Lessons learned: Personal reflections on the past year in a pandemic

In many ways the pandemic has changed the way that we have lived, worked and studied this year. While we have all attended UBC, we have not attended it from the same place. Rather, we have learned from thousands of separate places connected through nothing but our computer screens. So we asked you, as we learned apart, what are the lessons we can reflect on, that we can keep with us, as we move forward.

Silvana Martinez

Notes to self:

  • A rough, sandpaper-like year will leave you smoothed out (not without shedding some skin… or friends).
  • Make face masks a wardrobe staple item. Hope your friends follow trends.
  • When eating out(doors), grab a jacket. Restaurant food is not worth your shivering.
  • When four walls close in on you, go for a walk. Recall the blood flowing in every step.
  • Stretch. Reach for your toes. Feel your back arch away from your toes.
  • Ground yourself, either on a desk chair, a park bench or a bus seat.
  • Every so often, take a few minutes to smell the flowers (not only to check for symptoms of COVID-19).
  • Call your mom.
  • Start a playlist from scratch.
  • Buy a ukulele. Singing to four chords will make you feel better.
  • Do not shy away from tears.
  • Or fears (not irrational with a deadly virus out there).
  • Make your boundaries loud and clear. Forgive yourself for the times when you didn’t.
  • Erase everything before 2018 in that resume
  • Resume your Netflix show.
  • Medi(t)ate between your 2019 plans and your 2020 hardships.
  • Refresh LinkedIn. Don’t put yourself down over entry-level jobs that require five years of experience.
  • Charge your computer for a Zoom meet-up... and for graduation day.

Iman Janmohamed

The simple rite of passage of having my bio and photo posted on a UBC Class of [Insert Here] Facebook page was the first time I felt like a UBC student.

Ever since then, feeling like a university student hasn’t come naturally. Instead, it’s been something I have sought out through Instagram pages, Facebook groups and countless Discord servers.

Connecting is terrifying, especially when you’re unsure. Unsure about the safety of your loved ones, your mental health and how you’ll never be able to have that first-year university experience.

Being perpetually afraid of missing out, in addition to being isolated from everything and everyone, allowed me to explore university from the safety of my childhood bedroom.

Of course, at first, it was awful. Classes via Zoom. Friendships through DMs. But putting myself out there was easier because I could hide behind my screen.

Behind a screen, UBC was my oyster. I sought out pearls in every class, club meeting or online event I clicked “Going” on.

I, unlike many other first-year students amid this pandemic, was able to catch a sliver of university because of my FOMO.

Through a screen, I connected to people I wouldn’t have otherwise. Connecting to Zoom calls never got easier, but connecting with others did.

Connecting is difficult when things are uncertain. But this uncertainty made connecting all the more worthwhile.

So when asked, what is the greatest lesson I’ve learned from COVID-19, it’s to always test the waters. You’ll never know when it’ll be the perfect temperature.

Tianne Jensen-DesJardins

When the pandemic first began, I would get up without the help of an alarm, have a leisurely breakfast, peruse my bookshelf and then select which fantasy world I would be escaping into for the day. In the first month of lockdown, I’d spent more time watching heists unravel between lines of print than I had being present in my own mind and body.

A few more months went by and I still hadn’t processed how the pandemic was affecting me mentally or physically. Then, school became my escape and I would fill my days with five upper-level classes, rewriting perfectly good essays just to avoid real life for a little while longer.

Near the end of March, I finally spoke with a psychologist. She explained that stress and anxiety don’t just disappear — they will eventually have to be felt. As I work on setting boundaries and learning to listen to my burnt-out body, I think it’s important to remember that it’s okay to feel scared. COVID-19 is real, and being afraid of catching it or passing it on to loved ones is a valid reason to be nervous.

Feel the fear, just don’t let it control you.

Manya Malhotra

I always knew social media could be toxic, but I only understood the true extent of its toxicity and the impact it had on me last year when I was trapped inside my increasingly suffocating pandemic-induced virtual bubble. The unconditional hatred spewed on social media was like a rite of passage for many of the faceless usernames that inhabit the virtual world.

The negativity that was being spread, especially back home in India after the death of a famous actor, was infectious. It was difficult for me to go about my day without being plagued by pangs of sadness or bursts of anger. On one such day of self-doubt and extreme uncertainty about the future, I decided to undergo a long-contemplated digital detox. I could not let the negativity overwhelm me, because then I would never be able to truly experience the positivity.

The pandemic taught me that sometimes it is okay to take a break – it is okay to do what you think is best for you. At the end of the day, pandemic or not, you have to make sure the person you look at in the mirror is happy.