When you hear COVID-19 and pandemic, the thought of blessings does not come to mind. What comes to mind is death, job loss, unpaid leave, pay cuts, economy going down, 38’ fever, sanitize, social distance and I can go on and on. Nothing rosy about a virus and pandemic. All you see is despair and everything that has gone wrong. I was taught to see opportunities in disasters. Life in itself has so many unfortunate circumstances but as they say, we make lemonade out of it. This pandemic has thrown all rules we once followed out the window. People are off their normal routine, and they’re liking it. They have embraced working remotely. The artificial fears and barriers people had before – “We can’t do this,” “That would never be an option,” “We will have to approach this slowly” – are all gone. There are five areas that COVID-19 has particularly blessed.
Family dynamics have changed during this pandemic period. The fact that the majority of people have been working from home and there is movement restriction as a result of the curfew, we are getting to spend more time with our families. When the pandemic started and the restrictions were announced, the party people could not imagine how they can be in the house as early as 7 pm but this meant that they can now come home before the children are asleep as was the case before. This has however affected some marriages which were founded on seeing each other in the evening for a few hours then sleep. The longest they stayed together was during the weekends but even that a big part was spent outside entertaining one another, hence they don’t know how to keep conversations going for 7 days in a row now that they are forced to stay at home. I hope counselling business is booming during this time to address such issues if not then lawyers are smiling due to the increased divorce cases. God forbid. In a recent study, four in five parents believed the coronavirus lockdown has brought their family closer together. A poll of 2,000 adults found the extra time at home, without the distraction of school and extra-curricular activities, gives mums, dads and kids more of an opportunity to bond. Just under two thirds (62 per cent) believe the crisis has made their children more 'community-minded', with 53 per cent going out of their way to help friends and neighbours. Despite the dreadful toll the pandemic is taking, people are becoming more thankful for the small pleasures in life such as family.
I can’t remember ever scrubbing my hands and face this hard and drinking a lot of ginger, lemon, garlic and turmeric before this pandemic. Today this is the norm; you leave the house with some small bottle of sanitizer and mask, every shop you visit there is a tank of water and soap placed outside and is compulsory for you to wash your hands before getting in and when you get back home you dump all the clothes and shower immediately. A short dash out of the house to pick groceries will end up with a thirty-minute bath when you are back. The stress of coming back to these showers makes people not go out in the first place. The result of this is that we have fewer infections. Can you imagine the solution to a lot of our health issues is, sanitizing, washing hands, masking and social distancing? How many times have you been ill in the last six months? Am sure its once or twice and could be the first initial days of the pandemic when anything felt like a coronavirus symptom. I remember sneezing or coughing in public was a taboo. People looked at you with all manner of judgement as if you were the patient zero. You would cough a little bit and immediately rush to drink a whole 10 litres of “dawa” (ginger, turmeric and lemon). This pandemic has led to reduced hospital volume and could be related to how we manage stress. Life has slowed down, and this may reduce the effects of stress for many. Increased anxiety and more smoking and drinking would have the opposite effect and increase the risk of hospitalization which has drastically reduced during this period with bars closed and nowhere to go plus you are working from the comfort of your home.
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
With reduced income, it means you have to cut down on a lot of things however with the pandemic that reduced income wasn’t the only reason for reduction of expenditure but also the fact that the options to spend were drastically reduced. For example, if you were used to travelling a lot or enjoyed the Nairobi nightlife every weekend, this was brought to a standstill with curfews and cancellation of air travel. People started working from home so that meant the cash spent on fuel or commute was now not being used. With kids indefinitely at home, pizza nights were scaled down to ensure we can afford a decent meal every day as long us Prof. Magoha still insists that schools reopen in January 2021. So with the reduction in income as well as the minimal spending options, many have been able to survive the rough waters of this pandemic. I am pleasantly surprised that I have been able to survive for the last 6 months all thanks to COVID-19 and thinking without the box.
Savings and Investment
The term investment is one that I had to explain several times to a few friends before COVID-19 for them to understand. Money market funds, government bonds etc. were foreign concepts that were only heard in the business section of 9 pm local news. Majority of us lived the life of YOLO before the pandemic and setting money aside for the future was not something we thought about. Now I don’t even need to explain investment anymore. One of them said, “I always postponed this thing of investing till now and I have realized I was actually living payroll to payroll.” The pandemic has forced the majority of people to learn the hard way the need to save and invest for a stress-free future. We are seeing a trend where people are paying themselves first before thinking of spending. They say you never value something till you lose it. We are all valuing saving and investing more during this time because we don’t have money flowing as it used to. Hoping this savings and investment culture continues post-COVID. Time will tell but am liking it so far.
Learning New Skills
With more time on our hands now that we are home the whole day and nowhere to go, it meant starting new hobbies or finishing that book that you kept putting off much easier. For me, it has been starting a blog and writing about my experiences for the world to read. I have also been able to learn more about product design and web development. If you’re stuck at home as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, then chances are you’re probably on the lookout for something to do. While jigsaw puzzles and video games can be a fun way to get through a few hours of the day, there are several other ways to pass your time in lockdown more effectively. Whether it be a new skill you have always wanted to learn or an old hobby you’ve been meaning to pick back up again, now is the perfect time to busy yourself and make your time in self-isolation worthwhile. My isolation has been worthwhile so far and I have learnt new tricks that have become treasures.
It might be the furthest thing from your mind right now, but remember that times of challenge are our best growth opportunities. We’re all being pushed to learn and do things differently now. Creating opportunities — even very small ones — can go a long way toward helping us move forward. As it is said, tough moments don’t last but tough people do. We are going to overcome this and look back with a smile on how far we have grown. Let's meet on the other side.