How the Pandemic Changed the Direction of my Life

As we are slowly approaching eight months of living in a pandemic, I could not help but lie awake the other night for over 2 hours thinking about just how much has changed in my life during these eight months.

The beginning of this pandemic brought a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, which forced me to rethink a lot of my habits. From filtering out the news I watched or read, to how I interacted with people or even just kept myself sane, I am sure you and I both have had to adapt in so many ways.

I find myself at a standstill because one chapter of my life is quickly coming to a close and I was not ready for it before this pandemic, but now I am truly terrified of it ending. In just two and a half months, I will graduate from university with my bachelor’s degree in political science.

Why am I so scared to graduate?

Well, for one thing, I don’t know who I am without school and by taking that part of my life away, I feel as if I am left with an empty shell and a meaningless life. I have built my entire life around grades, assignments and just academics in general because I was convinced that it would guarantee me a stable and easy future.

But instead, I am stuck in a pandemic with little to no idea of what comes next. Over the years, I have learned how to embrace the blank canvas that might be presented to us, but this one seems too large that even the thought of it becomes overwhelming.

My entire life lies ahead of me, and not having even a smidge of a plan seems reckless and dumb of me. What I try to remind myself, with a heavy dose of compassion, is that what comes next is not a death sentence – it is merely a new beginning, a new chapter. And I should remember how fortunate I am that to even get a blank slate.

I think the pandemic reminded a lot of us or is continuously reminding us, that we cannot plan everything. No matter who you are, something about your life was upended overnight and there was nothing we could do about it.

This pandemic has forced me to rethink the entire direction of my life. But it has also taught me that what we plan is not necessarily what will happen to us. We can spend our entire life planning for what comes next, but there are so many things out of our control that can deter the path we have so carefully curated for ourselves. I am also learning that this is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just something that happens.

Even though the pandemic has led me to a dead-end, I think it also presented me with a new option – one that was never fully visible to me before. Things in life have a way of changing the direction we are heading in, and maybe this pandemic did just that for me. If it has done the same for you, then please remember that things will work out the way they are supposed to work out. Hold on tight and have a bit of faith.

The Unknown and my Comfort Zone

Recently, or more like for the past few year’s I have been wondering why some people can just take a leap or jump the gun if you will, and others, like me, can’t so much as put a step forward in the direction we want our lives to go in.

The relationship I have with the unknown is a strange one – its not simple, but I also over complicate it. There was a point in time where the unknown terrified me, I would be paralyzed with fear just thinking about it. But then, there came a time where the unknown for once was relieving. I did not have to plan, make a decision or move forward. But the problem I am facing now is that I have made myself too comfortable in the unknown.

I have a knack for adapting to situations. Its not that I love change, but I can install myself in different situations or adapt to them rather quickly. Which sounds great on a job resume but not so great when it comes to your actual life.

You see, the problem is that I have made myself a little too comfortable in this unknown. I quite enjoy it. But what I have come to realize is that I have most likely overstayed my welcome, and this thought keeps creeping into my brain no matter how much I try to avoid it.

I have reached a point where I feel stuck, like I didn’t actually make use of the unknown and now I am being punished with thoughts of self-doubt and high levels of anxiety. Am I the only one who has ever felt this? Perhaps.

But being stuck in a situation is something every single person faces. Its one of those universal experiences that we all share without actually realizing that we do.

I hate this feeling of being stuck – it quite literally drives me crazy but at the same time, this is the card I have been dealt. It is not the worse card, but its not a fun one either.

I wish I had a solution for you all, but in truth I feel slightly demoralized by this unknown. What I have come to learn is that there are many seasons in our lives, and perhaps this is one of them. Perhaps we are in a season of unknown, being stuck and not feeling our best. Its okay to accept this feeling and feel it for a bit, that’s what I will be doing if you want to join me.

Connection

How do we connect with people? I have been thinking about human connection a lot lately and how much it has changed. We lost the ability of physical intimacy, dropping by our friends or family member’s house just for a short visit, and late-night food runs with our friends.

People say that technology radically changed the way we communicate and connect. But I don’t think anyone predicted that there would be a pandemic that would force us to physically distance from one another. Life in this pandemic has severely altered how we as humans can connect. For a good chunk of this time, the way I viewed this shift in connection was that it was gone and I was not sure if or when we would get it back.

But over the last few weeks, I think I have proven myself wrong. Yes, connection has changed dramatically, but it hasn’t gone away and it probably never will because humans are social.

Connection has changed in that the small interactions and conversations we would have throughout our days are gone. Normally, it wouldn’t matter because connection would come in some other form. Through this pandemic, I have noticed that those small snippets of my day brought me joy. And not having those small works conversations in the office, or the chit chat with the barista or even the random conversation with someone on the street has left me feeling a little less connected to other people and the world in general. However, even though I lost those small moments of connection, I find the connection I am experiencing now is more profound, deep and true. Not only myself but those around me are making an extra effort to reach out and have the scary, vulnerable and raw conversations we used to be to busy to have.

