Illustration by SJ Park.

Finding Silver Linings Amid a Pandemic

Maybe it wasn’t all bad. Maybe, the pandemic was not only a curse but also a lesson. I stopped complaining. I was going to make the most of the situation that I, and the rest of the world, were in. I went all out on a hunt for silver linings.

Sep 19, 2021

Eighteen months ago, I was in my junior year of high school, working hard to secure a university admission. Then, within 24 hours, everything I knew, all that I had carefully built and planned, was up in the air. I found myself scrambling to get on the last flight to reach my home country, Serbia, before it was too late and I would end up stuck in the U.K. without knowing when I’d see my family again. Cases were rising, flights were being canceled and the light at the end of the tunnel was dimming.
It felt like the end of the world — no school and no extracurriculars. Even seeing my friends or getting coffee with someone became unaffordable luxuries. I spent a lot of time in the two months of lockdown wishing for the good old days to come back. Sometime in April, that hope went out.
It wasn’t until mid-May that I noticed that for the first time in my life that people were dipping their feet in the city river — something unheard of in my hometown of Nis, Serbia. The economy had halted, people were confined to their homes, but nature was alive and thriving. There was something in nature — in the clear water and chirping birds in the trees — that prompted me to reevaluate my pessimistic attitude.
Maybe it wasn’t all bad. Maybe, the pandemic was not only a curse but also a lesson.
I stopped complaining. I wanted to make the most of the situation that I, and the rest of the world, were in. I went all out on a hunt for silver linings.
The government had imposed a curfew, resulting in most people not being allowed to roam during daytime. To make the best of the situation, I capitalized on spending quality time with my family — something I had previously taken for granted. I realized that I lived with some very interesting people who didn’t share my taste in movies and who were way better than me at charades. We cooked traditional Serbian food, providing us with enough kitchen disaster stories to reminisce in the future. I successfully learned how to make a few simple dishes, such as stuffed peppers and chocolate muffins.
Before I made my next adventure into a different corner of the world, I wanted to explore where I come from. On the weekends, I took long hikes outside the city, enjoying the beautiful Serbian hilly landscapes. Amid the chaos of moving abroad and returning unexpectedly, paired with reverse culture shock, I struggled to readapt. While walking on dirt paths and getting lost among the groves, not only did I reconnect with my home country but also with myself. My home had changed, but so had I.
As working from home became the norm, I was blessed with more free time because I no longer needed to commute. Instead of dwelling on the fact that I couldn’t go on a holiday, I focused on the amazing privilege of being able to receive education from the comfort of my home. I went a step further, looking for opportunities online to further my knowledge and soon you could find me lurking around the Louvre at odd hours of the night, making the most of their virtual exhibition feature. I enrolled in online classes about counseling and discovered that YouTube can be used for educational purposes and not just for watching cat videos.
However, there was a limit to how much screen time my eyes could endure, which led to another unintended positive outcome. I began to value my health above everything else and understood the importance of taking a break. If the world could stop, I could too. So, I got eight hours of sleep a night and became a morning person, something that I’ve never thought of before. Instead of a wave of anxiety and an overflowing schedule, my days started with a workout and ended with me reading a book or writing. These activities were not merely new hobbies, but rather tools to improve my previously neglected wellbeing, as I was overly preoccupied with academic success and meeting all the obligations that come with being a student. Covid-19 has, albeit forcefully, stopped hustle culture and offered a much needed chance for introspection.
The pandemic is something none of us expected — it is an unfortunate event we’ve all found ourselves struggling to manage. For me, it was a valuable learning experience out of which I came out with important skills of self-care and enjoying the small things in life.
Those, perhaps, are the most important silver linings one could hope to find.
Sara Vuksanovic is a Book and Movie Columnist. Email her at
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