ATLANTA — It’s a simple question to ask, a difficult one to answer: “How has COVID-19 changed you?”
The world shut down two years ago this month, and it has changed so many of us in ways we never saw coming.
“It really changed how I see my family," said Bernard Jackson of Las Vegas.
“You don’t notice it on yourself," said Lee D. Harris. "But I think other people around you notice it.”
We talk about COVID all the time. We talk about masks, we talk about the vaccine. We talk about shutdowns and lockdowns. We talk about the world, and maybe we don’t talk enough about the very real ways the pandemic has changed all of us in the world.
For example, the dialogue on the outside has created fissures among families.
“My family won’t even talk to each other anymore because of all the political stuff," said Kellie Olsen of Atlanta.
“It has divided our family a bit," said Terry Repak of Seattle, "because I have sisters who refuse to get vaccinated. One’s a nurse.”
The isolation, even now as so much has reopened, caused many to question foundations and make bold decisions.
Take Angela Engram. For years, she had a job where she traveled all the time.
“Out of a month, three weeks, I was gone," Engram said. "So, what it has done for me is made me want to spend more family time."
Last December, she decided to retire.
"Whatever comes next," Engram said, "I’m going to live my life, enjoy my family as I can, not be tethered to a laptop, and not going to be in the friendly skies all the time. I have seven grandkids, another on the way. I don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. But what I know is what the last three years have brought. It just pushed me emotionally, just as far as I wanted to be pushed.”
Apparently, the pandemic pushed a lot of us.
“When the world shut down, it scared me," said John Harley Ochoa. "I thought of all the things I didn’t take advantage of. Sometimes I cried, sometimes I didn’t, sometimes I just got really angry.”
Now, he says, he’s taking advantage and doing what he always wanted: boxing.
“I’m 44 years old and boxing," Ochoa said. "When things were lifted, I took advantage of the things I never took advantage of. I never want to go through it again.”
Life-changing epiphanies, of course, didn’t happen to everyone. But it’s remarkable how this pandemic that popped into all our lives two years ago has irreversibly changed the world as well as so many in it.