In May 2020, Ben Campbell* was laid off from his job at a local car dealership. Two weeks later, he applied for another job, but was turned down after a drug test detected marijuana use.
These setbacks were painful, but they didn’t keep him down for long.
The following month, Campbell found his “COVID-19 silver lining” interning at a sales consulting firm. Today, the senior marketing major serves as the company’s highest-selling salesperson.
“This company is an awesome place to work and has accepted me with nothing but open arms,” Campbell, who requested anonymity because of fear of retribution, said, noting that he has received three promotions since June.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for people across the U.S., with hundreds of thousands finding themselves in the same boat as Campbell: jobless, in debt or even homeless. And those are just the economic effects. Nearly 30 million Americans have been infected with this “invisible” virus, with more than 530 thousand succumbing to it.
In the last few months, thousands have taken to social media to share their COVID-19 recovery stories. The birth of children, the launch of new business ventures, the adoption of new hobbies; these tales have all given people hope for the future. Some have found the pandemic to be a force for positive change, bringing about increased self awareness, alone time and even a more manageable work life.
This has certainly been the case for Campbell.
At the start of the pandemic, Campbell was unemployed and facing dismal job prospects. He was struggling to find his place in a topsy-turvy financial world. But then, he landed an “awesome” internship, was promoted to senior sales consultant and marketing automation expert and finally, to outside sales consultant.
Before, he was unsure how he would find a job or afford schooling, housing or other living expenses. Today, he is in a sound financial state.
“It was my only source of income and I didn’t know if it would affect me being able to get a job in the future,” Campbell said about losing his job at the car dealership. “I dipped into my savings quite a bit during that time as no one was really hiring and it was all I had to spend which in turn nearly wiped out my savings account.”
Campbell initially had about $6,000 in his savings account, but he drained it to approximately $2,500 just to stay afloat in May. Since finding his current job, however, he now can live comfortably and is moving into a new apartment with his girlfriend and dog.
Campbell isn’t the only one to find a silver lining in the pandemic.
Amanda Fameli, a sophomore communications major, says the pandemic gave her the opportunity to focus on herself and “switch to a healthier lifestyle.”
Fameli says she began doing at-home workouts and eating healthier in April and has, in the 11 months since, lost 50 pounds. But the weight loss hasn’t even been the most rewarding part. Her mental transformation is something she attributes to her time during the pandemic, as well.
“Honestly, I’m happy with the physical change as that was the initial goal, but the immense mental growth I’ve seen in myself and how I’ve grown into the person I am is something I value far beyond any physical appearance,” Fameli, who has worked out six days a week, said.
Before improving her diet, Fameli says she didn’t know how to approach eating healthfully, since her family didn’t teach her how to “moderate or make smart food choices.” As a kid, she tried instituting healthy eating habits for herself, but says she wasn’t successful because she didn’t have familial help and was “too young to do it by herself.”
But today, Fameli is able to commit to the healthy routine she has been meaning to adopt since she was 10-years-old.
“When I started to take that step again at 19, I was mature, capable and knowledgeable enough to do everything myself,” Fameli said. “My healthy routine consisted of working out six days of the week, cutting my calorie intake in half and trying to eat as many simple foods as possible.”
Fameli says she is “obsessed” with chicken because of the different ways she can cook with it and has been eating many fruits and vegetables, but knows it’s okay to indulge. She says whenever she wants to splurge, all she needs to do is make sure it’s in moderation.
“I needed to get rid of all the excuses I’ve always made for myself in order for me to get what I wanted and instead add more reasons why to do it,” Fameli said. “The byproduct of my physical transformation was mental evolution that has made me love myself in ways I’ve never experienced.”
Jasmine To’s silver lining was getting “lucky” and meeting her boyfriend right before the pandemic began and finding ways to stay connected over a long distance. The
experience of dating someone during the pandemic can be challenging, but worth it, for her.
“While I was at school we usually just FaceTimed a lot and had to check in with each other to make sure everything was okay because at times it got hard,” To said. “But I would occasionally go home and he visited me as well so that really helped. But before I went back to Buffalo we went to each other’s houses over the summer.”
To, a senior psychology major, says she matched with her now-boyfriend on the Bumble dating app and started hanging out with him in uncrowded places. After they began hanging out a little more, To says she became interested and the two got more serious.
“He was working from home and I was doing online school so we really only got to see each other once or twice on the weekend and this carried on for about six months,” To said. “We usually had movie nights, cooking/baking dates, went for drives, anything we could think of, we did it. Finally, after six months he asked me to be his girlfriend.”
To says she was sad to go back to school, since it meant her relationship would have to become long-distance, but she also noted they have had an “amazing time” getting closer.
She says she and her boyfriend plan to travel together once the pandemic ends and they get the vaccine, but will continue to structure their days like they usually would.
“We have been going out and exploring different restaurants, so that’s something we like to do if we have nothing else. Or, we will just go swimming or hiking,” To said. “We don’t see each other every day, but I kind of like it that way because we have time to be alone and then we have more to look forward to next time we hang out. It’s always a good time when we hang out [because] we don’t focus too much on what we are doing.”
*Name has been changed for anonymity at the request of the source.
Alexandra Moyen is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexandra Moyen is the senior features editor of The Spectrum.