A note to our readers
Two years ago today, the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic. A week before that, this newsletter was born. Since then, we’ve been on a journey together – braving waves of infections, enduring illness and loss, mastering the art of protecting ourselves, and continually learning about a cunning virus that seemed to surprise experts at every turn.
As the Omicron wave subsides in the US – and the WHO begins to explore how and when to end the global pandemic – we are also making changes to this newsletter.
Starting next week, we’ll be moving to a less frequent schedule, landing in your inbox on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We can step in more frequently when there’s big virus news you need, or even revert to a daily schedule if needed. We’ll also use this change to cover the most important topics in more depth, bringing you insights from the Times newsroom and beyond.
Before diving into today’s newsletter, I want to thank everyone who has followed us over the past two years – and express special gratitude to those who wrote to share their experiences. I look forward to navigating with you through the next phase of the pandemic.
Recovering time lost to Covid
Looking back on the past two years can trigger feelings of angst about missed opportunities, derailed life paths, and wasted time. What if there was a way to get some of that time back?
To get an idea of the time lost during the pandemic and what we can do about it, I spoke to Tim Urban, the author of the blog “Wait But Why”. Our conversation has been condensed and slightly edited.
How to watch lost time during the pandemic?
People are more resigned to having wasted time with Covid than they should be. People not only underestimate how much they can make up, but they can also form a habit that multiplies the time they have left with the people they love — and doing the things they love.
How? ‘Or’ What?
If you take a calculator and calculate the number of quality days or hours you spend with the people you love, that can seem like a pretty depressing number.
So, for example, I realized that living in a different city than my parents, I was probably spending 10 quality days with them a year. Then I thought about the fact that all my childhood I was with them almost every day. So I realized that 95% of the days I spent with my parents in my life happened in my childhood. If I spend another 10 days a year with them, that’s about another year in total – over several decades.
There’s nothing I can do about human lifespan, but the cool thing about this number – whether it’s time spent with friends, family, or a relationship – is that you you can change it, by huge multiples, simply by changing the order of your priorities.
How it works?
So, for example, if you see your parents 10 days a year, you can do 20, whether that means coming home a few extra weekends or spending an extra week with them during the summer. You can also do 10 in 100 if you want to make a big change and move to the same city.
How should people think about missed opportunities during the pandemic?
When we look back on our life, we often see a branching tree of lives we could have lived, paths we could have taken, things we missed. And we often wallow in regret for these things. But you can also take the exact same reasoning and apply it in the future. What awaits you is a lush tree of open life paths. They are all yours right now and there is nothing stopping you from going in one of these directions.
So it’s so easy to view the pandemic as a collection of missed opportunities. But the further you go into the future, the less important these two years will become. If you can use the pandemic like a splash of cold water or a slap in the face, and choose your life path and make better decisions for the future, you can look back and say, thanks to those two years, my life has took a better course.
What did you lose during the pandemic and how did you try to get it back?
My grandmother is 96 years old, but she is still here. It’s great to talk to her and she has great stories and a lot of wisdom. And during the pandemic, I couldn’t really see her because she was in confinement and because of her age, it was too dangerous.
But those wasted moments actually pushed me to do something I’ve wanted for a long time. I brought her a recorder and recorded a bunch of stories from her. This is exactly the kind of thing you want to do but aren’t doing. So, in some ways, making up for lost time during the pandemic can actually prompt you to make some really big decisions that you might have had to make a long time ago.
What you missed and how you’re trying to get it back
We asked readers about the opportunities they’ve missed because of the pandemic. Your responses have been particularly touching this week. Thanks to everyone who wrote.
“I ended a relationship just before the pandemic and didn’t feel comfortable dating during it, given the health issues. Covid effectively wiped two years off my declining fertility clock, j so have now started the process of pursuing single motherhood using donor sperm and artificial insemination. This is not the vision I had for my future, but I cannot afford to wait. With the support of my family and friends, I’m going to make it work. —Sarah, Boston
“My father passed away in October 2019. In February 2020, I made a plan to honor his love of France and my love for him by walking alone from Le Havre. hundreds of kilometers south of the Mediterranean. I bought the plane ticket in 2020, canceled it and repurchased it several times. I prepared my body for travel for two years by running and doing several solo hikes. My French is much better than it was in 2020 because I practiced listening to French podcasts. Now, finally, I embark on this journey. A ziplock from my father’s ashes is hidden in my backpack. I’ll scatter them on French soil when I get to the right place, where he might have loved, if he could still share a picnic with me. — Cri LeFavour, Provincetown, Mass.
“My husband and I had just started an immigration process in Canada when the pandemic started. The process was getting longer and longer. Now we have no idea what is going to happen and I have even started to see and feel Canada a little further away from us each day. But I learned new things and I am preparing to have better job opportunities. I just started a software development boot camp a few weeks ago. I used the pandemic as a great opportunity to get back to things that I love and that will also increase my chances of having a better future in whatever country I end up living in. — Erendira CB, Mexico
“The pandemic has stolen memories that I could have made with my father. For two years we skipped our annual visit and ski trip to protect him (he’s 78). In February, we showed up with gloves, hats and masks. We strapped on skis and raced down the mountain together, leaving the years of pandemic worry behind us. — Susan H., San Jose, CA.
“We were in the process of forming a much needed friendship with another neighboring couple. Due to the pandemic, we had no contact for two years except for occasional text messages and brief greetings when we passed by taking out the trash or receiving mail. We are trying to re-establish contact. I texted how much I had missed our interactions and asked if they were still up for socializing in our pandemic world. In response they invited us for a drink – the first of what I hope will be many new contacts. — Elaine Turner, Denver, Colo.
“I missed two years of my 20s. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to ‘get them back’. I’ll never be that age again, that period of life. So instead of thinking about where I “should be”, I focus on what I want to do with the time I have. Now I teach English in Japan. Afterwards I want to ride a motorcycle in Vietnam and learn to surf in Bali. I’ve decided that I can’t wait for the pandemic to end. I can’t wait for the world. I’m going to live my life while I still have time. — Luke, Okayama, Japan
“The love of my life had a wonderful trip planned for both of us, working through some of his health issues and then Covid hit. While we waited and waited for the trip to be safe, his condition deteriorated and he passed away almost a year ago. We can’t “recover our plans”, but I can try to make our journey on my own when and if life returns to normal.” — Lynn R., Houston, TX