Thursday, March 4, 2021
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Lessons Learned During ‘The Great Pause’


It was just a little over three months ago that I was out on the West Coast with Penn State students. We spent a week visiting various resorts in the Marriott Vacation Club system, as part of a class on guest activities.  

We met with managers, talked with guests and learned about amenity programming behind the scenes.  Thirteen students and the two accompanying faculty members saw the sights and sounds of the Las Vegas strip, traveled by vans across the desert, ate at In-N-Out Burger and spent our last day as tourists at Huntington Beach, to name just a few of our experiences. As we made our way to the airport to catch the red-eye home after a tiring but exciting week, my colleague and I picked up some hand sanitizer to offer the students out of worry about germs in the airport. That week, news that the novel coronavirus had spread to Italy was a headline. We landed back in Pennsylvania on March 1.

All hell broke loose shortly after that.

After months of shelter at home, remote learning, work at home and restricted contact, Centre County goes to GREEN in our restrictions related to the virus effective today.  

As things start to loosen up, it offers an opportunity for reflection. What have we learned during this virus shutdown? What are the takeaways? What are the lessons that we can take from what some have called “The Great Pause?”

What can we lean on if — when — this virus again rears its ugly head?

I started making a list. I reached out to my social media network in a totally non-scientific way to ask about the lessons learned for each of us in our unique situations. It turns out good, some not-so-good and some downright funny has come from this landmark time in history.   

Here are just a few. Some of these are mine. Most come from people with greater wisdom.

I tried so many new recipes. Jeans feel like dressing up when yoga pants and sweats are the new daily dress code. A bird feeder is the best entertainment around. It takes about four days to prep and paint a room including walls, trim and ceiling. I learned that our pets love being around their people.  

I learned that cheap toilet paper sucks.

Good food is better when it is cooked at home. Restaurant food tastes better when it is eaten in the restaurant. I learned to make pizza. I learned the value in making more practical choices at the supermarket, but allowed for one thing just for fun,  like Little Debbies.

I learned day drinking loses its novelty pretty quickly.

We’re eager to hear planes flying again someday soon because that will be the sound of hope and a return to normalcy for us, but for now, I learned we’re OK with the sounds of birds singing to us instead. 

It doesn’t take long for nature and animals to reclaim what is theirs.

I learned that crises like a pandemic magnify the differences between the haves and the have-nots.

I learned  that planning a wedding in a pandemic requires flexibility and really good wedding planners.

I learned Big Foot’s name is Daryl.

Don’t plant your flower pots in May in Central PA just because you are bored. It is a guarantee that it will snow. There are going to be beautiful gardens and back yards this year as folks who get a little stir crazy find time to plant, prune, pick and provide.

I’ve learned I can live without that specific style of Aji pepper paste from the grocery store.

I learned all work is essential. I learned some jobs are just more essential than others.

I’ve learned in a nutshell how to live a simpler life. Making money isn’t as important as I thought it was. I learned that I need way less than I thought I do.

People are generally kind and generous during difficult times.

I’ve learned it’s important to marry someone you can stand to be quarantined with.   

I learned to cut my husband’s hair.

I know that I can’t work in the same office as my husband so I created a new office in one of my spare bedrooms and I love it. 

I’ve learned that I really love my home; I am so fortunate and didn’t even realize it.

I learned being alone by choice rocks; being alone by mandate sucks.

I learned that not being able to have a social life has been really healthy for me. I’m terrible at saying no and experience severe Fear Of Missing Out but I will run myself ragged in attempts to never miss out on something.

I have learned how much I appreciate family and friends and how much I despise social distancing.

Not traveling for work and being locked up with the family has brought us together. It’s been a blessing. I didn’t realize how much you sacrifice when you spend half your time on the road.  

My kids may not want to be in as many activities when we return to ‘normal.” Although they love their friends and sports, they’ve enjoyed spending more time with Mom and Dad and not racing around so much to scheduled classes, lessons, etc.

I’ve learned that preschoolers do not thrive when they can’t play with their friends. And in fact they regress. It really is heartbreaking.  

