I don’t know about you all, but for me, January 2021 has been like breathing free in fresh air after taking off the mask that had been suffocating us through most of 2020. Yes, I know we are still wearing masks and we should be, for Covid-19 is still here and has mutated into more infectious variants.

But things just seem a bit lighter, less gloomy and glimpses of life becoming more pleasant are being experienced and enjoyed. Somehow, good things are already happening or whatever is happening just seems to be good, unlike last year, when it was all melancholic and stifling.

This could be just my optimism that is changing my way of looking at things, rather than things really having changed for the better. But I do believe that somehow, in some way, the year 2020 was jinxed, which is why everyone had problems for one reason or the other, with Covid-19 being the biggest one.

But isn’t it amazing that just our mental approach to things can change our circumstances? What may seem like the end of the road may actually be the beginning of a new path we will be making ourselves, taking us to new adventures far more exciting than a known destination we had wanted to reach. We don’t know what the future holds, but we hold the present in our hands. We can make what we have work out for us, if we stop brooding over what has passed and worrying about what is not here.

So what do we have here with us that we can make the most of? We have ourselves and our experiences to learn from. Many of us suffered, but survived a Covid-19 infection, the lucky ones managed to keep safe and didn’t catch this virus. We spent months social distancing at home, cut off physically from everyday life as we knew it. We studied, worked and connected online with the outside world. Hygiene became a way of life for us, masks and sanitisers a must-have when we went out.

Now we are wiser and different than what we were a year ago, at this time when the first coronavirus case had not arrived in Pakistan. Granted there are so many active cases now, and many people could not survive this infection, but we now know more about this virus than we did a year ago. We also know the ways to keep ourselves safe, how to stop the spread when someone falls sick and, thankfully, the first shipment of the coronavirus vaccine has arrived in the country.

We are now more informed, more prepared and more careful. And this is reason enough to be more optimistic and enjoy what we have. A lot of places have opened up — though the crucial SOPs are still not being followed by many despite warnings — we can now begin to pick up the pieces of the life we abandoned and start off again, albeit in a more conscious and cautious manner.

Most importantly, schools have reopened, and we can better focus on our studies through our physical presence inside our classes and the face-to-face interaction with teachers and other students. We know how to go about life and go back to school in the pandemic — the schools reopened earlier too, so we know what precautions to take.

We can control what we can control, which is our own part that we have to play now. And if all of us start looking at things more optimistically, feeling blessed that we can resume our academic life in a more normal fashion, we will feel more confident about going to school and less scared of Covid-19 than we were last year in October when we returned to in-person classes.

There would be some of you who may feel too lazy getting up so early and going to school, or the thought of falling ill due to the coronavirus might be scaring them. There are also many others who would be feeling elated at the prospect of spending the day with friends again and not interacting with a teacher through a screen. It is fine to feel any of these things, and if there are any fears, it is nothing to be shy about.

Discussions with parents and teachers about what you feel, what you think and the questions you have, are very important. It will help you both emotionally and mentally, plus, those around you will know what is going on inside you and can address your needs better. If one thing we have learned over the past year, it has been the need to communicate better and make our bonds with our family stronger. It helps the most to face any situation and lead a more fulfilling life.

Adjusting to a new normal, now that Covid-19 is here for some more time, should not be so difficult because we also adjusted to a life that no one could have ever dreamt of in their wildest dreams — the whole world coming to a standstill, giving up most things that mattered to us and not seeing our loved ones and friends for months. If we could sail through that, we can easily learn to go out into the world following all the SOPs recommended by health experts.

How successful the reopening of schools proves to be depends upon us, how successful we are in maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands. This pandemic has shown us how important team effort is — for all to remain safe, not a single person can afford to be careless. We have to wear masks not to safeguard ourselves only, but to protect others around us too.

This pandemic has given us the lesson that we had forgotten — that we are interdependent on each other, no one can afford to be selfish because our actions will affect others, like a domino effect and the reaction will somehow come back to hit us. And the effects of this human actions and interactions goes beyond people, it affects everything on this planet and the planet itself. And we have been seeing the results of our actions on our planet and its environment for a long time, but earlier it did not affect everyone so few people bothered to care about what they did.

Now we should look beyond our role in flattening the curve of the pandemic and also focus on what we have been doing to the environment. There are so many lessons that we learnt in the past year and, on the bases of those, we can do so much better in 2021.

Published in Dawn, Young World, February 6th, 2021

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