Someone asked me recently – ‘how has COVID changed your life?’ I just smiled as I could not think of anything to answer. I haven’t really given a thought because I haven’t really had any time to pause. Both the first wave and the second wave left me devastated. Working in healthcare meant that customers and family members were trying to get hold of you as things went south.
During the second wave, for a period of three weeks, I slept at 3 AM or 4 AM in the morning and woke up at 8AM again to begin the day. Actual work took a back seat and days and nights were filled in helping patients secure a bed or find an ambulance in the dead of the night. During the darkest days, getting a bed was out of question and we were trying to secure basic paracetamol medicines or lifesaving oxygen. I met and spoke to some of the kindest souls during this period and knowing them has made my life infinitely better.
The beginning of the pandemic – March 2020 was entirely different. Nothing was known. Everyone was trying to figure the virus out. Luckily for me, I had packed away my kid to his grandparents’ house (seven hours from Mumbai and in a tiny cosy village) a day before the lockdown was announced. This actually had nothing to do with the pandemic or the lockdown, it was just a pure of stroke luck. With nothing known and people having to be restricted at home, it was a blessing to not have a frustrated 3 year old at home. There was also this unknown fear that I might not live to see my child again. Both husband and I fell sick to COVID and thankfully got better with moderate symptoms. The virus did knock us out but we were able to manage our condition from the comfort of our home. It was during this period that I had cracked a story for my company in Financial Times. Any PR person worth their salt knows what that means!
As the second wave subsided, I decided to move homes. As if the pandemic itself was not stressful enough, I decided to add to the stress. For long I have been trying to get away from Mumbai and go live in the outskirts. The pandemic kind of hastened that move. Post renovating and moving houses, I had to go on a school hunt to secure an admission for my kid. This was thankfully easy, because there were good educational institutes in the place that I moved to. At this point, I really felt blessed. I was living in a place that was less polluted, had more space and we had good school facilities. The move however meant that I was going to commute for a longer period to work (a whopping five hours up and down) and I was willing to trade this for everything else that I got.
I think without me realizing, the pandemic kind of made me take a few decisions which I may not have otherwise. Having lived those days filled with unending nightmare, I wanted my life to be less stressful. I wanted to spend more time with my family. And therefore came my next decision. I was done working in a company culture that demanded my attention 24×7. It was too much to live with and I really needed a break. They say opportunities come to those who wait and it really happened to me. I got in to place where I don’t have to be present 24×7 and where I have more time for myself during weekends. I was finally able to get some time for myself, some good quality time with my kid and my family.
So coming back to the question of how has the pandemic changed me? I am one of the lucky ones to not face a loss of job or face a pay cut. Like all families in India, we dealt with the loss of loved ones.
The biggest lesson for me is that nothing is permanent and absolutely nothing in the world is so important that it has to come at the cost of your mental and physical health & wellbeing. I think we all know this but simply don’t take steps to lead a better life for ourselves.
The pandemic made me put myself first, made me more mindful of the time I spend with my kid and how I spent that time. I was also putting the priorities of my family above everything else. Does this mean that I am not doing as much at work? No way. I love my work and I am the absolute best version of myself at work, but work now does not come at the cost of my inner peace.
I learnt to cycle during the pandemic. Once I had given my notice in my past assignment, I was at a mental space to give it a try. Just like that, I picked my niece’s cycle and before I knew, I was whizzing through the roads in a week’s time. It felt liberating that when you really want to do something, you will find a way to do it. There is no new normal and the pandemic is not going to go anywhere! I have just learnt to live my life in a way that it makes me happy and what a lesson it has been.
PS: If you haven’t already drawn up a will or filled nominee details in all your bank accounts, or have details of health insurance and life insurance handy, please do so right away. Maintain an excel sheet of every single asset you own including all investment details. Pandemic or not, if you suddenly die, your family will be scrambling to put this together and the banks won’t make it easy for them!
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