Today is the one-year anniversary of the first two cases of COVID-19 being confirmed in Michigan, the state in which I reside. Since then, everything has changed. What we once believed to be a “two-week shutdown” has turned into a year-long practice in patience, safety, and sacrifice.
This morning, as I sat down at my computer to start work for the day, a thought jumped into my head: “What have I learned?” I thought of the small ways that I’ve adapted to the new normal, the changes I’ve experienced, and the evolutions that I’ve witnessed.
But then I stopped—slowly sliding my fingers from their familiar places on the keyboard and leaning back in my squeaky desk chair—and really started thinking about it. This season of life has afforded numerous lessons that many of us could never have imagined or begun to even consider. We’ve been forced to start new jobs, evaluate relationships, manage our health, wellness, and safety differently, miss family functions, tailor our businesses, and find new ways to connect.
To put it in simple terms: We’ve been challenged to learn a lot. So, I thought I would share some of my personal lessons in hopes that it would inspire you, dear Rental readers, to think of yours.
Here are 15 things I have learned this past year that I might have eventually learned on my own or maybe not. We’ll never know:
- Communication is more important than we ever realized. With our society’s focus on digital means of communication and connection, conversing with others is always an option. A quick text to a friend has replaced picking up the phone and calling them to check in. A message on a chat platform can let a co-worker know that you’re out of the office next Tuesday. But the past year’s stay-in-place orders and multiple quarantines proved that we need to put more effort in to actually stay in touch. Taking the time to reach out and talk to others has never meant more than it does when you can’t see them face-to-face.
- Speaking of effort... Effort is an underappreciated, and often forgotten, tool. Putting effort into things (I.e., businesses, relationships, tasks, etc.) will never, ever go out of style.
- Wearing comfortable clothing for a year because you never leave your house makes it fairly difficult to get dressed up again.
- Out of challenge and strife comes the opportunity for innovation and ingenuity.
- Selfishness is a lousy trait. There is more to this world than you. Being considerate of others, taking into account your fellow human, and putting yourself in someone else's shoes should all be things we’re doing on the daily.
- When given no other chance but to adapt, people find creative ways to do so that can ultimately change their future for the better.
- Quality support systems are key. This can relate to family and friends, business partners and co-workers, or even the suppliers and manufacturers you choose to work with. Filling your life with people and/or companies that offer solutions, care, or support when things are tough is crucial for your personal/professional success and wellbeing.
- Having cats as co-workers is great until they interrupt your video interviews... or when you find yourself talking to them more often than not.
- Finding manageable and safe ways to manage stress can be a gamechanger for your day. Without our usual ways of coping (for example, one of mine is eating out at restaurants and trying new places), we need to develop new ways to nurture ourselves. This year, I’ve gotten back into reading for pleasure – something that I’ve always loved doing but stopped making the time for as I got older!
- You don’t need to apologize for setting boundaries.
- This whole year has been about putting one foot in front of the other, each day. Perseverance has been a lesson in and of itself. Keep working hard, and remember, you only fail when you stop trying.
- Fresh air does wonders for the soul.
- Great TV shows also do wonders for the soul (looking at you, Longmire and Great British Baking Show).
- Business has changed as we know it. This can be as simple as routine daily tasks like sanitizing workstations and equipment, contactless pay, plastic shields, and new technologies. Or it can be more substantial like working from home becoming a permanent option for many companies, more flexible work hours, virtual meetings and conferences, etc. Today’s workforce has been required to shift their businesses practices, and that’s something that we will only continue to do and see moving forward.
- Things will get better. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or the day after, but they will.
Now that I've shared my list, it's important to note that we’ve all learned our own lessons over the past 365 days. Maybe you discovered a strength you didn’t know you had, learned that your dog is a wonderful co-worker who never interrupts your Zoom calls (I’m jealous), or that the support you thought you had is not what you thought it was. And if you’re unsure about your answer, I urge you to take a few minutes to process and evaluate what it is you might have learned.
Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share with me your list. I’d love to know what your takeaways are from the past year.