Question — has the COVID-19 pandemic pushed you to rethink your priorities in life? Well, you aren’t alone.
Meet my uncle: a successful, good-hearted, happily married man well into his 50s. In August 2020, he suffered from a life-threatening heart attack. In the middle of a stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila, we found out that he needed a quintuple heart bypass. Days before the surgery, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, he tested positive for COVID-19.
Needless to say, their medical bills racked up in no time, reaching over a million pesos in mere days. I couldn’t help but wonder — what if that happened to me? My parents? My future husband? My tita was trying so hard to be strong for my tito, but hearing a young wife sob for fear of her husband’s life is a sound I’ll never forget.
I shuddered at the thought. There was no way my current savings could have handled an emergency like that. Am I even #adulting the way I’m supposed to? How do I balance being equipped for real-life emergencies, and still set aside enough to really enjoy life?
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I don’t have all the answers, but if you’re a 20-slash-30-something (semi-)adult like me, let’s figure this out together. Here’s how the pandemic made me rethink my priorities in life, and how it has encouraged me to think of better ways of living.
1. #YOLO isn’t just about thrills
YOLO — you only live once. Adventurous millennials proudly carry this expression around like an amulet. But no, YOLO doesn’t make you invincible nor does it waive your adult responsibilities. In fact, “YOLO” has been flashing in my head ever since the COVID-19 outbreak was officially declared a pandemic. Who would have ever thought that a pandemic would happen in our lifetime when it has skipped generations? Why now?
Folks nowadays approach the idea of “YOLO” with a more carefree spirit; yet we know fully well that we can still live our lives to the fullest even with a more careful, mindful state of being.
I’m not saying you should limit yourself and overthink every step you take in life. But since we do only live once, instead of risking it all, perhaps we should take calculated risks. Instead of seeing where the wind takes us, perhaps we should take charge at the helm and try to drift our paths in a direction that nurtures us.
Strike a balance; YOLO responsibly
Priorities in life shift as we grow older and wiser — trust your gut; take charge. Say yes to opportunities, but don’t beat yourself up when you want to say no. Strive to strike a balance. True YOLO is to push limits but also know when to take a step back if it feels right. It’s healthy to shuffle your priorities in life to fit your definition of a fulfilling one.
YOLO isn’t only about thrills and being game for everything and anything; the idea is to make choices you’ll proudly own up to 20, 40, 60 years from now. Remember, you only live once. What do you choose to do with your limited time?
2. It’s our nature to keep wanting
Months in quarantine really allowed me to go back to the basics. Now I know why time in isolation or quiet meditation benefits a lot of people. Being away from the outside world and all of its hullabaloo allowed me to peel back the layers of complicated, daily living and haphazard decision-making. This may sound like I’m romanticising COVID-19 quarantine, but hear me out.
Several factors played key roles in my quarantine reflection: Being at home with my family; time away from my significant other and close friends; exploring new interests; and working non-stop even in the midst of a life-changing pandemic.
It was such a crazy time to be alive, but I was eventually overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and content. It was clear: I was thankful to be alive. I was grateful to live in a home that I loved being quarantined in. At the end of the day, I had a solid set of people I held dear, and this was enough to keep my hopes and spirits high. While many found themselves without work, our bosses were trying their best to look out for everyone. Somehow life was still good even if the world was unravelling at the seams.
Always think twice
With quarantine came other discoveries. I couldn’t go out and drink expensive coffee I could do without in the first place. Spontaneous mall and bazaar buys that only brought short-term joy were out of my reach. There was no need to go to any gym to stay fit! Then it hit me: Most of the stuff that gobbled up my savings were wants, not needs. But it’s in our makeup as mere mortals to keep on wanting things — things we don’t have and things we can’t get enough of.
From this stems so many cheesy life lessons that are still worth repeating when you’re setting your priorities in life straight. For purchases and investments, think twice, thrice, four times before anything else! Sleep on it if you have to; think about how badly you need something and how it will impact your quality of life.
When it comes to work and business, think twice about your next step — whether it be pushing forward or staying put. Often, you can never go back to where you were exactly, so make any move worthwhile.
Set personal growth and relationships as a top priority in life, because at the end of the day, these are things you come home to. If you’re stuck with them, say, in quarantine, will you radiate contentment or will you feel restless, always wanting more?
3. Even the healthiest people get sick
A wake-up call that hit everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic: Even the healthiest people get sick.
While COVID-19 came unexpectedly, we’re well aware of other illnesses we might catch. Did you know that in the Philippines, there are three top life-threatening illnesses that loom above our heads? Cancer, stroke, and heart attacks — one of which took my family by surprise. My uncle was as healthy as a horse before his heart attack in 2020. We suspect this greatly affected his susceptibility to COVID-19.
I could tell you more: about a colleague’s daughter who seemed fit the past years but succumbed suddenly to cancer in September. She had barely stepped into her 40s. In February, I attended a young doctor’s wake. He was only 32 years old when an aneurysm rendered him unconscious in a fast food joint, of all places. We often remember a fellow photographer who passed away at the tender age of 24. A heart attack took him swiftly one random night out. Our bodies may be capable of many things, but immortal they are not.
Protect yourself (and your loved ones) while you’re still in the pink of health
Perhaps nothing reminds people about good health and impeccable hygiene more than a pandemic that has claimed over a million lives and made economies crash. If you’re healthy, great; protect yourself further with health plans and habits that will allow you to live your best life. And don’t think that you’re too young to start. There’s no such thing.
Start looking out for yourself and your loved ones’ peace of mind while you’re at the peak of health. Exercise regularly. Eat more greens. Cut back on sugar. Look into reliable health plans. Small steps go a long way on your fitness journey.
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4. There is still clarity in uncertainty
Confession — I get easily disappointed when things don’t go as planned. My friends know not to bug me with last-minute invitations because I’m more likely to pass. I get stressed when visitors show up unannounced. I can be spontaneous, but only with people I’m 100% comfortable with. As early as Wednesday, I would have already ironed out my weekend plans; and I get slightly irked if my personal schedule gets reshuffled. (Weird, I know.)
Imagine my dismay when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and cancelled 2020. Least to say, it was emotionally and mentally draining… but I had to deal with it.
Work on your resilience quotient
They say the one constant thing in life is change, and that uncertainty is part of the human condition. While you can be surrounded by a shaky reality for most of your life, you still control the way you deal with things. Enter your resilience quotient.
We’re often told about our IQ and EQ, but have you ever stopped to check on your RQ? Your resilience quotient pertains to your ability to deal with disasters and face the ugly parts of life head-on. It should be an integral part of our formative years, but most of us never hear about it until we’re catapulted, ready or not, into #adulting.
Do yourself a favour and really think about your priorities in life with the openness to accept that things might not go your way all the time. Instead of depending on an unhealthy bubble of toxic positivity, develop your resilience quotient. Embrace the fact that you’ll come out stronger if you find clarity in uncertainty. Even during uncertain times, you can still be sure of who you are; of what you want out of life; of how you picture yourself years from now.
For as long as you’re sure of what you want, you can set clear goals that will get you to your destination. Just don’t forget that the journey is just as important!
Brought to you by AXA Philippines. Featured image credit: Flynn Fan