Stay-at-home orders as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many of us to our breaking points, but can you imagine going through the lockdown without your phone, FaceTime, Netflix or Instagram? That would be a different kind of isolation.

Although the pandemic forced us to isolate ourselves in our homes, we would have been far worse off without technology.

It's undeniable that COVID-19 put us through the wringer, but its impacts were not completely negative. Our virtual lives enabled us to think outside of the box and shift our viewpoints in several ways. We were challenged to conduct classes, interviews and group and work meetings all over Zoom or other forms of virtual meetings. We were challenged to stay at home, which decreased carbon dioxide emissions. Not only that, we were challenged to find ways to make our entire lives be accessible online.

Our generation thrives on instant gratification. The downside of this is when caught up in the hustle and bustle, we do not have the time to step back and see if our choices are making us happy. The world of “Zoom university” allowed students like myself to slow down and do just that.

As I applied to my major at Grady College, I spent hours reflecting on my statement of interest and why I wanted to be admitted. I had to prove why I would be a good addition to Grady and prove to myself that I actually had the skills to compete with other candidates. It challenged me to think deeply about my career possibilities and aspirations I have for the future.

Not only that, I took the time to check in on myself and make sure this is still the path I want to take. This time for reflection was important for focusing on my hopes, dreams and what really makes me happy. I hope that other students had similar experiences and did not take this unique time for granted.

At first, students were intimidated by transforming our in-person lives into virtual ones. Teachers, students and employers had to learn how to use Zoom, and we had to learn quickly. We weren’t sure how it was going to work or if it would still feel professional and structured.

Now, most people are well-versed in virtual meeting platforms. We see the value that these platforms offer and we aren’t afraid anymore. The past year has broadened our horizons on several fronts. Meetings over Zoom can still be professional. Group FaceTime calls to play games or Netflix watch parties introduced themselves as new ways to have fun. I realized that I can still visit with friends, classmates and family members regardless of age or geography. Even my grandparents have joined FaceTime.

Overall, 2020 was hard. There’s no denying that. Workers struggled, the mental health crisis expanded and many, many lives were lost. We were pushed outside our comfort zones, but there’s a silver lining. Through adversity, we challenged standard practices and established new ones that, if they continue, will be better for our health and environment. We took some time to slow down and enjoy life when it mattered the most.