A Grateful Mindset: Reflecting on My Experiences During the Pandemic

A young man, Juan, has his arm around a young woman, Alicia, at a restaurantLast year, right around this time, I wrote a post about what COVID taught me about long-distance relationships. I’m happy to report that one year later we are still going strong! I’m extremely thankful for that, and with Thanksgiving less than 2 weeks away, I’m thankful for a whole lot of other things, too.

For me, this pandemic has been a real paradox. It has brought a lot of hardship and loss, but it has also expanded my horizons. The biggest positive change? So many things I’d been doing in-person I now do virtually. No more worries about transportation, finding the right street address, getting turned around in crowds. For that, I am very thankful. Now here’s a list of other things I remain thankful for as we continue to experience this global pandemic:

  1. Making new friends. During quarantine, I began interacting with more people in Facebook groups while also joining new ones. This allowed me to meet new people and make new friends. Others I have met through other friends, and I even met one of my Facebook friends in person earlier this year.
  2. New virtual experiences. It’s funny to think that at the beginning of last year, I didn’t even know Zoom existed. I am stellar at Zoom now! My introduction to Zoom started in May 2020 when I joined a virtual book club. It then progressed into joining Hadley discussion groups with my boyfriend Juan. He joins from Houston, I join in from the Chicago area, and now we are both community members of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and are signed up for the daily emails. These emails provide a list of community calls and we text in the morning with a list of Zoom meetings we think we’d be able to attend.
  3. Becoming acquainted with different apps. I got back into reading audio books shortly after quarantine, and now I’m almost always in the middle of reading another book. I used to go exclusively to Bookshare to get books, which means I’d use the Voice Dream Reader app to download those. But now if I can’t find a book there, I use the native Books app on my iPhone. I’d used it once or twice before, but I use it pretty regularly now. Not only can I get books for a reasonable price, but the app is pretty easy to navigate.
  4. Traveling…with precautions. Like everyone else, when the shelter in place order was first announced, I didn’t go anywhere. But as things got more relaxed, I got to travel more. Traveling is something I absolutely love to do and love to write about. Traveling leaves me with a feeling of independence, liberation, and self-confidence. I’ve flown multiple times in the past year and a half (to/from Houston to visit Juan and my trip to Cancun with my family). I even took an Amtrak train trip to spend a weekend with a friend. I hadn’t taken Amtrak in several years and had forgotten how fun it is to travel by train, even if you have to wear a mask on board.
  5. Reacquainting myself with accessible media. This isn’t something that’s talked about or written about very much — not that I’ve seen, at least. Quarantine (and even now, post-quarantine) got me in the mood to watch more audio described movies and TV shows. AudioVault.net is a great resource for users who want to download audio portions of movies. there is no visual component, just the sound of the movie and the extra audio description for those of us who can’t see the screen. AudioVault allows me to access a wider variety of things than I did before the pandemic.
  6. Rideshare drivers have better attitudes. In my own personal experience, I have pleasantly noticed rideshare drivers have become less assertive when leading me. In the past, I’d had many experiences where drivers would grab me by the wrist and attempt to practically manhandle me into their vehicles. I’m not sure if this is at all related to social distancing or anything of the sort, but as restrictions loosen up and I go out more now, I’ve noticed a different approach. Drivers are always wearing their masks, and they don’t seem as aggressive when approaching me or assisting me to their vehicles.
  7. Hosting my own ACB Community Call. When the topic of relationships came up while on an ACB community call one afternoon, the host realized that topic isn’t talked about nearly enough — and if it is, it is often in a negative light. They suggested I create a separate call about relationships to provide a safe, judgment-free space for all of us to talk, connect, share experiences and different perspectives about what it’s like to date as a blind person. Juan and I will be hosting this together and will keep it going as long as we can! He’s been wanting to do something like this together for a while.

So, while I am in no way saying I’m thankful that we are in a pandemic, for me, it does help to sit back and realize that good things have come out of it, too. Teaching myself new apps, gaining more respect for Uber drivers, making new friends, trying new things. I have a lot to feel thankful for, and I hope that on the days that things seem uncertain and the world seems scary, you can find some silver linings, too.


 

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