels so rewarding and energizing getting human interactions, but before COVID-19 I found myself getting overwhelmed by the amount of daily human interaction I had. I do not miss being burnt out from social overload. I constantly needed to recharge. The pandemic has changed this. There are so many people I will always care for and love, but have just drifted from due to the restrictions of COVID. It isn’t realistic trying to maintain 25 different friendships weekly. Having a small group of friends that you trust with all of your heart is much better than having nearly 100 acquaintances, none of which are very close to you. Don’t feel bad about not having the huge group of friends you did pre-pandemic, this is healthier and keeps you from stressing so much about potential FOMO. 

We all have had lessons similar to this throughout the course of the year. This advice is unsolicited and has absolutely no expertise to back it up, but I remind myself of these lessons every day to remember that I am strong for adapting and living through a once in a lifetime global pandemic. We’re all so brave for getting out of bed in the morning even though the world has been flipped upside down. I hope that you remind yourself of these lessons, as well.