My teenager has gone through some depression not being able to be with her friends and teachers.  

I relearned how fun it is to simply stay home and play in the backyard with the kids because there wasn’t really another entertainment option for us.

It was not lost on me that I would never have this time with all of my kids at home again. It was a blessing to have them all here even if we weren’t always engaged with each other playing games or cooking or whatever (even though we did some of that). There were evenings I could hear the oldest two chatting across the hallway from each other and it warmed my heart.

The biggest positive take away for me has been watching my kids grow closer. That doesn’t mean they don’t still grow tired of each other or have their moments but they are willingly choosing to be each other’s buddies and getting so creative in their endeavors more often than not.

Don’t say ‘I could never____’ unless you’ve actually tried it. I used to say I could never be a stay-at-home mom or I could never homeschool my kids. 

With social distancing, we found that letting our high school senior head out in the woods with his friends to shoot each other with paint guns was the safest activity for him to participate in, all while staying 6 feet apart of course.

I learned that e-learning is not for everyone. I learned how much relationships are part of education. I appreciated them before but now I really appreciate the work of teachers.

I learned we’re tougher than we give ourselves credit for.   

I learned that the kids today are much more resilient than their parents. We call them entitled and snowflakes but kids today have been through so much in their lives (i.e. active shooter drills, now no graduations or proms).

I’m pretty sure spending the quarantine time with my adult daughter will be something I look back on with much gratitude.

I miss my co-workers. I miss my daughter. I miss my mom. I miss my kids. I found out I married the right person. I’ve learned that human presence is not nothing. The loyalty and love of my employees is a gift that I will never take for granted.

I’ve learned that people will politicize everything. I learned how readily we exchanged our freedoms for safety.

I’ve learned how many friends of mine are doctors — I had no idea but I see all of them on Facebook every day!

I’m glad Nittany Beverage stayed open during the pandemic.

I have expanded my view of essential workers to include grocery store employees.

This quarantine has provided me the opportunity to Zoom with my siblings a couple of times a week. Who knew we could talk for hours and hours? 

If I had a do-over I would have started using Zoom much earlier—connecting with friends regularly—some I haven’t seen in years. I’ve had Zoom coffees, Zoom happy hours, Zoom dinners. I even joined 25 fraternity brothers to watch the ‘87 Fiesta Bowl replay.

I learned when your free Zoom time ends after 40 minutes, you can just call back in using the same info and get another free 40 minutes.

I learned it’s possible for workers to work from home and still conduct official business. Zoom, digital signatures and Teams should be part of all future workplaces. I’ve learned that I can get the same work done in half the time when I’m working at home.

Being kind and understanding of each person’s situation should happen all the time. Not just in crisis.

I will never be blind to financial suffering, food insecurity and those who live in different circumstances—economically, geographically, politically, or whatever. 

I’ve witnessed firsthand the importance of investing in parks, open spaces and trails. Also the importance of equitable access to parks, open spaces and trails and how, more than ever, we must strive for greater equity.

I’ve learned that I can tolerate missing human contact as long as I can be in nature.

Having to be deployed and working with COVID patients, I’ve learned how life is short and can be taken away in an instant. The sadness of watching someone die and struggling to breathe and there was nothing you could do. How frustrating it was for loved ones not to be able to come and visit; they are only able to call. I will forever be changed by this and appreciate life and people more.

Anything difficult in my life is nothing compared to what my COVID patients are going through. I feel gratitude every day I walk through the doors of the hospital, knowing that at the end of my shift, I’ll be walking out and going home.

I’ve seen humanity at its best after losing my brother to the virus. I saw it in the nurses who facilitated our daily Zoom visits with him since we were not allowed in the hospital. I saw it in the outpouring of caring for my family from not only family and friends, but complete strangers. Suffering this type of loss during a pandemic rewrote the rules on who, what, when and where. Yet somehow we found our way with the help of so many who went above and beyond.

I learned to appreciate. Everything. More.

I wondered if anyone found out what happened to all of the toilet paper?