October 13

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You Are Now a Better Person Than BC (Before Coronavirus)

If you’re like most of us, the pandemic has been rough.

You might have lived through something your past self (even from a year ago) couldn’t have imagined.

And yet, here you are... better than before, I would argue. 

Let me explain why and how I think you're now a better person than BC (before Coronavirus). 

What the Icelandic volcano eruption taught me about how humans handle a crisis

Many years ago, I was in England for a workshop when the Icelandic volcano erupted (yeah, the one with the unpronounceable name, Eyjafjallajökull).

With all flights shut down, I was wondering how I could get back to mainland Europe in time for a class I was supposed to give. For a short time, a new normal developed as millions of travelers were stranded in places they hadn’t planned to stay.

Instead of driving me to the airport as planned, my English friends dropped me off at a faraway harbor so I could catch a ship. The next available ferry was leaving the following morning so I had to spend the night somewhere.

I decided to not bother with the pandemonium around me and just sleep on a bench in the harbor building. After hanging out and reading there for a while, a woman interrupted me, asking me where I was staying later on. Upon sharing my plan, she talked me into finding a hotel with her.

On our way downtown, we started talking to two other people… and soon, our ragtag group of four was walking from hotel to hotel, trying to find a place to stay when everything was booked out due to this crisis.

Eventually, and after venturing far out of the way, we found a total dive that still had two rooms available… which is how I once got to share a hotel room with someone I had never met before and have never met again.

What this experience taught me is that a crisis leads to one of two things: people either become better (they reach out to others and try to be as supportive as possible, as this woman had done with me, a total stranger) or they become worse.

An example of the latter is a couple I saw who opted for competition, not cooperation, and tried their utmost to hurry ahead of us in the search for hotel rooms.

For most people, I think that this pandemic has led to the former: they have learned how to cope with the pandemic in constructive ways and become better people in the process. 


How the pandemic has made people better

How, you may ask? Well, let me list the ways:

  • More vulnerability and authenticity: it has become more acceptable to be emotionally vulnerable and authentic with others. 
  • More sincerity instead of superficiality: the idea of a superficial professionalism has been replaced with sincere questions about how someone is doing and frank discussions about the challenges one has been facing.
  • More real talk instead of small talk: the question “how has the pandemic been for you?” has become an acceptable conversation starter, replacing surface-level small talk.
  • More humanity: people have seen their coworkers, bosses, and even TV anchors in their home environment as remote working became the norm which helps with seeing other people’s humanity, instead of the façade.
  • More feelings of unity: the pandemic has helped strengthen the sense of “we’re all in this together.”
  • More emotional closeness: despite all the social distancing, it seems to me like the walls between people have come down. It's much easier for me to feel close to strangers right away, given that we’ve all been dealing with the same situation.
  • More appreciation for people: talking to anybody (especially people I don't live with) now feels like an absolute treat.
  • More modesty instead of entitlement: having a lot of our normal comforts taken away has led many of us to be less entitled and more modest.

As the late Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl so beautifully put it: 

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” 

The pandemic has forced all of us to deal with a situation we couldn't change. But we've changed ourselves.

You've changed yourself.

For the better. 

Congratulations!

Want more support?

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