What I Learned From the Pandemic

by Jocelyn Freeman

5 mins read

Sunday, March 13 was the two-year anniversary of nation-wide and global lockdowns. According to McKinsey and Company, 191 countries closed their schools during the beginning stages of the pandemic. This left 1.9 billion school-age children without education. Students’ spring breaks were extended to two weeks, then that slowly turned into two month, and then an entire summer of uncertainty. Now that it is 2022, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what I learned while living through unprecedented times. I hope it will help to better understand and encapsulate the historical moment that we all lived through. 

From the moment my high school shut down on March 13 at 3:10 p.m, I realized that the world was going to change. Here is what I learned:| 

#1 Living through history isn’t what I thought it would be: 

During the pandemic there wasn’t a standardized way of understanding what was happening and why it was happening. History was in the making, and a lot  of it was unexpected. Everyone had different sources of information and internet/social media feeds. Most people didn’t have the pantsless, sourdough baking experience that Facebook users seemed to think was common (I, for one, always wore some kind of pants). There was no singular story, and therefore no definitive answers, which isn’t how I imagined living through history.

 I think that most of us can agree that this uncertainty surrounding the pandemic was pretty terrifying. We had no way of knowing if we had COVID, how much longer we would be in quarantine or what things would look like after the lockdown. In this time, I learned to wait and take the twists and turns even when they are unexpected, because historic events often are. 

#2 You don’t always have to be productive: 

With everything wiped off our schedules, a lot of people found themselves with too much time. Personally, I had the overwhelming urge to be as productive as possible, which was great… for a while. Truthfully, being productive through the abyss that was isolation was nothing but burnout waiting to happen. While some people were learning languages, remodeling their house or perfecting their mile times, I sat with myself in awkward silence. This allowed me to not only get to know my wants and needs but also to give in to my creative side. So, I started making TikToks… for fun! 

#3 Suffering will a be unequal: 

During 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, and much of the world stood still with little to do but watch. I was able to take part in local protests and learn through educating myself and listening to others. While learning from the movement, I was exposed to just how deeply-rooted systemic injustices against people of color were in our society. One undeniable example of this injustice was the disproportionate number of COVID cases in communities of color, based on research collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation. These communities suffer the most when faced with any disaster, from COVID to climate change. According to the Princeton Student Climate Initiative, there is a lack of resources, wealth distribution and representation for these underprivileged communities. And all these things stem from the systems that white society has built on top of them. 

What I have detailed above is solely what I learned from my personal experience. I don’t want to diminish the pain and suffering that took place these past two years. I want to share what I’ve learned through these difficulties to help us move forward with hope, instead of feeling a sense of loss. Our entire planet has shared a moment, and we won’t be forgetting this moment anytime soon.

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