More than a year and a half since lockdown began, it’s often difficult to look back at the way life was and imagine the world returning to its former ways. When Covid-19 swarmed the country in March of 2020, I was 17-years-old and midway through my senior year of high school. Now, as a 19-year-old approaching my sophomore year of college, I’ve had an abundance of time to reflect on the ways Covid forced me to change – the good and the bad.
The pandemic proved to be an incredibly isolating time in my life. For the first time ever, I was truly alone. Gone were the days of laughing in my high school parking lot with friends of twelve years. Gone were the days of large family barbecues on Sunday nights. And gone were the days when I thought, after 12 years in the education system, I would finally get the high school graduation I had dreamed of since kindergarten. Lockdown forced everyone to experience loss in different ways; as a senior in high school I was forced to grow up without the coddling I had anticipated.
Being thrown into college in the middle of a pandemic was anything but easy. I was separated from my family for four long months and I never stepped foot in the classroom. It was lonely, and each day brought on a new challenge. But, through all of these hardships came a few personal triumphs. Yes, Covid-19 took a lot from me, and it took much more from an unlucky many. At the same time, there are perspectives and lessons learned from this pandemic that I never knew I would gain. I was able to take a very personal journey in the time I was forced to spend alone.
Something Covid taught me was something I had always struggled to learn – how to love myself. In a time when the world was, and I guess still is, riddled with disease and loss, you have to be thankful for what you have. I’ve always resented my body and I’ve always been a major overthinking, ridiculing the way I looked in the mirror and overanalyzing conversations I’ve had with others. The world being forced into lockdown really put things into perspective for me. How could I not appreciate my healthy body and the ability to use my voice when millions of others had their time cut short?
I’m not going to glorify my mental state – of course I still struggle with self-esteem from time to time. What’s different is that I can finally look at myself and appreciate me – quirks, stretchmarks, and all. When you’re left to spend so much time with yourself you have to learn to like who you are. No one wants to be around someone they hate – especially when that person is yourself.I have accepted that this is who I am, and I am lucky to be me. In the scheme of things, my jeans size won’t be the measure of my happiness, but hyper focusing on my insecurities surely lowers my quality of my life. So, left with far too much time to think, stand in the mirror, and reflect, I’ve arrived at a place of indifference. This is who I am and I am unapologetically me.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who gained new insights on life throughout this pandemic. Whether it was taking the ability to see friends and family for granted or wasting precious days focused on something as trivial as weight, Covid forced me to look at the bigger picture. My world was forever changed, in some ways for the worse, but in others for the better. And in such a trying time it would only be logical to focus on the good. So while the world struggled to land on its feet, I exercised my legs. I knew that when the time came for some normalcy to resume, I would refuse to waste time with my eyes fixated on a mirror and my head scrambling to accept my body. Though I can never get back the time that was lost to the pandemic, I sure can use the tools the alone time gave me to ensure I have a brighter, more fulfilling future.
Written by: Alexandra Cooperman