NON FICTION: Life Lessons I’ve Learned From This Pandemic

A lightbulb

Photo: Joe Mannarino

So these past few months have been an enlightening time, with Covid-19 sweeping in and changing the way the world works forever. It’s done so with such proficiency that it seems like our old way of living has gone out the window.

But I’m not complaining, because for me, things have actually turned out for the better.

Plus, when your choices are limited to vegging out, exercising, or crying in the fetal position, it becomes much easier to do the important things, which in my case, involves all three of the above, in that order.

Counting my blessings

As someone who quit his job to write a novel, I have to say that I’ve been one of the least affected people when it comes to lifestyle change. What would seem like hell for many others would just be another Tuesday to me.

Yet for some weird reason, I feel I was granted the productivity zeal of the gods.

You know those friends of yours who’d become Gordon Ramsay overnight? The ones who’d work out every day and are now ten pounds lighter? Those annoying people who just can’t stop flexing their new penchant for hustling? Yeah I’m one of them.

I can’t say what it is that’s pushing me to do more things, because like I said, I’m fortunate enough to have a similar life before and after Covid-19.

But boy, something about the world being put on hold just lights a fire under my ass. And I’m not even remotely competitive. If you know me in person, you’d know how rare it is that I’d ever strove to be the best in something.

That’s because I haven’t.

Woman in face mask

It hasn’t been the best of times. Photo: Ani Kolleshi

Enter Covid-19

Maybe my turning point came from the realisation that jiu-jitsu classes would be off the table for a while. That was my only form of exercise (and sanity) to date, so news of the quarantine hit me pretty hard.

Why? Because I hate exercising. I really do. Maybe that’s why my sport of choice involves being crushed under heavy, sweaty men unless I really put in the work to escape. And once that was taken away, I felt a very real risk of turning into the teenage me—a couch potato that’d only get out of bed to get high.

But having nothing to do did have its miracles. I looked up prison workout routines, because it was either that or stare at the four walls every day. One thing led to another, and now I’m doing 200 burpees a day because that’s how I get into the mood for crying. In the fetal position.

And you know what? I’ve learned that, as much as I hate exercise, I can actually do anything I set my mind to. And I can make things happen no matter how my life turns out.

More quarantine lessons

This quarantine has also taught me a couple other things: that I’ve had nothing but excuses all this while, and that I perform much better when my choices are limited.

Today it’s all non-negotiable. I wake up, I journal, I learn Chinese, I meditate, I exercise, and then I start my day. Back then, I used to think that I couldn’t exercise in the morning. That I’d be too sleepy. That my body wouldn’t be warmed up. That it’d be impossible to get started early in the morning.

But now that I don’t have a choice, I actually do my tasks with less resistance.

Now, I’m aware of the clapback that’s been happening online—the calls for people to relax, to not feel obliged to be productive—and I get that. Because I’m one of the least productive people alive.

But I’ve also begun to realise that it’s not about you. Or me. It’s about us as a collective whole.

Glasses

Seeing things in a different light. Photo: Bud Helisson

A new perspective

Maybe introverts and hermits exist so that when shit like this happens, they can be the ones who’d thrive and ensure the continuity of the human race. And once that’s over and done with, the extroverts can come back out and lead everyone into rebuilding.

Maybe the athletic people are here to help us hunt and fight, while the couch potatoes are built to withstand long seasons of famine and drought.

Maybe. But they could also be my shower thoughts with no real substance behind them.

“As the ocean ‘waves’, the universe ‘peoples’.”

—Alan Watts

Like it or not, we rely on each other. We can’t all know how to build websites, or service cars, or manage cancer. We each have our own gifts to offer humanity, and it’s our job to find them, so that we can play our part in bettering the lives of the people around—and after—us.

Maybe it’s not about our level of productivity, or whether we land that job that society deems worthwhile. Maybe it’s about finding your place in this wave of life and putting as much push as you can into it.

Because no matter who you are—ambitious, lazy, straight, gay, big, small, outgoing, hermit, black, yellow, white, carpenter, doctor, struggling writer—you have a place in this world.

And the only thing that should matter is if you’re going to embrace it or not.

40 thoughts on “NON FICTION: Life Lessons I’ve Learned From This Pandemic

  1. “Maybe introverts and hermits exist so that when shit like this happens, they can be the ones who’d thrive and ensure the continuity of the human race. ”

    THIS WAS TOO REAL LOL
    omg my life as a hermit has only blossomed in the midst of quarantine
    and i’m so grateful to be a hermit (?) bc those 2 months were awful for my extroverted friends

    • I loved this quote too! Even before lockdown, I had been forced to stay home for health reasons, so I can say I was more prepared to it than many other people. Moreover, I started to see the positive sides of it: less traffic and pollution, fresher air outside, and generally a more peaceful environment. I have to say I miss that bit. And it was a good workout for my mental strength, although I have to say it was not easy at all.

      • Well growth only comes from hard things, so I guess your tough times being stuck at home only served to make you stronger.

        Yeah, I actually miss the times of full lockdowns here in my country, but I guess we all have to adapt to change, no matter what it is.

        Thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion, Stefano!

  2. The truth and humor in this is astronomical. Love this! “I perform much better when my choices are limited.” SO DO I. I’ve gotten ahead in almost every area of life. Best thing that ever happened to me.