So yes, connection in a lot of ways has halted to a stop. But in other ways, true and authentic connection has increased. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my chit chats with the barista and having a good laugh with people I only know from class. But if we want to keep connecting with others, we have to adapt. If it means more face times, zoom calls or phone calls, then so be it! What I have come to realize is that connecting with people never stops or fully goes away, but it changes or shifts dramatically without our consent. The only way to keep it and to have it mean something is if we lean into the new way of connecting.

Connection comes in weird waves and it changes without notice. The only way we can satisfy that need we have as humans is to change along with it. Connection does not go away if we keep trying to connect with people.

Coping with a New Reality

Coping with a new reality is hard. There are days when I wake up and I do not want to do anything; I just want to give up on the world and life. But then there are days when I wake up and I have energy, but I do not know where to put it so instead I do nothing all day. I want to remind you all that either or any way you are passing your days during this time, is perfectly okay.

There are some days where I think I have accepted this new normal, but there are other days where I cannot believe we are living through this.
I miss certain aspects of my “normal” life that I do not have anymore. I miss going to school and sitting in a classroom. I miss going for coffee with my friends, going to work and taking the metro. I miss things that I never thought I would miss. I feel as if so much has been taken away from me and from the world and it truly hurts to think about it for too long.

I have found there are a few things we can do to try and cope or get used to this new reality. It’s hard for everyone. Suddenly we can’t do what we used to, we can’t go places and some of us are not even allowed to leave the house. But life is all about adapting to situations that are out of our control, which is what I am trying to do and what I wanted to share with you all.

One of the ways I am trying to adapt to the new reality I am living in is by keeping a structure or routine in my days. It is not as rigid or structured as it used to be, but it still gives me something to do at a specific time. For example, I have kept my morning routine, but I have adapted it a bit because I have a lot of extra time now that I didn’t have before. My morning routine now allows me to read in the morning, to take my time doing my makeup if I even feel like it that day. I took my morning routine from before the pandemic and adapted it to my current situation. Keeping a routine and structure gives me the stuff to do in the morning and encourages me to get the day going but also at a more relaxed pace that I couldn’t enjoy before all of this.

Another way I am trying to adapt to my new reality is by trying new hobbies or finally getting around to things I always said I did not have time to do. This is not a call for you to be the most productive person ever and start a business if you want to go ahead, but this is just to add a little distraction and fun into my day. At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to learn how to do calligraphy. I bought the books and then pens, but of course, as of mid-January they just sat there collecting dust. When this all began, I dusted it off and just started doing a little bit every day for pure fun. Allow yourself to engage with something you consider fun.

Lastly, I have been adapting to this reality by not looking at what I can’t do anymore. I know at the beginning of this post I listed all the things I can’t do anymore but to cope with this new reality, I have been looking at what I can do now that I could not before. Do keep in mind, if you have the opportunity to focus like this, it is a privilege. I can now talk to my friends so much more then I did before because we all have the time. I can hang out with my family and watch movies. I can read more and write more. I can watch Netflix without stressing, all things I could not do before. If you are lucky enough to be in this situation, then embrace it. Embrace the now and what you can do today and do not focus on what will happen in the future, just focus on what your reality is like today.

Coping with the new reality is hard and honestly, it takes a lot of time. If you can do so, try keeping some sort of routine form before the pandemic and adapt it to the time you have now. Second, try something new and try to have moments of fun throughout your week. Lastly, focus on what you can do now that you did not have time to do before or just didn’t allow yourself to do.

This new reality will take time but keep going and try everything under the sun to make the days better for you.

Listening To Your Heart

I recently finished reading Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly and I wish this book was being turned into a movie. It made me reflect so much and the book has such a good message that I think everyone needs to hear.

Still tied to the classic tale of Cinderella, Stepsister explores the story of Cinderella’s stepsisters, Isabelle and Octavia after Cinderella got married to the prince. Not only does the book give us insight into what happens after the fairy tale ends but in true classic redemption style it explores what happens to characters that are categorized as “bad” or the “villains” of a story. But as we all know, villains are not born as villains, they become villains. Isabelle, one of the villains in Cinderella, discovers that the person she has become stems from the category she has been placed in by society.

How do we allow someone else to dictate who we can or will become? Why do we let people determine who we will be? Why do we listen to them?

The thing about society is that the constraints it imposes on people are so ingrained in everything we do and engage with that if we break from those constraints we are shunned and cast aside by society. How do we unlearn something so ingrained in us? We begin by listening to the parts of the heart that we have quieted so much. Often what we want most and who we truly are, are buried deep down in the depths of our hearts because it was a way to protect ourselves.

This is not a way to live a life, and it surely was not what Isabelle or Octavia wanted anymore. Isabelle had a magical fairy queen appear to her with a place to start, but unfortunately, that isn’t something we all have access to. 

Please allow me and this post to be the magical fairy queen that you need. Take a moment to just be and listen to yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and open yourself up to what you want most in your life. You might find this hard because we have suppressed it so much. But take a moment or even a few days to reflect on what you have been pushing down because it did not conform with what people expect from you. Or, it might come to your mind right away no matter how hard you have tried to push it away.

