It took a pandemic for me to realise I can't take things for granted

Veronica Yoo
16 September, 2020

To think that there’s only 3 months till the next year freaks me out. It’s hard not to look back at 2020 and register that nine months flew by without much substance. While I acknowledge that a lot of my concerns are considered first world problems, it goes without saying the pandemic has affected each and every one of us in different ways. Like many left at home with their thoughts, I’ve been taking this time to reflect on life pre-covid. I complained a lot about superficial things like not being able to get my nails done or having to cancel plans with friends etc. but as I started listing it soon became apparent that I overlooked a lot of things had it not been for the pandemic.

Daily Schedules

While the world is on pause, so has our plans. A lot of people have been using this time as an opportunity to sort out their schedule and take a break from juggling life. I had expected the same sort of clarity. But what came for me was a loss of order. With everything so uncertain and the constant pondering of when things will open up I found myself having to constantly shift and cancel plans. Looking at my blank and dull calendar for the month of August, I realized that I take joy in having a jam packed schedule with my everyday plans marked on my calendar to a T.

Daily Schedule
Photo by Eric Rothermel from Unsplash

If you’re anything like me, there’s something satisfying about physically seeing how productive your day was. At first, I did enjoy the liberty of not having to fulfil so much duty in terms of school or work. But a few weeks had passed and then a few month. I started missing the hustle of it all. I missed the feeling of accomplishing something instead of lying at home in bed half- listening to zoom calls.

Loss of Expression

In Hong Kong you can usually get by without speaking or understanding Cantonese. While a combination of hand gestures and English vocabularies usually does the trick, I’ve always relied on facial expressions to gauge what a person is saying. When I enter a store and the sales lady come and welcomes me in Cantonese I usually got pass by smiling. With wearing a mask it’s become so much harder to not come across as being rude or ill-mannered when not greeting someone. Other times, especially when the problem concerned isn’t as basic as a greeting, it can lead to amusing situations.

Women Facial Expressions
Photo from freepik

A few days ago, I was getting off the lift to go for a run when an old lady walked into the building. She looked at me and was speaking to me frantically in Cantonese. She was wearing a face mask that covered half of her face and a plastic cover cap. I couldn’t read her face at all. Confused by it all, I checked if I was wearing a mask (and I was) or if my shoe laces were untied. I left feeling self-conscious thinking she thought my sports bra and leggings were promiscuous. I apologized for not understanding and went about to leave the building when I noticed it started raining. All along, the old lady had been trying to tell me not to go out.

Loss of Human Connection

In case you couldn’t tell by my earlier point of having a packed schedule, I consider myself a pretty sociable person. I mean who doesn’t? After all, we are social animals. Even the most extroverted person can tell you that a part of them craves human interactions. With the onset of the virus I’ve had my fair share of dilemmas on how I should greet someone. Usually a hug for friends and handshakes for acquaintances but with the virus I’ve been battling with the idea that they might not appreciate the gesture while I’m here thinking I wouldn’t mind if they touched me. We would then proceed to have an awkward moment of wandering arms and feet like penguins staggering to embrace and at that moment how I wished greetings were back to normal.

Girl on her laptop
Photo by Quokka Bottles from Unsplash

My dilemma was solved as soon as the virus situation got worse and greetings became out of the picture. As the government began implementing stricter restrictions on gathering I felt disconnected to my friends and family. Every summer and winter I’d travel back to my home country to visit my sister and friends.  As plans changed this year, it became harder to maintain conversation. This time around we would be talking about where we should go and what we should eat. For the first few months, it was difficult to maintain the relationship digitally. But soon we found ourselves sending care packages and having wine sessions over Zoom. And while I would pick meeting face to face over video call meeting any day it made me look forward to our next face-to-face meeting that much more.

The pandemic has brought the best and worst in us. It was easy to focus on the things we couldn’t do rather than the next step moving forward. This experience has taught that truly it is the small things that make us happy in life. Though it has taken us a while to adjust to a new norm of social distancing in the end I think I can safely vouch that we’ve come to  understand and fight the pandemic together. Sure, there were some finger pointing and blaming in the beginning but as we began to understand one another, you could see people looking out for one another, sharing gratitude towards frontline staff and healthcare professionals and spreading altruism. Even though our bodies were distanced our hearts weren’t and that gave me a small sense of faith restored in humanity.

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