How COVID-19 Provided Conditions for Self-Reflection (French version available)
Two Years of the Pandemic
March 2022 marks the two-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic’s large impacts on Canadian life. There have certainly been changes, and now everyone must adjust to the “new normal”: life that has been shaped by this pandemic.
Everyone started wearing face masks, hand sanitizer was a must-have item more than ever, and simple tasks like shopping for groceries became a task riddled with caution. It was scary to see the way we lived change so rapidly.
Working, schooling, and other social interactions shifted to purely online ways of connecting. No one was shaking hands anymore — this quickly shifted to a waving emoji that flashed on a screen. Work meetings were reduced to seeing your colleagues through multiple small windows in a Zoom chat room, and large classrooms were condensed into a single monitor.
The negative impacts of the pandemic were surely felt by many: As humans, it is in our nature to be social, and the pandemic stripped us of such tools to foster social connections.
However, I would like to share a story of how the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic positively affected me. The COVID-19 pandemic did not have a solely positive effect on me, but with the negatives came something positive.
Where I Was at the Beginning of the Pandemic
At the start of the pandemic, I was in my third year of post-secondary schooling. Despite this, I had little idea what direction I wanted to take with my schooling and my future career. I had little passion for schooling due to this lack of direction. Classes were attended, notes were taken, and tests were completed, but everything was still a big question mark.
I went to classes thinking that most days dragged on with the same cycle: I would wake up, go to campus, attend classes, and then go straight home. Rinse and repeat. When classes had shifted online “temporarily” (which really meant two-and-a-half years for me), I did not know how to process this change.
If I could not go to campus, this meant that I was pulled away from my normal social circles. I could not see the classmates that I saw all the time anymore. Like many others, I longed for the day that I could go back to my “normal” life — as if a pandemic had not happened — but the world had progressed further than my past perception of “normal.”
This initially felt horrible, but I realized that this isolation had provided me with the perfect conditions for self-reflection. I was no longer around people that I (wrongly) assumed had everything “put together” and “planned out.” I was no longer under the (self-inflicted) pressure to present as if I knew what I was doing.
How the Pandemic Helped Me
What did I want to do? This question was put on hold for many years, due to not wanting to confront the unknown.
Even though I was annoyed with the apparent “monotony” of my life, there was something in that familiarity that I also did not want to change. Familiarity is a comfort, and the pandemic flipped that all upside down.
Some of the previous barriers in sorting out my educational path had become easier: counselling had shifted completely online, allowing for the ease of booking appointments and attending them, and entire discussions that I needed to have with authority were done entirely through email.
Prior to the pandemic, actions like walking into an office and booking appointments were nerve wracking. Simple, but nerve wracking. The pandemic gave me the first push out the door (ironically) to start the steps of reworking what I had wanted.
The pandemic had only intensified my desire to communicate with others, and writing was one of the methods to do so. Focusing on something to make use of writing, one of my greatest strengths, was what I needed to do. Where I did not find strength in speaking or in numbers, I found in writing.
While I have not figured out what occupation I want, I have a direction to follow.
The severity of the pandemic’s negative effects has been felt, but the potential positives need to be highlighted as well. After all, it was the imbalance of social life that allowed me to find balance within my own life.
Kirkey, Sharon. “After the COVID-19 Crisis Ends, What Does Our ‘New Normal’ Look Like?” National Post, 15 May 2020, https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/covid19-crisis-new-normal-coronavirus. Accessed 12 February 2021.
Sukel, Kayt. “In Sync: How Humans Are Hard-Wired for Social Relationships.” Dana Foundation, 13 Nov. 2019, https://dana.org/article/in-sync-how-humans-are-hard-wired-for-social-relationships/. Accessed 12 February 2021.