  3. We each have our own gifts to offer humanity, and it’s our job to find them, so that we can play our part in bettering the lives of the people around—and after—us.

    I loved this.

  4. Well said. My life hasn’t changed much since the stay-at-home order. I still write and/or edit into the wee hours of the morning, enjoy my garden, enjoy having discussions with my husband, and trying new food dishes. I miss going to a store on occasion just to browse but the internet has filled that void.

    • Sounds like a great life! I hate to say that I’m losing my mojo now that things are returning to normal (in Malaysia), but it really is the case. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, Marion!

  5. Stuart! 200 burpees?! Omg. My heart is pounding out of my chest at the thought of it! Now the fetal position I get! lol.
    Great post. I’m in western Canada and things are slowly starting to return-restaurants etc. but I feel cautious when I see the numbers growing. My life didn’t change much because I too writer full time and do so from home…People around me though affect the energy and it’s interesting how it stymies things. Stay healthy.

    • My secret is not pushing myself too hard. I go for bigger numbers, but I make sure I get good rest between sets. Am not that physically gifted so I have to make do lol.

      Oh yes. I actually feel like I’m losing my mojo just because the streets outside my house are livelier now, and as an introvert, that could be an energy sink of sorts. Always appreciate you stopping by, Faye.

  6. thanks Stuart. yes, interesting how iso has affected each of us differently. i must be an extrovert. even though i’m used to being self-motivated, in a routine, and working as a writer from home, i’ve HATED lockdown. i so need interactions face to face with others. congrats on the burpees. mammoth effort.

    • Yeah, I think we’re all one, in that we all have our part to contribute to humankind. We all thrive under very different circumstances and that helps us reach farther as a whole. Thanks for dropping by, Libby!

  7. Great read, thanks for sharing! I’ve felt similarly in this whole situation, and also started exercising more, improving my Mandarin, and trying to blog more. So super happy to have come accross your site 😊

  8. It us true a lot of peoples lives haven’t changed. But some peoples lives have got worse and their mental health has suffered and is suffering. A lot are enjoying quality of life.

    I was made redundant before the lock down and well, I carried on with life. For me an introvert and someone who meditate, I welcomed the quiet time. I was so craving what I termed down time from it all.But now I need some life now. Which is a return to voluntary work.

  9. Omg your style of writing is out of this world. True, funny enough I quit my job during this time to pursue plans that I’ve had for so long, and that seems to be going on so well. So at this point tHanks to Cov, I finally had time to execute. I do however feel for those depressed and had their lives negatively impacted. Great post thanks for sharing.

  10. This has been a chaotic time, but it turned out to be the best for me, part of it was because I was lucky enough not to troubled and my solitude loving self got its abode. This was such a great piece of writing, I’m happy I came across.

    • It seems like the pandemic has split people into two groups, and I’m grateful that I’m in the group that has enjoyed it thus far, as are you. Thanks for stopping by Christin!

    • Hahaha low-key one of the things I’m relishing during the pandemic. I’m going to ride this excuse for as long as I can, but my country’s doing a pretty good job at curbing the spread, so those days might be over. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Embracing positivity in this trying times is what we all need to do.Thank you for the inspiration. I can see your future in writing. Best of luck,neighbor.

  12. A brilliant article. With a lot of negativity looming around, it was nice to read your views on how one can embrace the changes with an open mind and a positive outlook.

  13. I enjoyed your post. As an extrovert I wasn’t a happy writer to be told I must stay inside because I’m elderly, When I broke my shoulder April 2, I was really not happy! I had family to bring me food and take me to the doctor and PT appointments and a FEW grocery runs. I still edited projects but couldn’t tutor in person. Now I’m pushing my editing and using Zoom meetings to network. I saved a lot of gas! 3 months to a tank! Keep writing!

    • Haha I’ve been saving a lot on gas too! Ouch, shucks to hear about your shoulder and hope all’s fine now. Keep being prolific yourself too. I hope to one day reach your level of output. Also, thanks for stopping by!

  14. As someone who was productive during our short lock-down (I wrote the first draft of a book) I embrace the idea of becoming who you really are under these sorts of conditions. That being said, where I am, a re-opened state, thousands of miles from any real threat, I actually miss the full lock-down. As an introvert, I liked not having to say ‘no’ to invitations and events – because there weren’t any! Now everything is back to normal (as long as you don’t want to travel interstate or internationally) it’s back to feeling dread every time an invitation comes.

    • Not having to say no is one of the most common joys that my fellow introverts have been telling me about this lockdown, so you definitely are among your people here, lol. I too loved not having to deal with social stuff because it wasn’t expected of me.

      But I guess the world has to function as it always has, and it’s back for us to go back to fitting awkwardly in it, lol.

      To be fair, the lockdowns was probably hell for the extroverts, so I guess all’s fair. Thanks for stopping by, Shannon!

  15. Stuart!!! You are shifting my perspective about this pandemic and stay-at-home thing.

    “We each have our own gifts to offer humanity, and it’s our job to find them, so that we can play our part in bettering the lives of the people around, and after us.”

    That is so inspiring and I want to live by your words.

    • Wow, that’s a pretty strong comment and that’s really going to bolster my mood for the rest of the day. Am grateful for you dropping by, and do know that you’ve bettered one other life today :)

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