It’s taken two months but I think I’ve finally exhausted all my ‘what day is it?’ jokes. This is a significant moment for a writer who disguises life truths in professional shade throwing. 

You see, my transition from a city-slicker who’s daily productivity is measured in step counts and online check-ins, to a self soothing, meal prepping, plant nurturing thirty something who actually calls her mother back has been shocking (even for my mother). After 60+ days in lockdown, I’ve come to realise that there wasn’t a world in which I was going to stop unless I was forced to. And that is what the pandemic did—it interrupted and schooled us in valuable learnings to take forward. Here are my life lessons from a train wreck we call 2020.

FOMO can be conquered

As a good millennial whose favourite food group is social media, I am constantly looking at someone else’s feed and thinking: Should I be on vacation? Should I be more productive? Why am I not invited to the party? Why can’t my butt look like that?

With the pandemic, this toxic cycle of self comparison has moved into the background, the fear of missing out has become the reality of missing out. ROMO means no #vacay, no brunch, music festivals and no birthday parties. Your friends aren’t having fun without you, instead they’re spending their days wiping down groceries. Choice paralysis has left the building and people world over are capitalising on this freedom. From cooking projects and home DIYs to growing vegetables from waste and getting creative with kids, this pause is redefining our priorities and actually bringing us closer to our true selves. 

One of my favourite authors, Alain De Botton celebrates the absence of FOMO with the abundant rise in vulnerability,”In a way, the pretences of the normal world we’ve put up and suffer from have gone. It’s all of us fragile, suffering, vulnerable humans trying to hold it together with sometimes frightening moments,”

Like the handshake, this era doesn’t necessarily spell the end of FOMO but it offers us a window to escape it for good. Now is the time to ask yourself, who are you when you’re not going out?

Community is key

It has taken six metres of mandated distance for us to connect with each other. Stories of gurdwaras serving food to the hungry, a Bollywood celebrity ferrying migrants to their hometowns, masked residents feeding stray animals and countless instances of charity, are scenes very different from those we saw just weeks before lockdown. 

People across the world came together to celebrate the graduating class of 2020, inspiring students with messages of hope (Obama’s commencement speech still brings a tear to my eye). A destination wedding in Italy may not be possible but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of couples tying the knot virtually, amidst family and friends. A popular Indian matchmaking website recently launched wedding from home services, complete with a digital sangeet ceremony! 

On a more personal level, I know my neighbours better now, including the old couple who stay across the road and yell out the news every evening. For the first time we’re not just liking our friends’ posts, but actually talking to them. After years of being bot-like, we’re re-learning what it means to be human again.

I can live on less than I thought I could 

Obviously, the first logical response to feeling stir-crazy was to Marie Kondo the whole house. I felt around the depths of my wardrobe, dusty bookshelves and even the embarrassing souvenir shot glass collection, to retain what ‘sparks joy’. But it wasn’t until the second month of social isolation that I discovered that my habits also needed KonMari. I was surviving, nay thriving without three trips to the grocery store every week and blowouts that are a fourth of my take home. Going back to the basics has greatly healed my bank account. Turns out I was the virus all along. My latte didn’t need foam art, generic wine was drinkable and my relationships were healthy despite the complete lack of happy hours IRL. I didn’t need a platinum gym membership to workout, spa appointments for glowing skin or takeout to feed me. Heck, I didn’t even need to go to an office to be productive! 

It has taken a global pandemic for me to understand why my grandmother would scrunch her face over dinner at a restaurant and say, “I can make that at home.” Guess what grandma, we can make it even better!

As the world slowly wakes to the new normal, I find myself starting the day with a glass of warm water. Ignoring the GOOP approved superpowder, I have mine with a teaspoon of locally sourced haldi which turns the water to a cheery yellow. It may be just another day in social isolation, but I can see clearly now, knowing there will always be sunshine in my hands.