A year ago, on March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic. Each of us has spent the past year differently, extracting our own unique experiences. But some things common to all can be generalized. We shan’t dwell on the bad. Instead, let’s focus on the good. What useful lessons have we learned over the past 365 days?
1. Washing hands, and not only before eating
It took a mere 3,000 years for the masses to take the ideas of Hippocrates and Avicenna to heart. Now that’s what I call progress.
These days, we have learned not only to wash our hands but that phones are also cleanable. Isopropyl alcohol is the best way to get the germs off our smart devices.
Leaving aside for one moment the microbiological aspect, humankind has realized that Instagram pics look far better on a clean screen than on a dirty one. Also, the removal of ancient layers of sediment from the speaker and microphone greatly improves sound quality (note: Blu Tack is all you need).
2. Wearing masks
Some countries developed this practice a little earlier than others, but global public adoption of masks really happened in 2020.
Few would argue that being considerate of others in the event of a sneezing fit is both easy and the right thing to do. But pre-2020, to appear in a mask in public in Europe or the Americas was to declare yourself a weirdo — the equivalent of, say, walking down the street in your birthday suit.
Today, the opposite is true: Most people now feel uncomfortable if they are not masked up.
3. Working in your PJs (or not)
Working from home has made us more relaxed about some things. Some folks may still strut around the house in patent-leather shoes — hey, whatever floats their boat — but for most people, an end to the office dress code was overdue.
What used to be considered a nightgown is now smart casual. Fashion scales have tipped heavily in favor of the webcam-visible top half of one’s outfit over the bottom. Brands have started printing their logos right under the throat, and we’re just waiting for the return of dickeys.
However, we digress. The main point is that we have become less stressed about at least one aspect of our appearance.
4. Being your own IT
When tech support is far away, you quickly learn useful IT admin skills for you and your household.
Wi-Fi doesn’t reach the kitchen? No problem. Webcams out of stock? Try a car phone holder plus an old phone. Browser buried under push notifications? Disable ’em and revel in your newfound digital peace.
At this rate, tech support may soon be out of a job.
5. Muting your microphone in Zoom
Actually, no, this one’s wishful thinking. Not everyone has mastered this key skill — we still hear heavy breathing and worse during group calls. But most of us, when joining the next in a long line of video calls, reflexively turn off the microphone and camera. This is clear progress.
Seriously, though, humanity has become far more adept at communicating and interacting remotely. What used to require a face-to-face meeting and a long search for an empty conference room (or even a transcontinental flight) is now far more doable, even on the spur of the moment.
6. Living with family/roommates
That’s living, not simply seeing each other twice a day. Constant contact turned out to be harder than expected, and not everyone is skilled in this discipline. That said, lots of people have discovered new avenues of interaction with household members.
7. Missing out on water-cooler talk
Some are still reeling from this one, but perhaps it’s made our working hours more efficient?
8. Appreciating the comforts of home
Personal problems in the “it can wait” category have assumed a new urgency. When your home is your world, putting things off only causes more suffering down the line.
For example, one of our colleagues confessed that only a couple of months ago she decided to buy herself a work desk. Now she wishes she hadn’t waited so long!
9. Keeping it simple
You don’t have to fly halfway around the world to enjoy yourself. A neighborhood nature walk may not be quite as exciting as an exotic safari, but experiencing local life with fresh eyes ain’t too shabby. We can’t put a huge smile on this one; we do miss travel a lot and really look forward to getting away again, but in the meantime, we can all discover new sights in a familiar environment.
10. Adapting to changes
Much of the past year has been scary and unpleasant, but at the right dose, even poison can be medicinal. The pandemic has knocked us out of our usual patterns and forced us to adapt.
We can but hope that, as life normalizes, we hang onto our useful COVID adaptations for a long time to come.