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10 Things I Learned About Myself in Quarantine

Not too long after high school abruptly ended due to COVID-19 shutdowns, I found myself in one of the hardest, most complicated phases I had ever been in in my entire life. I was struggling to cope with the loss of a proper graduation to celebrate my accomplishments, learning how to move forward with different relationships in my life, making one of the biggest decisions of my life by choosing where I would spend my next four years, along with so many other variables that still impact me today. But at that point in my life, I had also chosen to focus on myself. A year later, still on that self-proclaimed self-love journey, I can say I’ve learned quite a few things about myself that I had lost or had not noticed in myself throughout high school. I still have quite a way to go, but for now, I’ve decided to reflect on 10 things, big and small, that I’ve come to terms with about myself while in quarantine.



The Past Isn’t Everything

This was probably one of the hardest things I had to come to terms with early on in quarantine. I’ve found myself at a crossroads several times with different friendships, and one night, I remember feeling something so off and crying myself to sleep. I felt like there were people in my life I couldn’t wholeheartedly trust anymore, and the reason I had been keeping them around was because of the pasts we shared. But sometimes, your heart and mind come before the past. If I didn’t help myself at that point, I recognize I would have been fighting battles that were already over. If those paths deserve to be crossed again at some point, they will be. But when that feeling of knowing something is over overcomes you, you know when to listen.

Tying Up Loose Ends

Sometimes, closure doesn’t come from a conversation with another person. I learned that sometimes, closure happens with me and myself. I know how much a relationship or circumstance meant to me at a given point in time, and once I make peace with knowing I don’t have it in my life anymore, I can move on to better things that are in store for my life.

Time Management Is Everything

Virtual college was a whole beast I was not expecting. Of course, I had my share of procrastination in high school. Everybody did, really. But when you’re forced to be in an academic setting at home, especially in such a pivotal year academically and personally, you quickly realize that it can be easy to confuse work with leisure and vice versa. It can be so easy to forget when you have a conference, a Zoom panel, or a class if you don’t prepare adequately, and if you have classes back-to-back, it’s even harder to find the motivation to do homework in a way that’s time efficient on the same night. Platforms like Google Calendar are a life-saver, and I think I have about three dry-erase boards and planners where I write everything down now. 

I Hate Breakout Rooms. 

‘Nuff said. 

Organize. Organize. Organize. 

When in doubt, a boatload of time on your hands means a boatload of opportunities to organize and reorganize. My desk has gone through quite a few phases, and I’m never satisfied with the way my room decor looks. Right now, my room is probably in one of the most intense reconstruction phases it’s been through this entire year as I prepare to leave for the summer semester. The closet is half-empty, clothes seemed to be all over the place, storage boxes are filled to the brim with sheets, and it can get a bit overwhelming. I’m certainly one of those people who seems to have it all straightened up on the Zoom camera, when really, the clutter is all around me. But I tend to have a method to my madness, so it all works out.

Health Is Something I Need to Take One Step at a Time

Being stuck in lockdown with the temptation to binge eat constantly looming over us, it can and has been tough to feel like I have complete control over my physical and mental health. I’ve thought more about my body and my physical health over the past year more than I have any year, mostly because I have so much time with only myself now. Lately, my mom has been my biggest teammate in making sure we stay on the “straight and narrow” with what we consume. We’ve tried the occasional keto recipe, and I’m trying to focus on more protein and weight training as I go along. But I’ve also recognized a pretty nagging voice in the back of my head that worries about my body image, which seems so ludicrous to me given I don’t really go out in public to stress about the way my body is perceived. 

I’m happy with the way I look and I recognize there are times where I can step back and stop stressing myself out so much. Sometimes I can be really critical of myself. Other days, I can be pretty happy. If you’re reading this and you find yourself struggling, too, know that it’s okay to have these unbalanced feelings. It’s okay to feel unmotivated to workout or follow through with something you think you should be doing. Take it slow, maybe find a buddy, and do what you can. This year has been cruel to everyone, we don’t need to be cruel to ourselves.

I’m in Love with Thrifting, Now

Hi, thredUp is my new favorite online store. I’ve never thrifted before, and there aren’t very many thrift stores around my area. Also, given the limitations of the pandemic, I thought it would be better to experiment with thrifting in an online medium first versus an in-person one. I’ve surprisingly had a lot of success with thredUp (sponsor me, please). I can save different unique items from my favorite brands, get great deals due to their constant sales, get fast and free shipping, receive cute and well-curated packaging, and feel great taking part in sustainable fashion. It’s also been a great way to start developing my own unique style that I can use to express myself in a new and authentic way. It’s probably the way I’m going to do most of my shopping from now on. 

My Identity As a White-Passing Person of Color

Given the calamity of the past summer, the conversations of race and social justice have made me reflect on my own identity within society (as I’m sure many others have had to do at this time). Learning about intersectionality in a deeper way has been especially helpful for me, because it has allowed me to recognize where my privileges and disadvantages lie. I’m a white-passing Latina from a low-income family, which can have several different implications on my life. Knowing where I stand in the context of society allows me to know myself in a new and more profound way, but more importantly, it allows me to learn how and where I need to step aside and listen to others who identify differently from me, especially if society is more likely to oppress them. Knowing who I am allows me to learn from others’ experiences and help to center those voices, which I feel is one of the most significant things we can all appreciate in our journeys of self-discovery.

It’s Okay to Not Know Where I’m Going

It can be easy to feel like I’m taking steps backwards or no steps at all to where I want to go. Sometimes, in a given moment, I don’t know where I’m going (metaphorically, I’m not that directionally challenged). This year has been the definition of “uncertain” and “unprecedented”. We’ve all learned that life will throw you curveballs, sometimes relentlessly and consistently, and it’s important to learn that the way we get up from those moments is more important than anything else. As I struggle to this day to know what I want to do with my life and where and how exactly I want to do it, I recognize that this will not take me back from what I’m destined to achieve in life. What I do know is that I’m a storyteller, I love others, and I want to make a difference in people’s lives. If I take that with me no matter where I go, I’ll be as prepared as ever for anything. 

Consume Less Create More

This is my biggest takeaway from the year. I came across a video on YouTube by the title Consume Less Create More by one of my favorite channels, Thirsty for Art. It’s an art therapy channel, and the woman who runs it, Youhjung, is extremely calming and amazing to listen to. She makes the argument that we will benefit from consuming less in our lives and taking the time to actively create more. As a fellow artist, I’ve easily become frustrated by the self-inflicted notion that I am not producing enough, and that I need to learn from others, especially the best-of-the-best, if I really want to get anywhere.

That mentality is the biggest disservice I have been doing for myself. 

I need to create more. And I don’t even necessarily need to. Art is not something that I should force myself to do. It becomes a chore at that point. But I desperately want to, so much so that it feels like a need. Once I separate myself from that, and carve out the time to create. I know I can do so much better and surprise myself with my capabilities. This is the new mantra I’m taking with me throughout this year. I hope the creative journeys I embark on will be self-fulfilling and rewarding and fun. And ultimately, I hope I continue to learn more about myself through this path.

Overall, the lessons I’ve learned about myself have been varied and unique in every way over the past year. While it’s been strenuous, it’s also been an incredibly gratifying journey – but I still know that this is just the beginning. 

Caroline Val

Columbia Barnard '24

Caroline is a first-year at Barnard hoping to major in Psychology and English with a concentration in Film Studies. When not advocating for mental health awareness, she's also extremely involved in all things theatre, film, and writing (especially poetry). She can be reached on Instagram @cxrol.v!
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