Stuck at home, looking within: self-discovery amid pandemic

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This combination of photos shows selfies of, Clarence Allen Rainwater and Dawn Burton Rainwater, from left, Robert Onishi and Chris Onishi, Kathryn Ray, Quinten Daulton and Eric Little. As the pandemic has changed the world, it has also revealed surprising traits within ourselves, both dormant and newly discovered. (Clarence Allen Rainwater, Dawn Burton Rainwater/Robert Onishi/Kathryn Ray/Quinten Daulton/Eric Little via AP)

NEW YORK – Confidence, resilience, passion: As the pandemic has changed the world and pushed people into their homes and out of old routines, it has also, for many, revealed some surprising traits within themselves.

But as society slowly reopens, how will these flashes of insight sustain us?

“My husband and I couldn’t be closer, and when we retire we won’t be killing each other,” chuckled 62-year-old Chris Onishi, an empty nester and police detective's wife in Auburn, Washington, echoing the retirement thoughts of others. “We’ve found out it’ll be fine.”

The luxury of self-reflection without life’s usual distractions has taken some people elsewhere — to relationships with God, their value as workers, their shocking ability to do without people.

While it’s arguably not time for “silver linings,” considering the havoc the health crisis continues to wreak, the American Psychological Association’s Vaile Wright said, “I do think you’re seeing a prioritizing of relationships in a way that maybe we haven’t seen in the past. People are recognizing where their values lie in new ways.”

Researchers and politicians, psychologists and health institutions will spend years combing through the shards of this time. As they do, Kathryn Ray in Tucson, Arizona, will hopefully be well established as a medical assistant.

After earlier fits and starts in life, including a brief period of homelessness, the 31-year-old mother hopes to leave her minimum-wage existence behind. But her externship after a nine-month program to become an MA is on hold until she can start racking up her necessary 200 hours on the job.

She was scared as she ventured into her new field, wondering if she was up to the task. Then the virus hit and brave first responders fed her resolve. So did the many scores of volunteers lending a hand.