Updated: Apr 7, 2021
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Hannah, happy birthday to you.” I celebrated my birthday last week, and I blew out the candles after my family sang happy birthday to me. What do you think I wished for?
Around this time last year, I celebrated a birthday in the middle of a crowded restaurant. I was in the midst of midterms, attempting to juggle way too much at once and I was planning a big trip for spring break. I was spending a ton of time in class, meetings and elementary school field placements. Then the world turned upside down. I was forced to move back home. My classes moved fully online, and I suddenly could not see any of my friends or extended family. All of these factors led me to contemplate and reflect on the life that I lived before the pandemic started. The first question I asked myself was this: “If I could go back to those moments where I was stressed, frazzled and exhausted, what would I tell myself?”
I would tell myself to hug my loved ones tighter. I would tell myself to enjoy every moment, even the difficult ones. I would remind myself to take a deep breath and employ self-care regularly, which is unfortunately a lesson I did not learn until quarantine. I would encourage myself to prioritize relationships over academics, in every circumstance. Oh, I would tell myself so many other things.
One of the many topics that is not talked about enough with COVID-19 is the varying impacts it can have on every person. I know people who have thrived during this slower-paced season, and I know others who have not. For many, it fluctuates. The Huffington Post published an article at the beginning of February that highlights the extensive effects of COVID-19 on, not just our physical health, but our mental health — and these effects seem to be worsening for a majority of Americans. The duration of this pandemic has taken a toll on so many. Over 500,000 American lives have been lost due to COVID-19, and that number weighs heavy on my heart. Some of those who passed were our relatives, health care staff and colleagues. They were our friends, neighbors and loved ones. People are not only grieving, but also experiencing anxiety and depression at a much higher rate. It is heart wrenching to see so many people feeling alone and with no one to reach out to.
Like many other people, I have found ways to cope through the impacts and challenges of COVID-19. For me, I have found peace through journaling. I wrote this blurb last June, and I think it sums up the dynamic surrounding COVID-19 perfectly: “This whole pandemic is honestly a rollercoaster. One minute, it feels like everything is fine and getting better. The next minute, it feels like the world is ending. I go back and forth between crying and jumping for joy and excitement. This, combined with all of the unknowns surrounding COVID-19, are what make it so scary.”
An additional component of COVID-19 that should be considered is its impacts on our concept of time. You have most likely heard people say, “Time flies because every day is the same,” or watched them draw comparisons to the 1993 Groundhog Day film. Wired verified this point in a recent article, claiming that “there are distortions in time perception when you present people with threats.” Fear and anxiety are also cited as correlating with time perception. COVID-19 definitely holds elements of all of these, so this comes as no surprise. We have essentially spent a year in a time warp, and I do not think we will fully understand that time has passed as normal until after the pandemic is over.
When pondering the attributes of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must take a moment to applaud not only healthcare workers and essential personnel across the board, but also those who worked tirelessly to develop safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Historically speaking, the COVID-19 vaccines were developed much quicker than in the cases of other viruses like Ebola and Zika.
One year ago, I would have never imagined that COVID-19 would still have a significant impact on my life and the lives of many across the globe. However, I have to believe that we are undergoing this trial for a reason. It is a struggle to wonder when our lives will resemble some sort of normalcy, but I have no doubt that we will emerge from this pandemic a changed community. I want to leave you with another quote from my journal: “May we never take for granted every small moment and every task that felt dreaded. It’s hard to comprehend what life will look like after COVID-19 is over, but I have no doubt that we will live differently. Perhaps COVID-19 is the wake-up call we all needed in order for us to be the strongest, most authentic version of ourselves.”
By Hannah Porter, Opinion Editor