A little over six months ago, I was in a different country studying abroad and living out my young adult dream of being on my own, being independent and exploring the world. Talk of the novel coronavirus circulating in many countries was just a whisper uttered offhandedly during conversations. For the most part, no one, including myself, seemed overly concerned about the potential for a pandemic.
One night in mid-March, this situation quickly changed when the United States announced it would be closing its borders to European countries, later including the United Kingdom, and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. I was scheduled to fly home in two days and thankfully arrived home after two full flights through two major airports. Looking back on this travel, it seems like it occurred in an entirely different lifetime.
When quarantine started in late March, I, like most people, really didn’t think that we would be dealing with the pandemic for very much longer. I was confident that scientists could figure something out and that we would be on our merry way to living a “normal” life again very soon. It is now September, and this is not even close to being the case.
Now we wear masks out in public, continue to stay at home when we can and social activities have pretty much ceased to a halt. Some of us are working, some aren’t, some of us are back in school, some of us aren’t. We are scared, we are stressed, we are exhausted. Looking back, there were so many things I took for granted.
I miss being able to freely go out in public without worrying I was going to get sick or make someone else sick. I miss being able to see more than the same little group of people I’ve deemed my bubble. I miss being able to smile at someone on the street with a cute dog and know they can see me. I didn’t think I would, but I truly miss the unadulterated freedom of mundane human interaction without a clause or a disclaimer.
I miss being able to go to museums. I miss going into the library to browse through books. I miss being able to touch objects without immediately feeling like I need to wash my hands after. I miss celebrating birthdays and special occasions without having to worry whether or not I licked the envelope on the card. I miss being able to brush hair out of my eyes in public. I miss being able to laugh within six feet of someone else. I miss the things that gave me comfort and regularity in an otherwise normally crazy time in life without the added stress of a pandemic.
I miss traveling. I miss staying somewhere I’ve never been. I miss seeing family that doesn’t live in the same state as me. I miss being able to be around family members I don’t live with at all. I miss the ability to discover new things without worrying whether those new things will be a place for exposure to infection.
I miss not feeling like the world is going to come crashing down around me at all times. I miss feeling like it was worth making future plans. I miss feeling like anything was worth trying for. I miss the feeling of being secure, whether it’s with jobs or school or relationships. I miss feeling like the life I was living had potential for greater meaning, and not feeling like it was going to be ripped out of my control at any second.
I think I could go on and on about the things that I miss before COVID-19 happened. I think what I miss the most is not having the added stress of being worried about whether or not what I do every day is potentially dangerous to myself and others. This isn’t a concern that I normally have as I’m not a big risk taker and live my life pretty much by the rules. Those not following the rules during the pandemic have given me a lot of stress, and I’ve had to learn to let go of things I can’t control, which includes how others behave.
I miss not having to worry about an invisible danger and being able to take my health for granted every day. I didn’t realize the importance of activities I used to do without even thinking about them but now realize how much I miss the comfort of living my life without a lot of thought. I think I have not ever had to worry about my mortality, which is a privilege as an able-bodied individual, and this pandemic has made me realize that life is truly fleeting and changes quickly.
Overall, I’ve learned that there are many more things I appreciate in my life than I thought that I did. The things that I normally never think about have become crucial pieces of living the quality of life I was used to before COVID-19, and I am hopeful that one day this life will come back with a wiser, kinder, more keen outlook.