How do you access quality of life? Pre-pandemic, you might have had a very different answer to this. You might have equated quality of life with making enough money to go on weekend trips, expensive dinners, or splurging on a new car or apartment. You might have even associated quality of life with good weather and a dream location where you could have that. But how do you access quality of life amidst a pandemic?
Quality of life is more than a standard of living: it involves total happiness, health, vitality and income. To achieve it, you basically have to figure out the important things that make your life enjoyable, daily. As an American citizen, with South African routes, I find that quality of life differs from country to country. I look at my family in Cape Town, who have high qualities of life by working hard but spending more time with family and friends than at work. In Europe, I see friends enjoy wine with food and weekend trips to nearby countries as their quality of life.
After traveling for years now, it wasn’t hard to figure out that we, in America have got in all wrong. We associate quality of life with how hard we are working. We associate quality of life with the output or volume of work we accomplish. And it is backwards and confusing to find quality of life or purpose when something like a global pandemic, takes your livelihood away.
This notion of setting out for a high quality of life is difficult. I think it’s quite natural to want it, but deeply emotional at times to get it — especially in lockdown. Which is why I’m redefining what quality of life means to me during COVID-19. Instead of equating quality with productivity, I am choosing to see the higher quality of life as a silver lining in a day or month when everything seems to go wrong. I am choosing to find joy in the mundane daily schedule of working from home and going on long walks. I am choosing to give myself grace when I feel unproductive or when I don’t achieve my goals. I am choosing to not tie my value to my career.
I think quality of life has a lot to do with what gives you purpose. And in the last 12 months, where most days lack eventful matter, I think it can be quite difficult to find your purpose, especially when busy work is taken out of the equation. When I think back to my European trips or time in Africa, I notice how the citizens are very comfortable with stillness. They enjoy not having a packed agenda, and when they are engaged in a conversation, they are truly engaged. To me, that is the only quality of life I want to seek.