What I learned in 2020 from the pandemic

In this writing I hope to find closure and meaning for one of the most difficult years many of us have endured in an effort to “move on” in a healthy way.

Self-isolation at home was both a terrifying and enriching time. I speak from a privileged standpoint where I was allowed to live at my parents’ home without financial stress. Having so much time to myself, I had the chance to reset my priorities and relationships but found myself severing or damaging relationships with myself and others. I knew that distancing myself from others was an act of inflating and preserving my ego and that the root cause of the pain was the inability to prepare for or process this new kind of loneliness and anxiety.

On the flip side, March 2020 halted my life at a time when I most needed to confront myself alone. I was continuously carried away by the actions of others and losing myself in what was supposed to be my life. I developed a personality that hated men and looked self-confident, but feigned aggression to avoid being hurt. Softness is an interior trait that can be misused by others but is also a power that can be preserved through practices of self-respect.

Building self-respect leads to self-confidence

We are all taught to be good listeners to others, but I was not taught to listen to my own body and mind. Oftentimes I don’t know exactly what I want because I am not used to listening to myself, which is an act of self-respect. Being both emotional and sensitive, stress can build until it boils over violently, seeming to come out of nowhere. Many conflicts could be avoided by identifying and communicating your own needs, which is a seemingly basic skill that I was never really taught. Keeping promises to yourself is just as important as keeping promises to others. This is especially important for introverts and our need to spend time alone, and those of us who are taken advantage of for our softness and generosity. Many people demand our time and attention, but oftentimes I need my finite time and attention to go to myself. Finding ways to spend quality time with myself has become a high priority in how I want to live.

Trauma lives in the body

This concept is often used in the social as well as the natural sciences, where there is an understanding that unprocessed trauma is stored in the physical body, even being passed down generationally through DNA. The pandemic has incited traumatic experiences for people globally and has personally affected my physical wellbeing. Psychological problems express themselves physically so that your mind notices their urgency.

There is a widespread notion that “we” as humans are just brains “trapped” in a meat suit. While this understanding practices emotional detachment from the body and ego, I find that the mind is what cripples the body, which should be appreciated for its capabilities. Being able to breathe and to simply exist without needing to justify my existence or appeal to others physically has shifted my perspective about my body.

We don’t really have time to put things off.

People meant to stay in your life will stay, and make an effort to stay. After deciding that 2020 was the year to have difficult conversations with those closest to me, the outcome was not emotional distance but a reaffirmation of their unmoving commitment to be involved in my life. Although I was unable to see some friends for close to a year, emotional closeness was strengthened through sharing hardships. Reflecting on how my 2020 was lived, there is a huge disconnect between those of us who are spending time at home and those who do not care about the pandemic’s influence on others. Even the people closest to us see the world in such a different light. There were times when I felt that I caused unnecessary self-inflicted pain in 2020, but I also realize the amount of gaslighting caused by people insisting that I need to move on with life or go out. I don’t hold any bitter feelings against these people but find peace in my own character development.