By Samantha Milowitz || Op-Eds Editor
Do you know that feeling when you’re sick? When you’re lying in bed, coughing, sneezing, whatever it is, and you feel absolutely useless? And as you can barely move, laying there in pain you think to yourself, I swear, when I get through this, I’m going to live my life differently.
We all make these kinds of promises in one situation or another. Every New Years’ Eve we resolve to be more active, kinder to our parents, and finally start that book we never got a chance to read. We say to ourselves, I’m going to start taking advantage of my life. I’m going to start appreciating things a little more. But, for most of us, these promises go mostly unfulfilled. Because once you’re no longer sick, you forget what it’s like to be sick. Or once the New Year starts, you remember that there’s going to be another New Year’s around the corner. So, we put off our resolutions and we say to ourselves, eh, next time.
This year, COVID-19 has been the event no one saw coming (even though we should have seen it coming). It has put on hold life as everyone knows it: weddings have been canceled, vacations put off, graduations never had. Many have not even been able to see their immediate families and have spent holidays and special occasions mimicking life together over Zoom and FaceTime. Now, every time I sign a birthday card or wish somebody well, I always end with, hopefully, I can squeeze you again soon!
We are all eagerly waiting for the future—a future when we can finally resume “normal” life again, when we can forget about the pandemic and finally take advantage of life. I have said to myself multiple times how much more I’m going to appreciate life once it resumes. I’ve made promises to myself that when the threat of COVID-19 finally subsides, I’m going to stop sitting inside and watching Netflix all the time, I’ll see my friends more often, I’ll take advantage of the opportunities presented to me.
We all are making these promises now as the vaccine makes its first appearance, providing us with hope that there is a future without face masks and hand sanitizer. But, for most of us, these promises will only last about a month before we are back to our old ways (I say this including myself as well). Because let’s be honest, once we forget about COVID, once it’s out of our sight, we’ll return to our old ways of living: mindlessly scrolling through our phones, standing close together to people in lines, never washing our hands, and simply going about our own lives.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this; promises are hard to keep, I know. But a theme in this pandemic has been society rushing to the end instead of mindfully thinking about why we’re in this situation to begin with. The pandemic did not have to be as bad for the United States as it was; many other countries were able to slow the spread of COVID by doing mass testing, providing leadership with strong beliefs in science, and shutting down indoor maskless events when they first appeared. The United States lost when it came to this pandemic because we as a country don’t know how to wait; we are always looking to the next thing, the future, the next task in the day, the next year. As a collective, we have trouble staying in the present and being patient.
So before we begin planning for what our country will look like post-pandemic, we first have to accept the fact that we played this wrong. All of us. We did not contribute to the end of this disease in ways we should have, and that’s why we have hundreds of thousands of deaths in this country. We have to come to terms with this so that we learn and prevent this from happening again. If we come to terms with that—if we recognize the immense loss this country has faced over this past year—then maybe we will live our lives differently post-pandemic. If we remember how it felt to be isolated from our families and friends, unable to hug or kiss loved ones for months and months, then maybe we will learn to treat things in our lives differently than before.
I know everyone wants to move on and forget about the pandemic, but we mustn’t. We need to take this loss and horror we have all mutually experienced and use it to better our relationships with each other. Everyone in the United States will know someone who lost someone due to this pandemic, who risked their lives every day for the fight, who got sick, who was put on a ventilator. This pain can bring us together to work and make our country a better place, a place where we are just happy to be able to walk outside and hang out with our friends. I hope that when COVID is over, we all promise to work to make the world a better place than it was when it started.
That’s my resolution anyway.
Senior Samantha Milowitz is the Op-Eds editor. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.