Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic

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What A Year

As we welcomed March back, it was difficult not to remember the anniversary of the pandemic. We have experienced many challenging hardships in the past year, and most of it I think we’d like to forget. But what lessons have we learned? 

There are certain aspects for which I’m thankful; we discovered rituals or activities that I didn’t know I needed until we lived through this pandemic. I’ve been trying for years to get my family to leave their shoes at the door, rather than traipsing about the house in them, leaving a trail of germs everywhere they go. It only took a global health crisis to convince them how gross that is, and I’m happy to report that everyone now ditches their footwear as soon as they enter the house and I would call this a huge lesson! 

Consistent family dinners made a comeback this year, as our calendars abruptly cleared out last March. Prior to that, we were fortunate to have one or two dinners together each week as we juggled various sports practices, school meetings, social obligations, and other commitments. It really is nice to spend the end of the day gathered around the dinner table together, and I hope we’ll be able to make that a priority and keep this lesson after we ease back into the chaos.

Overall, the lesson of being forced to slow down taught us the value of not being busy all the time. We took walks together each afternoon, admiring trees on our route and remembering how fun it was to leisurely ride bikes through the neighborhood. My son with Down syndrome even taught himself to ride a two wheeled bicycle; not a bad use of all that extra time on his hands! We enjoyed socially-distanced outdoor visits with family and friends, truly appreciating the company as we realized we had taken those visits for granted in the past. We saw the importance of showing up for those important people in our lives. 

Our appreciation for other things came roaring back, too: the guidance and expertise of our children’s teachers, the blessing of having good neighbors who can help out when you run out of chocolate milk and the grocery store doesn’t have a pick-up time for ten days (maybe it’s just in my house that this constitutes an emergency), a warm and sunny afternoon and a full box of sidewalk chalk after being stuck inside doing virtual lessons all morning, or a quiet evening fishing at the pond in our neighborhood. It didn’t take long before we realized how many important aspects of life we weren’t fully treasuring, and it’s my goal to not let that happen again and carry those lessons with us.

As the year progressed and current events unfolded, another one of those lessons was learned. I’m a fairly avid user of social media, and because I was home more I found my consumption increased. It became obvious that if I was going to continue to enjoy my time on these platforms, I would have to tighten up some boundaries.

When differing opinions exist on many issues, some of us will never agree, and certain interactions can become toxic. I realized that unfollowing or even unfriending online contacts was not only an acceptable practice, but a necessary one. In that scenario, it’s okay to preserve your mental health and clean out that friends list. I used to make myself feel so guilty over doing that, but as we progressed through 2020 I could no longer justify keeping online friends who were not adding positively to my social media experience. The year was difficult enough without feeling completely drained by scrolling through my Facebook feed.

While we turn our attention to that faint light beginning to shimmer at the end of this very long tunnel, I know most of us will eagerly jump back to the way our lives were before we were forced to take this pause. As much as I look forward to resuming our “normal” lives, I do hope that we will remember these important lessons and commit to keeping them as we move past these unprecedented times.

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Jen Franklin Kearns grew up in Central Ohio and is pleased to raise her family here as well. She and her husband Mark reside in Delaware and are parents to Alex, Addie, and Andrew. Their home is completed by their loyal beagle, Maisey. Jen is a social media analyst for a local family foundation, and she is also a passionate advocate for inclusion and disability rights. Jen’s oldest son, Alex, has Down syndrome and Jen works tirelessly to ensure that Alex has access to inclusive opportunities in their community. Jen and Mark are raising their children to know that that inclusion matters for all. When Jen isn’t advocating, writing, or shuttling her kids back and forth to sports practices or club meetings, she enjoys perusing social media, reading, and drinking large amounts of coffee.

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