The popular "F* 2020!" memes on Facebook or Instagram seem to have hit a collective nerve, as every day, there seems to be a funnier version displayed. You can see why, with the global pandemic COVID-19 hitting us like a tsunami at the beginning of March, it's been a rough go of it for most of us, so the "F* 2020" seems like a glove that fits.
A close friend of mine says that this past March felt like it lasted one year, followed by April and May, which seemed to last about ten years each. The ongoing stress of not knowing what might happen with the virus, isolation from shelter-in-place, potential job loss, and economic uncertainty; the fallout of COVID has taken its toll on the global community. COVID has also caused the most massive adjustment in behaviors and attitudes since the last World War. It's been an utter shit-show of epic proportion, and our lives are still being shaped by it daily.
That's the bad news; the good news is that there have been many positive takeaways from living through the pandemic. Lately, I've been considering the positive outcomes that we may experience as a result of living through the COVID-19 pandemic and here are my top five:
1. Strengthening Relationships
Did any of us expect to be locked in our house 24/7 for months at a time? Whether you live with your immediate family, roommates, or alone, we all have become extra familiar with our SIP "pod', or the quarantine tribe we choose. As life came to a screeching halt last spring, and our daily pace slowed, relationships with other people became a focus of attention worldwide.
For the first time in years, I stayed in the house with my kids day in and out. I not only want to kill them, but I've also fallen in love with them in new ways. My close hiking buddy became my 6 foot apart lifeline, and distant family members and old friends are welcomed into my living space via video chat. Reconnecting with people and maintaining or strengthening existing relationships has made me grateful for the love I share. This time has deepened my relationships and shown me who I treasure and why.
2. Connection through Technology
Zooming is now officially a verb. You know something has shifted when your elderly relatives have downloaded Zoom on their mobile phone. Video chats and meetings will never replace face to face meetups, but Zooming (or Google Chat) has allowed us to stay connected in a time of deep distress.
Google Classroom and other remote learning tools are now a must-know and must-use part of daily lives - for kids and adults alike. My worst nightmare is homeschooling my kids, but now that's it's come to pass, we at least have necessary tools to keep our children connected to classrooms, other students, and their teachers. This distance-learning forever changes how we learn, and our ability to access education globally, and even though I hate it, that's pretty darn cool.
Changes in behavior also extend to how we see our doctors. Telemedicine is now considered the first step in seeing your doctor. Honestly, who wants to go to a doctor's waiting room right now? With new, more progressive federal regulations on telemedicine, we now have models for more accessible healthcare. This includes getting a prescription from your G.P. or even getting your medical marijuana card online.
3. Cannabis Becomes "Essential"
Five years ago, medical marijuana advocates such as myself, were often laughed at or ridiculed in mainstream commentary. I'd often hear, "Medical marijuana is a joke, people just say that it's medicine because they want an excuse to get high." It was frustrating, and it seemed like getting people to listen was like pushing a rock uphill.
Today, medical marijuana is legal in 33 U.S. states (and the District of Columbia) and recreationally legal in 11 states. When the Coronavirus hit, cannabis shops shuttered their doors along with other businesses. However, that changed quickly in many states. As declared in a N.Y. Times article,
"Over the past week, more than a dozen states have agreed that while "nonessential" stores had to close, pot shops and medical marijuana dispensaries could remain open — official recognition that for some Americans, cannabis is as necessary as milk and bread."
Although there is a patchwork of regulations that change state by state, this is a triumph for people who consume cannabis as medicine. Medical marijuana treats anxiety, depression, insomnia, cancer, PTSD, and the list goes on. COVID-19 has highlighted not only the medicinal necessity of cannabis, and access to it, but also the need for federal recognition and reformation of existing laws and regulations. It appears that cannabis is here to stay and everyone seems to be getting on the train.
4. A 70's Style Summer
I was a 70's kid, and summer meant endless daydreaming, bike rides, and a lot of disorganized activity. Running out the back door in the morning and coming back at night was the norm, and loading up the station wagon for a road trip spelled v-a-c-a-t-i-o-n. COVID brought us to our knees, but it also brought back the 70's style, free-wheeling summer.
Typically, my summer is organized around activities, whether that's back-to-back summer camps for the kids or a big European vacation. Neither of those can happen during COVID, and basic summertime activities seem to be a thing of the past. At the beginning of the summer, I was anxious about this unstructured approach. But as the days passed into months, I realized I had not had a summer this relaxing since about 1979.
Rather than driving the kids to an all-day summer camp, they wake up and go for a bike ride. Rather than hopping on a plane to take a highly structured family vacation, we've packed up the car to see family in the midwest - twice. We went swimming Tahoe and hiking in Yellowstone, we've had a blast.
5. Freedom to Work Remotely
If you still have a job, thank your lucky stars. For most of us still working, we've been granted the freedom to work remotely. It's ironic, COVID has taken away so much personal freedom, yet changed the way we work, giving some people more freedom than ever. Working remotely means less time in the car, more time at home, and for some, increased their productivity. It has undoubtedly created a better work-life balance by giving more hours back to the day.
With no end in sight, people have the flexibility to move to different areas of the country, whether it be for a better quality of life or slightly cheaper living. Urban flight has become a real thing. Future positive benefits for families working from home is that both men and women may equally appreciate the difficulty of raising a family, homeschooling, all while working a full-time gig. Employers may be more understanding and generous in the future when it comes to paid leave or understanding childcare difficulties.
The Coronavirus has, in its worldwide wake, left a trail of distress and suffering. Unmistakably, it's been one of the more challenging experiences we've gone through together. That said, from our dark times, there's also been good news and wisdom gained from our new experiences. As former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, "Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life."