Three lessons I’ve learned throughout the pandemic

Bethany Abrams

It has been over a year since the first COVID-19 lockdown in the United States, and it is almost the end of the school year. Living through the pandemic for some of my senior year of high school and all of my first year of college, I have learned quite a bit about myself and others.
I learned that I am adaptable. Moving to online learning in March of last year was a change, but it was one that I was not terribly side-swiped by. I knew that it was going to be a new normal for a while and that I could handle it as long as I continued to be involved in school, such as with The Observer, and make friends safely. 
I saw online learning as just another type of school, and neither online nor in-person was better or worse for me. I understand that this is not a universal experience, as for some students online learning became more difficult than in-person learning due to external circumstances.
Furthermore, I had to adapt quickly during a time last semester when I had to go home early for the Thanksgiving break due to quarantine. Quarantine, isolation and sequestering is not uncommon for many Augustana College students, but it is always nerve-wracking. Although I never got sick, I experienced emotional turmoil as I had to unexpectedly pack for winter break and worry about whether going home was a good idea.
The second lesson I have learned about myself and others is that people have different COVID-19 thresholds, but it is important to respect others while also standing your ground. For instance, of course, there are the COVID-19 protocols that everyone should follow, such as not seeing others who saw unsafe people, using hand sanitizer, no large gatherings, wiping down frequently touched surfaces and wearing masks.
In addition to those, though, there are individuals who have developed ways of living that make them feel safer, even if it is not seen as necessary by others. For instance, I still wipe down every grocery item, package or gift I receive, even though the risk factor is low. 
I have a friend who would rather hang out socially distanced at the Brew with a mask on, or I know others who hang out in a dorm room without a mask but will not hug or touch. It is important to understand that your views may not align with others, but it is important to respect others while also respecting yourself.
To elaborate, it is important to stand up for yourself and prioritize your own safety when someone may not adhere to the COVID-19 protocols that you do. For instance, during winter break, I had a friend who wanted to hang out following a family party she attended for the holidays. Although I wanted to hang out with her too, I talked with her and let her know that I was uncomfortable putting myself and my family at risk.
My friend was beyond understanding, but I also know that not everyone is as understanding. However, it is a pandemic, and it is important to only do things that you feel safe and comfortable doing.
The third lesson I have learned is the importance of hope and appreciation. As we continue to live in COVID-19, it has become increasingly hard to believe things are getting better even with the distribution of vaccines. However, it is this very hope that has allowed me and others to stay afloat and persevere through this pandemic.
Along with hope, I have learned to be more appreciative and grateful for everything in life. I realized how much I love and cherish family parties and barbeques now that it has been over a year without them. I realized how appreciative I am of my friends and family. My friends, even though we all share relatively different COVID-19 thresholds, are beyond respectful and understanding. Without my mom’s hope and her resilience through it all, I am unsure if I would have been  able to adapt as quickly as I have. 
And so, through everything I learned and continue to learn, I have come to realize that I am coming out of this pandemic stronger than I was before. I believe that this is the same for everyone else as we have all changed in some way when we were thrown into a world of hardship and grief. We should all be proud of ourselves and continue to open our hearts and minds to more lessons to learn.