They say the only constant thing in life is change. Many of the times, this change meets us unaware. Unprepared even. You will be busy at your workplace doing the Monday to Friday routine and a simple phone call change everything. COVID-19 has been that phone call to me and I believe to majority of the people I have interacted with. That one phone call that completely changes your life. While it brought me so many moments of self-doubt, there was a lot of self-improvements and lots of blessings. More of a blessing in disguise.

I do not like routine. I do not like it when I wake up and do the same things every day for a long period of time. But when school closes and you are forced to stay at home, you have very few options, if any. You are up by 8:00 am, prepare breakfast for the whole family, sit on your phone perusing through social media seeing how people are trying to kill boredom, before you realize it, it’s afternoon. You hurry to prepare lunch, blink, or laze around (depending on what is preoccupying you) and supper is ready.

The lockdown was a chance to learn one or two slang words which I will use like the good student I am. During the months I was home, my mental health was the pits. I would constantly be in a state of restlessness. Countries worldwide started giving attention to mental health. There was an increase in formed initiatives to deal with mental health something that wasn’t given much attention before. Because let’s agree, the pandemic was a mentally draining cloud. It is not every day that you wake up to a pandemic. Nor is it a norm to stay indoors for more than a month and when you finally get a chance to feed your eyes with the outside, you have to always be in a mask. It’s not routine. Ask the 21st-century babies. None has lived through a pandemic, some not even an endemic. So, to come to one and suddenly cut their social interactions, their daily activities, school or work was a mentally and emotionally draining moment. Looking back at everything now, we should have a standing ovation for ourselves. Look at me! Look at us!

COVID-19 affected and is continuing to affect many sectors. Of key are the health and economic sectors. Health is vital for the sustainability of life. Health-seeking behavior got affected negatively. The reasoning behind this being the fear to catch COVID-19 at the health centers. Soon enough, the health centers reached their threshold, and a need to convert other facilities for example schools to quarantine centers arose. I value the community and more so their views. I think a lot of problems can be solved if the thoughts and ideas of the community at the grass-root levels are heard. Being at home with not much to do, I would listen to what people think about COVID-19 and what was being said in the media. How does the old grandmother who lives next door by herself interpret this pandemic?

COVID-19 affected us directly and indirectly. Directly because so many people have lost their lives countrywide and worldwide. People’s pockets have been affected directly. A company cannot afford 30 employees, 15 are laid off. Recreational spaces were closed down. I mean, it is a difficult time for most people financially if not all. Did we all notice the increase in gender-based violence? How quickly the peak of teenage pregnancies heightened up? The indirect effect.

The Pandemic has been life-changing for me. I have grown and when I say grown, please do believe me. Major growth. My time locked up at home unlocked aspects which though I might have been aware of, I doubt if I could have gathered the courage to unlock them was it not for the pandemic. I moved from a ten to a seventy. From being someone who took time for granted to one who endeavors to account for every minute spent. I learnt to sit at big online meetings, brainstorming sessions, how to be on my toes, and think fast because any moment I could hear, “What do you think about this?”. Please understand that this is big for me. Usually, I am the kind of person who needs time to think. I want space to craft my response. I don’t do well in vivas. You want to ask me a question and stare at me expecting me to think within a microsecond and respond? To some things, yes but to things that need some degree of intellectual knowledge, you will need to be a little bit patient with me Sir. But the more I attended such meetings the more I got more confidence in sitting at tables with big people if I may call them that.

I created time to acquire writing skills here and there. I did some photography shoots of myself. Ahh! I loved that. I can vividly remember getting off the bathroom every night after dinner and telling myself, “You don’t have to dress immediately, lose that towel, let the water dry off your body by itself, check yourself out in the mirror, notice that black mark on your back? Dance a little while naked, wait which song do we dance to today? Wow, fantastic. Okay, you can now oil your body, get into your pajamas and catch some sleep.” The role this played in me knowing and loving my body is so big. COVID-19 gave me that body confidence. It dawned on me that innovative ideas lives within us. Honestly, I have never been as proud of people’s capabilities as I was during the pandemic. Students coming up with ventilators, hand washing machines, and applications that could almost do anything. Innovations that maybe without the pandemic, would be nothing else than a single grain in bare sand with no hope of sprouting.

I believe COVID-19 created grounds for the innovations. I want to believe that if there is an era where technology sprouted and was used the most was during the pandemic. Applications we have never heard of let alone used, we can now easily manage them. Pre COVID-19, I hadn’t used TikTok and zoom but now? I can manage a whole zoom meeting by myself. I know the settings like I know the palm of my hands. Even the older generation took interest in social media platforms. For some, we may say boredom was the main contributor of this but if you ask me, I think it’s beautiful. A country where people of different ages embrace technology because truth be told we are revolutionizing. Most things are taking the online route. We need to be equipped even if it’s slightly, on how to go about technology. Everyone needs to be on board. Don’t get me wrong. This is not to force technology down everyone’s throat. I admire people who have traditional aspects of doing things with minimal technology. I think it’s attractive. I for once, do not fancy reading e-books. I want a physical book, a hard copy. I want to insert my bookmark on page seventy-seven. There’s something about flipping the pages one by one with my fingers. Something that I can’t really explain but it excites me. I want to go into a library with wooden bookshelves, feel the silence, only see people deeply engaged in their reads. I want to be in the same reading room with that boy who wears spectacles and has four old books that I can literally smell old age from. I want to spend a few seconds thinking to myself, “He must be a nerd, he is probably reading about how dinosaurs became extinct.” That, I cannot experience at the comfort of my home reading an e-book. That is not to say I do not embrace technology. Being away from so many of my friends, social media brought us together. Come to think of it social media plays a huge role in networking.

Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has been life-changing. I want one thing, for me to appreciate every second I live through the pandemic, pick as many lessons as I can, allow myself to feel the negatives that come with it, and along the way heighten my personality in an admirable manner. I cannot tell when we will be clean from the pandemic and honestly even scientists can only speculate. As we wait, let’s sail through!

By Laura Nyiha

Kenyatta University