When those feelings, dreams and goals come to your mind I want you to take a moment and envision who the person with those goals and dreams is. That is who you truly are and who you want to become.

Now from here, I can only tell you to be vulnerable and brave enough to follow that version of yourself and those goals. You need to face why you are the way you are now, and you have to realize that who you are from now on is entirely up to you. It’s time to deal with the things that have broken and shattered your heart and the walls you have put up to protect yourself. Because they haven’t protected you, they have hindered you from succeeding.

Those broken pieces can be fixed and all of the mess that you will go through is beautiful and so true to you.

I challenge you to start listening to your heart and work on reworking your life. You are under no obligation to stay in the mold of society and you do not need to abide by societal norms of what is expected from you.

As always, this is easier said than done. But I do recommend reading the book for a bit of inspiration, and motivation to become who you are and to listen to your heart.

I leave you with one last, abbreviated, quote from the book: “There is magic in this sad, hard world. A Magic stronger than fate, stronger than chance. [..] It is magic of a frail and fallible creature, one capable of both unspeakable cruelty and immense kindness. It lives inside every human being ready to redeem us. To transform us. To save us. If we can only find the courage to listen to it. It is the magic of the human heart.”

Thanks for reading. Stay safe! x

Mindset

What is a mindset?  A mindset is the attitudes, beliefs and ideas that shape the lens we use to see the world and ourselves. Understanding the roots and core of our mindsets is the starting point to creating a life we want to live or to change the life we currently live. But before we can start rebuilding or fixing our mindset’s foundation, we need to acknowledge where we currently are at without mindset and decide which direction, we want it to go in. 

Often, people say that their mindsets can never change because that’s how they were raised or because of the current environment they have found themselves in. But I would like to offer a different perspective to that argument. As we are creatures of our environments, we naturally are also creatures of habit. The habits we create and follow, are directly linked to the environments we are in.  But in some circumstances, we can change the environment we are in by changing the habits we create.  By changing the habits, we follow, we can change the environment around us and our mindset.

Here are two examples of mindsets that every single person will find themselves in at one point or another. The goal, well for me at least during certain moments in time, was to go from a negative mindset to a positive mindset. Truthfully, we are humans and our lives are beyond complicated, which is why we are most likely going to be in between a positive and negative mindset. This in-between can be known as the grey zone and its where most of our lives happen. What matters about being in the grey area is that we are actively working towards a positive mindset, not all the time because again we are humans and life is tough, but if you try then you have already made a tremendous difference in your life.

Now, the first category is a negative mindset. These are the type of mindsets that tend to make us hard on ourselves, we become pessimistic and negative, we forget what and who we love, admire and want to become. It’s essentially an unhealthy mindset that leads us to create habits that do not in any way benefit our life. From what I have the experience, the world becomes tinted in black and grey and it feels like I have a personal storm cloud over my head. That isn’t a healthy way to live a life, but in all honesty, it’s a way a lot of us will view life. Now, this isn’t meant to make you feel bad about your life. Please remember that every single person on this planet experiences this mindset for one reason or another and it sucks but there are ways to move past it. But in all honesty, it’s hard and it requires a tremendous amount of work, but you can always get out of it.

In my opinion, creating a positive mindset is about creating a mind where you can take life’s problems and process them effectively to deal with them in a way that will solve the problem for good, or at least attempt to. It’s a mindset where you actively choose to work through problems in a healthy way, seek opportunities, acknowledge the present and find the solutions. A positive mindset does not necessarily mean that your life will be all sunshine and rainbows, it’s just that you’re seeing things in a more positive nature, or at least in a way that allows you to find solutions to your problems.

I understand that this seems difficult, or at the very least, confusing. Life is confusing. I do not want to sit here and guarantee you that your life will flip from bad to good in a day. I still have to work through this every day and it does not necessarily get easier. But the thing that I noticed the most when I am consciously working towards a healthier and positive mindset is that I am excited to see what happens next, I see a challenge and I don’t want to crawl back into bed; I want to get up and tackle it. 

Working on your mindset means you are choosing to see the world through your perspective, not what was created and infused in you. You are choosing to give every day a chance, but more importantly, to give yourself a chance every day. You are choosing to acknowledge a problem and not lament over it for days on end, but to find the solution to it, or at least try to control how you can react to it. There is so much agency and autonomy within us that we forget so often because we get caught up in our heads and these negative mindsets. We are preconditioned to assume the worse and come to a defence, it’s the human nature in us. But we also know that part of our lives can be determined by the habits we create. This is why in the upcoming posts I want to dive a little deeper into positive mindsets and how we can actively work to get started on that path and keep it up. I have found that by creating a habit of gratitude, discipline and shifting our thinking, we can change our mindset from a negative one to a positive one.

*Disclaimer:These are my opinions and experiences and they do not apply to everyone’s situation or circumstances. I am not a professional, please seek out professional help if you need any.*