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It's been a difficult year for many of us, but that certainly doesn't mean we haven't grown from it

The pandemic has been difficult and it's important to validate everyone's experiences during this crisis. We may not all be on the exact same boat, but we're all on the same ocean, facing the same tides. In the past year alone, the Philippines has faced many difficulties, among which are economic fallout, starvation, rising COVID-19 cases, and even a slew of typhoons towards the end of 2020. All these, coupled with our own personal problems have made for a trying time indeed. 

"Mass Trauma"

BBC's Ed Prideaux recently wrote about "mass trauma", something that's undoubtedly been inflicted upon societies around the globe. No, he wasn't in a bid to sound sensationalist. In fact, in a sociological point of view, trauma is simply defined as a "change in meaning-making".

When 'the way you see yourself, the way you see the world, and the way you see other people' are shocked and overturned by an event – and a gap arises between your 'orienting systems' and that event – simple stress cascades into trauma, often-mediated through sustained and severe feelings of helplessness, writes Prideaux. 

Given all the restrictions and adaptive measures needed to combat or work around the pandemic, there's been an obvious change in the way we understand things and the way we behave. While it's too early yet to give specifics on how COVID-19 will "forever change human behaviour" (as some people claim), there's no doubt that, at least in the present, it already has. 

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Lessons Learned

It's perfectly okay if some people aren't ready to talk about "everything they've learned so far" this year. There's been a lot to grieve for, and not everyone has necessarily accepted loss quite so readily. But from our standpoint, we've been fortunate enough to really catch some eye-opening realisations that otherwise never would have come to light had it not been for the pandemic. 

The first thing I myself have realised is how something so simple—a meal with a friend, a hug from a co-worker, even a simple work event—can bring so much joy. A simple Saturday dinner date didn't use to be anything special; but now to safely dine out is a luxury some might not be comfortable enjoying yet. We used to take a lot of things for granted, but now, when the pandemic is over, we're sure people won't be so quick to forego the simple pleasures. 

Another realisation we've made is really just how fortunate we are to be living in such a modern time as this. Granted, there have been so many upsets—political, economic, social—but think about how incredible it is that people have managed to create vaccines, medicine, and other innovations in such a short amount of time. There are so many things that people can do if they just put their mind to it, and that's a pretty encouraging thought to have. 

People have also become more appreciative of others during the pandemic. No doubt, you've had people to lean on someone during this time of crisis. It can be your family members, your friends, your partner, the friendly deliveryman, or the noble healthcare worker. I think we've all learned to be more appreciative of the people around us and have probably learned that it's okay to ask for help too. 

Lastly, this pandemic has given most of us a much-needed time to pause and perhaps reorient ourselves in terms of planning for the future. Nothing like a major global event to really make you think about what's important to you, and what you want your future to look like. 

Believe in normal 

It's so easy to be pessimistic during the pandemic, and in some ways, it's also pretty logical to be. So what then is there to be optimistic about? 

Well, everyone has their own answer to that question. Just personally, one thing to keep in mind is that, if history has proven anything, it's that things always go back to normal. Not a new normal where it's suddenly taboo to hug a friend or go to a party. But normal, like before. It will doubtless take time, years for sure, but at the end of the day, COVID-19 isn't the first pandemic that humans have dealt with, and modern technology has made us all much better equipped than our ancestors were when they faced similar circumstances.

We all go through our own process of dealing with grief, shock, or anxiety. Optimism may or may not be what you need or want at the moment, but if it's any consolation, know that if there are still things to believe in. 

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