Simple. That’s one way you could sum up the entirety of the 2010s. People were beginning to recover from the Great Recession, and life was becoming great again. Normalcy became normal! The upper and middle classes were living comfortable lives. Me and my friends grew up with toys, food, and comfortable living spaces. We knew only of a life with cars for our parents to drive, a school with the resources we needed to thrive, and clean clothes. We talked about how our vacations went, the newest smartphone our siblings were buying, and the cool new action figure that we were going to get. We lived in complete isolation from the reality of the rest of the world, oblivious to the fact that there were millions around planet Earth that were struggling to earn enough money to put food on the table and provide some sort of education for their children. My life was a mere fantasy to kids in countries across the globe, and I did not know it. I thought of food and water as disposable and toys as fundamental. I had not shown any realization or acknowledgment of my place in the world. But when disaster struck, things changed.
COVID-19 hit like a bomb. There was no warning, no caution—just a sudden halt as the world came to a stop. I was terrified. It didn’t take long until the worst of the pandemic was realized: shocking coverage of the toll the virus was taking on families and healthcare workers and disturbing statistics on the state of the economy. Every day, something got worse: more deaths, higher unemployment, a rising number of reported cases. Newspapers and websites were flooded with horrific images and devastating headlines. For the first time, I was being exposed to the harsh reality of the world. First, I saw the poorest, with barely enough to live a stable life. Then, I saw the saddest, who had lost so much. I reflected: what did I have? I had a wonderful and healthy family, a comfortable house where I was safe from the weather, two cars to safely arrive at a destination, and access to an amazing education. But then, I realized. I realized that even in a global pandemic, I still had the same privileges: a car, house, family, and education. Opening my eyes to the world around me, I had finally come to an understanding that I was not living in the normal. I was living in a privileged family. And everything that I had once thought of as fundamental facets of life were in actuality advantages of living in my household. My sudden exposure to the outside had instantaneously transformed my view of my life and privilege.
As lockdown became the new norm, I began to form new habits and customs. One of them is my daily silent contemplation, during which I like to reflect upon my day and focus on what I’m appreciative of. I remember my first silent reflection: I sat down on the floor, legs crossed, and let my brain do the rest. I thought about how I was so fortunate to have a place to sleep, lots of food, and such a loving family. When I opened my eyes again, I was strangely filled with guilt. I realized I had taken for granted what others called novelties before the pandemic. At that very moment I realized that no matter what I had thought before, I had never really appreciated my life and what it had to offer!
Today, I’ve realized that it wasn’t just me who took so many things for granted. I’ve found that many of my friends and family members show little to no recognition of their privileges such as access to healthy food or a comfortable place to sleep. Though many are unaware that at times they show thanklessness for life, I’ve realized that as a community, we can become better, more grateful people who are appreciative of our privileges. This more mindful attitude can spread and make others feel more empathetic or understanding in all sorts of situations. In the end, we can all become better and more complete people when we learn to appreciate and show gratitude.