Every so often, our lives change. Kids grow up, strangers become friends, jobs turn into careers, etc. It’s usually the big changes in our lives that go unnoticed until much later when we look back over the years and reflect on how much has changed.
This year has been full of opportunities for reflection; not only of the past, but also the present, and definitely the future. A year that had recently begun with hope and new years’ resolutions, suddenly became something to fear. In an instant, change took over our lives in almost every way possible. Schools were canceled, commutes were abandoned, businesses closed, and our loved ones fell ill.
After almost six months behind locked doors, we have somehow settled into this new reality. We’ve adapted to change and watched it run through our lives in real time. However, the biggest change of all is still undefined.
What will the future look like?
Despite all of the chaos and uncertainty this pandemic has brought on, I still have hope that the future will be less dull. Hopefully, the many changes we’ve lived through this year have led us to thoughtful reflection, and those reflections have turned to valuable lessons. I see the future following this pandemic as one of renewed values and even more changes in our lives. But this time for the better.
In the new normal following COVID19, we will all be more empathetic individuals. Maybe it’s wishful thinking or maybe it’s an optimist's perception, but one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned during this pandemic is to think of others.
As a group, we put many of our needs on the back burner to help protect those at risk. We gave up our social needs and lifestyle privileges to help protect the elderly, the sick, and those at the frontlines.
We saw the tired faces of our frontline workers, covered in masks and PPE. Exhausted, overworked, burned out. We learned what it means to be a nurse and the sacrifice behind their work.
We heard the stories of labored breathing, fevered nights, and intubation.
And we learned what it’s like to lose someone you love unexpectedly.
Collectively as humans, not individuals, we experienced this pandemic. We understood the pain and fear of those thousands of miles away from us, as we were soon facing it ourselves.
In the future, we’ll remember that we all experience sickness, health, love, loss, fear, and hope. Just like we all experienced COVID.
In the future, we’ll all be more aware of how our actions impact others.
For months, we’ve stayed home so others could do their jobs. We’ve worn masks so others wouldn’t get sick. We’ve shopped local so others’ businesses wouldn’t fail. We learned that we can all be part of the solution or the problem.
We heard about “the curve” all over the news. How we needed to help flatten it. For some of us, we also watched it grow in our own cities. We soon realized that this curve was a reflection of our actions. What happened in the world soon became directly related to what we did today. Our decision to stay home, wash our hands, and wear a mask could impact everyone around us. Our actions, as small as they were, could spread (pun intended!) to everyone we knew or help protect as many people as possible.
Our lives do not impact us alone, no matter how isolated or socially distant we are. Self-awareness will be part of the new normal. Maybe just as much as washing our hands!
Before the pandemic, two worlds existed: inside hospital walls and outside of them. Unless we had some direct connection to someone working in healthcare, or we were healthcare workers ourselves, many were not aware of the amount of sacrifice required in nursing work.
The pandemic gave us a view into this world of heroes. We saw their tired sleepless eyes and bruised faces, covered in exhaustion, fear, and sometimes, defeat.
And we learned to be grateful. Grateful that we have these brave men and women in our lives to protect us. Grateful that every day they wake up and walk straight into the line of fire to keep us and our loved ones alive. We are grateful for their dedication, their perseverance, their service, their care, their strength and their hope.
Nurses have always been unsung heroes. Working behind the limelight, they care for, protect, and heal, often with little to no recognition.
In the future, I hope we do not forget them. That we continue to share our gratitude to their crucial role in our lives.
Our lives have changed.
From one moment to the next right in front of our eyes. We no longer think of change as a thing of the past but as a present phenomenon running our lives. And we see it well into our future. We know things will change, but how is the question. We might not know the exact answer to that question but we can try to guess. We can use the many lessons this pandemic has taught us and carry them with us into whatever future awaits us.
As this pandemic has well taught us, we cannot predict what will happen in a year or even months from today, but we can at least imagine. I imagine futures filled with empathy, self-awareness, and gratitude.
What do you imagine?