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What will the world be like after covid-19?

Reflections on 2020: the strangest year to date

Logo ThumbnailWhen I typed this question into Google, a whopping 241 million results came up. “Holy shit!” I thought to myself. Then, I tweaked my query slightly, swapping the word “world” for “life” and two million more search results were generated. Safe to say, I don’t think anybody really knows the answer to my questions.

Next, I typed “when will we have a vaccine for covid-19?” and the same thing happened; nearly 39 million results appeared. Finally, I searched “when will the pandemic end?” (with quotation marks and all) and found myself looking at a modest 201,000 results in comparison.

Afterwards, I took some time to stop and reflect. It’s also worth noting that typing “what will Jorge Oller’s life be like after COVID-19?” generated no search results whatsoever – a reminder that this seemingly all-knowing search engine hasn’t got the answer… and to be honest, neither do I. To conclude, none of us have a clue what’s going to happen.

What we do know is that 2020 can be summed up with just one word: strange. We’ve been displaced, cut off from others and chained to our homes by this new virus. We’ve been exiled, cast out and abandoned. In contrast, although society’s murky curtains have been pulled back and its sinister underbelly exposed, other parts of us remain hidden away behind face masks.

Through all this, I’m wondering whether maybe we’ll finally learn to keep our mouths shut and just listen for a change. Masks and social distancing measures keep us from getting too close to others – but maybe that’s exactly what we need to bring us back to our roots and remind ourselves why we’re here.

Ultimately, as humans, we don’t need a lot to be happy; simply good health and having a roof over our heads and food on the table will do.

I’ve given goodbye speeches on three separate occasions. The first was when I was doing my last presentation to INCAE Business School at Olleria, the hub for new businesses, while the second was when I left my beloved Tribu advertising agency and my role in that marvellous Tribal. And finally, when I finished giving a presentation at the Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort in front of a group of entrepreneurs.

I realized I was tired of listening to my own voice. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I decided it was time to go. And for that reason, I’ve found wearing a face mask has suited me rather well.

By curbing my speech, I’ve learned to listen more. (How I hadn’t realized this before, I’ll never know.) I found that by staying out of the action, I’ve been able to observe on a deeper level, and by spending more time at home, I’ve been able to appreciate things that previously passed me by.

I’m enjoying spending time with my children and grandchildren, playing Rummikub with Alex and taking advantage of Apple+ and indulging in a little bit of Netflix too.

By traveling less and not relying so much on the materialistic pleasures of modern life, I’ve been able to feel things on a much deeper level, sensing them ricochet within my very core, and I also find myself feeling amazed more often. When I consider all this, it seems the pandemic and what it has brought hasn’t been all bad.

The problem lies with humanity. Most of us are keen to get back to normality; we see the stock exchange suffering and bouncing back again (and this is reflected in the price of shares). At some point soon, we’ll start to regain some sense of normality – propelled back into normal life once again, like livestock being released on a farm, out of control and bolting away in different directions.

I really hope this doesn’t happen, since it’s the perfect time to make important personal decisions. In the midst of a global pandemic and worldwide economic slump, cutting ties with the past and starting afresh is an important distinction to make. It’s a good time to ask ourselves one of the most important questions when faced with any dilemma, routine activity, relationship or condition: what’s the wisest decision I could make?

I’m trying to make the most of the precious hours that I’m currently spending with my family. I’ve also decided to figure out which relationships I’d like to maintain, fix or simply do away with altogether.

I’m hoping to play more chess, lose a couple more kilos and get back in good shape. To sum up, it’s time to do less of some things and more of others – to have a good clear-out and choose solidarity, prosperity and happiness.

In the midst of all these hopeful thoughts and feelings, on a personal level, I have to admit the current situation has its challenges. Life is painful and worrying at the moment and so many of us are having a really rough time.

2020 has been one of the hardest and most unusual years in history for so many different reasons. Firstly, the speed of the virus and the rising death toll; secondly, the economic crisis coupled with unemployment; thirdly, all the people without food who are living in fear and without peace of mind; lastly, poverty. So, it’s time to act, come together and be there for one another. Let’s all try and contribute something.

It’s been counter-intuitive to try and fight the pandemic by staying at home. All of us –except the known exceptions like heroic front line healthcare workers and other key workers– have been confined to our homes, isolated from one another, kept far away from our loved ones and as a result, are left feeling utterly helpless. Washing our hands feels like an empty gesture when up against such a powerful, invisible beast.

What will the world look like after covid-19? I haven’t got the faintest idea.

From a hermit in the making, these are my reflections on 2020, the strangest year to date.



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Jorge Oller

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