March feels like a lifetime ago while in reality it was only six months ago when the COVID-19 outbreak hit the US. States began shutting down borders, businesses had to put their operations on pause, and schools decided to transition to remote classes.
While time was a construct during quarantine, I came to realize that the past few months have taught me a lot about myself and life in general. As I reflect on the past few months, here are some things that quarantine has taught me:
1. Prioritize your mental health
I know it might sound cliche, but it is so important to prioritize your mental health, especially at times like this when you’re staying inside for the majority of time. After being in quarantine for several months, I found myself losing interest in the things I used to enjoy doing. I would wake up every morning without wanting to leave my bed. It wasn’t because I wanted to lay in bed for a little longer, but rather it was because I found no motivation to do anything throughout the day. As someone whose screen time is higher than it should be, I didn’t even want to check my phone, watch Netflix, or reply to any messages. It became clear to me that I needed to take care of myself and put my mental health first. I started by making small changes, one that included waking up before noon, finding time to workout, walking around the neighborhood (with a mask on!), writing in my journal, and creating a routine that works for me. It is never selfish to prioritize your mental health because life can be very overwhelming at times, and a little more love for yourself can go a long way!
2. Learn a new skill
As an international student, I was fortunately given the option to go back to Taiwan after Colby moved to remote classes. However, my parents were worried that if I came home, I wouldn’t be able to come back to Colby in the fall due to the everchanging travel restrictions. I ended up staying with my brother at a family friend’s place from March to August. Not living on campus with dining halls easily accessible meant that we would have to cook our own meals every day. While my brother is a pretty decent chef, I was the complete opposite. I’ve cooked meals before, but I was the type of chef who would always forget to add salt and would not realize it until I started eating the dish. My brother was kind enough to patiently teach me how to cook. After some flavorless dishes and burnt food, I’m confident to say that I’ve sharpened my cooking skills. It’s never too late to learn a new skill or freshen up some old skills that you haven’t visited in a while.
3. Pick up a new hobby (or revisit an old hobby!)
I first became interested in the idea of keeping a journal during freshman year of high school. I remember trying to make it a habit, yet I would somehow always end up giving up after a few weeks. Despite countless failed attempts at keeping a journal, I decided to give it another try this summer. I used to write about my day or my thoughts in my journal, but after watching YouTube videos about people’s journals and what they keep in them, I started to write down anything that I wanted to, such as a list of things that make me happy, weird dreams, goals in life, things/people I am grateful for, the best feelings in the world, etc. As I began to expand the content in my journal, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on memories from the past and find joy in the little things in life. To anyone considering keeping a journal, starting a new hobby, or revisiting an old hobby, I highly recommend doing so!
4. Appreciate the little things in life
When the COVID-19 outbreak began to worsen in the US during March and April, businesses, restaurants, schools, and grocery stores were no longer open to the public. Everyone was asked to stay inside, practice social distancing, and avoid large gatherings. The normal that we were so accustomed to was no longer normal. Everyone was trying their best to find normalcy and navigate through uncharted waters even though no one had any idea about what’s to come next. As I began to slowly figure my way out of all the craziness, I came to realize how much I used to take things in life for granted. I never thought about how these seemingly trivial changes could so greatly affect our everyday lives. As cheesy as it sounds, I wrote down a list of things I took for granted in my journal: being on campus, hanging out with friends, dining out, going outside whenever I want to, being able-bodied, etc. If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught me, it’s to appreciate the things I have, no matter how big or small they seem. Reminding myself to appreciate the little things in life has made me more aware of what’s around me and allowed me to try to find happiness in them, even when they seem too small to make an impact.
Thinking back on New Year’s Eve, I remember hearing everyone say that 2020 is going to be their year. While it’s up to you to decide what it means for 2020 to be “the year,” one thing I know for sure is that 2020 has been filled with ups and downs that no one saw coming. Even though these unprecedented times may seem impossible to navigate at first, if you try to find joy and appreciate the smallest things in life, I’m sure 2020 will mean something to you.