Those who have been silently rewarded during the COVID-19 crisis

"We were all forced to give up parts of our lives at some point"

By Dhia Waddah Al Hanai

Never put your eggs in one basket. We all know this saying, and while virtually everyone agrees with this principle, our actions often speak otherwise. That’s because you can indeed get by in life by getting a job and doing nothing more than what we consider “necessary” to live. But there is a chasm that separates those of us who are simply living from the ones who are living happily, and happiness is difficult to maintain when it rests on one major aspect of your life. In no time does this become more apparent than during a crisis that disrupts our routines and lifestyles, and may forcibly detach us from the wells of happiness.

While the fear and uncertainty that gripped us during the first few months of the pandemic have partially subsided as many countries ease restrictions and vaccine development offers hope, we were all forced to give up  parts of our lives at some point—and many of us have yet to see them return. There are those of us of who used to look forward to holidays to get away from it all, and those who enjoyed cinema outings during their weekends, and, worst of all, those who had their livelihoods damaged. In all this disruption, though, I was rewarded in one way, and it took me time to fully appreciate it. In the few years prior to the crisis, I had learnt through personal failures of the dangers of placing all or most of your happiness into one aspect of your life.

To better understand this, we can draw a parallel between long-term happiness and a country’s economy. A country that invests its money into one sector of the economy while neglecting others can prosper in the short-term, but the lack of diversification leaves it vulnerable in times of crisis. If that crutch fails, economic disaster ensues. Our long-term happiness functions in much the same way. By deriving your happiness from multiple activities—work, studying, reading, outings, and such—when one or two of these sources is no longer available, you can fall back on the others.

How does this apply to my own life? Before the pandemic, one of my favorite activities was going on road-trips to Oman during the weekends, and it has now been more than half a year since last I went. While I have been itching to go again, being cut off from my weekend getaways hasn’t been disastrous. I still had a research paper to work on, and books to read and write and games to play. My father once explained to me how each person’s existence can be represented by three circles: the innermost is the sphere of control, the one beyond the sphere of influence, and the outermost is the sphere of knowledge and beyond that is a fog that represents the unknown, which in turn is also beyond one’s control. He went on to say that life is all about expanding these circles as much as possible, and I took that to heart, working hard to expand my interests and activities over the past few years, and it wasn’t until a pandemic that it truly paid dividends. That is, I believe, a common theme across our experiences. Covid-19 hasn’t so much as taught us anything new as much as it has simply affirmed and reaffirmed the importance of principles that we have known of for a long time. 

As a final word: if you were one of those people who, before the pandemic, pursued multiple interests and tried different paths, knowing that there was no guarantee of an immediate reward (or any), and feeling as though you were toiling thanklessly, perhaps you are now being rewarded for all that time and effort you spent building a stronger tolerance for adversity. 

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Dhia Waddah Al Hanai studies Enterprise Systems at Zayed University and is an aspiring Emirati author working on a fiction series that he plans to start publishing within the next year.  

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