In case you haven’t seen it mentioned yet today, we are now in the SECOND year of the pandemic. One full year – that’s the kind of longevity that would be considered impressive for New Years’ resolutions, not a virus.
I don’t want to fixate on the Coronavirus itself. I’m an eternal optimist, and firmly believe that we as a people are poised to beat this thing soon. However, it would be worth mentioning that I also believed this approximately 11.5 months ago, so take anything I say on this topic with a healthy dose of skepticism. But this conviction is helpful for my mental health and happiness, so I allow the emotional/hopeful side of my brain to override the rational/data-centric one for as long as I can in this matter.
What I am fascinated by are the ways in which people adapt to new and unexpected situations. How do they change their behaviors? What possessions do they acquire? Which habits do they keep, and let go off? It’s truly interesting to me. And so, on the anniversary of this inflection point in human history called the Coronavirus pandemic, I decided to review the acquisitions I made over the last year. As most humans – I made some great choices and some questionable ones. Read on to find out!
Pandemic Acquisitions – The Good
Houseplants: Acquiring indoor plants has truly been a transformational experience for our little family. Sure I had tried my hand at outdoor vegetable gardening a couple of times, but keeping plants alive indoors was a skill that I always feared was beyond me. To be quite honest, I bought my first plants during a plant sale at Flowers by Jerry simply as an act of supporting a beloved local business, fully expecting the plants to perish within a few weeks. Much to my delight, not only did they survive, but they flourished and outgrew the little pots I planted them in in a matter of months. Encouraged by my unexpected green thumbs (see how my delusional brain convinces me that these outcomes were a result of my skill and not the nursery’s high quality plants?), I continued buying more plants, and surprise, surprise – they kept on living. A year later, my house is filled with cheerful and cheeky plants. Words like propagation and drainage (words I originally associated with plumbing) are now thrown around the house with carefree abandon. Best of all, my son and I start most weekends by watering our much-loved plants and marveling at their growth – a wonderful new tradition and bonding ritual that I intend to keep going.
A treadmill: Before you jump to conclusions, let me state unequivocally that I am not an athletic person. I didn’t play any sports in school, and I’m not particularly interested in very many outdoor activities even now. However, as my age steadily heads into the late thirties, even I have to acknowledge the importance of staying fit and healthy. Also, things had reached a point where I could no longer justify paying monthly gym fees and not going there even once. So I decided to cancel the gym membership and get myself this modest and basic model of treadmill. Did the purchase of the treadmill change my habits and turn me into a fitness junkie who exercises seven days a week? Of course not. But I manage to get a couple of days of exercise every week, and the sight of the treadmill inspires me to increase my physical activity ever so slightly with each passing week. I consider that to be an incredible thing. Not impressed? Well, consider this. It’s better than the alternative of paying hefty gym fees and not even knowing where the entrance to the gym is located. At least this way, I get to not exercise for less money.
Babysitters: Early in the pandemic, I made the decision to disenroll my son from his wonderful preschool for purposes of maintaining social distancing. This decision also coincided with my employer instituting a long term virtual working policy for my team, so things couldn’t have worked out better. I could simultaneously work from home and spend quality time with my son – what’s not to love? (You already know where this is going, don’t you?) Suffice it to say, things did not work out as planned. I constantly worried about not doing justice to my son and my job. Three months into this experience, I decided that things had to change and that I needed to hire babysitters. And what a wonderful decision that turned out to be. Our babysitters did a great job of keeping my son occupied while I was afforded the luxury of focusing on my work during office hours. My son adored his new friends and spent many happy hours visiting parks, going for walks, reading books and playing to his heart’s content. We had two babysitters over the last year who have both become close friends of our family and played an instrumental role in improving our quality of life during a difficult time.
Pandemic Acquisitions – The Bad
Subscription to a food delivery service: Talk about a bad decision, leading to bad habits. I bought a subscription to a food delivery service because I didn’t want to pay the high delivery fees for ordering takeout food. I was only going to order takeout maybe once a week, to give myself a break from cooking on a busy weeknight. Well, once a week quickly turned into twice, thrice, four times, five times – until I was ordering takeout practically every day of the week. While convenient, this ended up being an unhealthy and expensive habit that took me away from an activity that I genuinely enjoyed – cooking.
A television: I don’t really know what I was thinking with this one. We are not a TV watching family. My son didn’t even know what a TV was until I decided that it was going to be a necessary device to get through the long hours we were certainly going to spend at home. It didn’t really pan out that way. The only times my son did watch cartoons ended up being on the iPad. My workload and responsibilities only increased during the pandemic, so I didn’t have time for any TV watching either. This device is currently gathering dust in our living room, taking up precious space that could have been used for other more satisfying purposes, like housing more plants.
Plane tickets: The plane tickets themselves were not a bad idea, since I purchased them well before the pandemic started. The mistake I made was with my decision on what to do with the tickets once it became clear that travel was out of the question. The airline gave me two options – a refund, or a travel voucher for the same amount that could be used any time in the future. Don’t ask me why, but I chose the latter. Perhaps it had something to do with pandemic-associated stress, or the disappointment of not getting to take a pre-planned trip, or the conviction that this was all going to end really soon and I would be back on a plane before I knew it. In any case, I now have a good chunk of cash that is locked into a travel voucher. Since I don’t anticipate undertaking any travel soon, that money is effectively frozen, losing value as time goes on. To think of all the good uses it could have been put to – investing, saving, donating, or making essential purchases like, I don’t know, houseplants?
So, what have I learnt from this exercise? I learned that it is possible to adapt to difficult situations remarkably well. That stress can make one do silly things. That asking for help is the most efficient way of solving problems too large to tackle by oneself. That seemingly simple decisions can lead to long term habit formation. That despite what people may say, I can always find room for one more houseplant. Most importantly, I learnt that regardless of the situation at hand, there are parts of your core personality that will always remain intact.
Have you made any weird, funny or uplifting acquisitions during the last year?