COVID, the best years of my life !

The loss of my freedom to go out, to travel, to meet my colleagues and friends should have been devastating for someone with my lifestyle.

a women in the background, blured people in front of her

After months of traveling to a different country each week in 2019 and early 2020, I also had to cancel my annual bucket-list family holiday extravaganza, booked for Hong Kong no less. From one day to the next, weekly dinner parties and outings turned to Zoom get-togethers, and office meetings were reduced to two dimensions with the social aspect of work entirely evaporating.

Initially, it was only for “two weeks” until “we flatten the curve”. Weeks turned to months and months to years. When we abruptly closed down our headquarters, hundreds of employees scrambled to set up home offices, many of us juggling with our kid’s homeschooling, internet connections stretched to the max.

And yet, it all somehow worked – at least for me. Let me just first say how grateful I am for not losing a loved one because of this virus. Apologies to those directly affected for attesting that these have been the best years of my life. Please let me explain.

For one, I landed in my house. I got the chance to see my daughters grow from the ages of 14 to 16 and from 10 to 12. I connected with them in ways that would have otherwise been impossible. Had it not been for the dreaded lockdowns, I would have been between flights, work, and dinners. On the rare times that I would have been available, sleepovers and play dates would have denied me any kind of quality time.

I bonded with my closest friends. We created a bubble who would meet for long walks, and, when the weather got better, for sidewalk take-out drinks. We did not even need to set an appointment. It was the same time and place every week. In the early evenings, back at home due to the curfews, we zoomed with our friends abroad and we felt closer to them then than we do now, that we are back to “normalcy”.

Even professionally, the experiment was successful. Again, I do realize that many people were deeply affected financially. I was not. During lockdowns, my first novel, Single Spark was published. Yes, the book does start with the outbreak of a virus and because it was written months before, when it eventually hit the bookstores in the spring of 2020, I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame as the author who predicted the coronavirus. Truth be told, the pandemic in my book is a side story to the much more sinister threat of climate change. In the context of this clear and present danger, covid and the resulting lockdowns are a minor nuisance.

Of course, I want to live in a world of freedom with no fear. I want to be happy. But, as Cecilia Stein, main character in my book, says “People aren’t happy. They don’t know how to be happy. Humans pursue happiness, but all they ever achieve is momentary satisfaction. They confuse satisfaction with happiness. We live in the most peaceful period in the western world and yet we’re still not happy. We have everything we could possibly need and more, but still it’s not enough. And when we get more, we find out that we didn’t really want it anyway. Then we start exploiting others. We humans are horrible beings.”

Covid and the lockdowns focused us on what’s important. We stopped looking for satisfaction and actually pursued happiness, perhaps for the first time in our lives. What I discovered is that happiness is not a dinner out, or a trip abroad. It is that one moment during each day that I make a meaningful connection with my loved ones. Nobody denied this to me during the lockdowns.

For me, the monstrosity is that 8 billion people are living their lives, ignorant of the perils the near future will bring and their own contribution to the problem. Had they remembered how bad things were before my generation or aware of how much worse they will get in the near future, they would have savored the moment.

Climate change will not destroy humanity. Humans will kill each other as they struggle to survive. When extreme climate events displace large populations, borders will close and wars will start, so that the luckier and more privileged can protect and sustain their way of life. We are on a course to destroy ourselves and no one seems to be doing anything about it.

So what if a few governments took advantage of Covid to limit our freedom. This pales in comparison to what lies ahead and what needs to be done to avoid it. Let us not be indifferent. Let’s change our lifestyle right now, to protect our planet and each other. Let us march to convince everyone to do the same. Even if, by doing so, we impose restrictions to ourselves, at least it will be at our own initiative. And if this leads us to become poorer financially, this will only be so that we can remain alive and rich spiritually.