Illustration by Oscar Bray

Groundhog Day Life: One Year Later

This year is the perfect time to pause and take a step back. After experiencing Covid-19, I am more appreciative of life. I have discovered that people who were vulnerable during a difficult period emerge stronger than before.

Apr 18, 2021

I don't know about you, but the current stage of the pandemic has been especially difficult for me. A year of repetition, loneliness and tension has resulted in lethargy — settling into the familiar. A slow just-getting-to-the-end remark has overshadowed the panic of the last year.
I have the same sporadic memory problems many others describe: wandering into a room and not knowing why I am there, wasting a significant amount of time searching for my notebooks, forgetting the names of people beyond my Covid-19 bubble. My extroversion muscles have shrunk.
This makes me wonder if our personalities have changed after a year of social distancing. Personality characteristics are fairly consistent. They change over time, but only gradually. They usually shift for the better in normal times. According to studies, as people age, they become more relaxed, self assured and socially aware.
But our experiences shape us into the people we are, and it would be surprising if an experience this disruptive did not shape us in some way.
Many who have lost a loved one or have come close to death have their own difficult stories to share. Adolescents and young adults, at least in my environment, have had a horrible experience driven into isolation at a time when their personalities are most vividly developing.
I contracted Covid-19 but with the mildest symptoms. My mother got it too, but she had to stay in the hospital for treatment. Luckily, we are both fine now with no severe repercussions from the virus. What kept us going was thinking about the small joys we missed — family dinners, movie nights, chats over coffee or tea. The separation that all of my family felt from my mother for 10 whole days was unbearable. This virus has made me realize how much I take the presence of a person for granted until they are forcefully distanced from me. Many, myself included, feel disconnected from the outside world — and that is precisely why many are looking forward to the availability of the vaccines, so we can all safely come together again. In the absence of others, I realized how much finding a sense of purpose depends on the small acts of hospitality we used to offer and receive every day, from our closest friends to the most unknown strangers.
It is hosting a movie night and noticing that someone’s popcorn bowl is nearly empty. It is having a stranger on a plane confide something in you and holding a momentary presence in their life. It is hugging someone without endangering their life, it is these small acts of being there for one another that are extremely empowering. Having a sense of mission is not just about major commitments but also about small personal exchanges with people in your life. Those opportunities have unfortunately dwindled.
Some may argue that the transition to the online sphere might have connected us in ways unimaginable before, yet I still think that self reflection and self work prevailed through this time. This year is, again, the perfect time to pause and take a step back. I know a lot of people who have done significant introspection, as well as a lot of people who were just too busy or emotionally drained to do so. How will we, those of us who have experienced relatively minor losses, perceive this experience in five or ten years — as a blessing, anguish or maybe just a void?
For me, I have experienced changes in two main ways: I am more vulnerable — relieving stress, fear and anxiety by crying, something that I have never done before — and more versatile, letting life make some decisions for me and permitting long-term plans and goals to shift, knowing that they are destined to change.
After experiencing Covid-19, I am more appreciative of life. I have discovered that people who were vulnerable during a difficult period emerge stronger than before. My internal change gives me additional strength to face challenges and be persistent when faced with adversities. I think that endurance might be the most important trait everyone developed during this pandemic — endurance of faith and spirit even when everything seems to be going wrong.
And I am optimistic about the second half of this year; we will become hyper-appreciators, treasuring every little pleasure and thriving in thousands of delicious moments, gathering with friends and strangers and seeing them through the joy of thankful eyes.
Stefan Mitikj is a staff writer. Email him at
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