My Thoughts As I Turn 21 in Quarantine

Two years ago, for my 19th birthday, I wrote an article listing 19 life lessons I had learned so far in my life. A year ago, for my 20th birthday, I wrote a letter to my teenage self giving advice about all that was to come. I never imagined that on April 30, 2020, I would be sitting at home in the midst of a global pandemic. Although I have spent quite some time feeling negative and uneasy during this difficult time, I also know that this is a valuable opportunity to pause, reflect, and work on myself. This year, for my 21st birthday, I am compiling some of my quarantine reflections.

  1. 1. Human interaction cannot be replaced with virtual communication.

    Quarantine has taught me how much I value spending time with people. I complain at times about the noise level in my apartment, but I am so grateful to be quarantining with my parents and younger siblings. After all, they provide me plenty of entertainment. Of course, I do miss being with my friends and interacting with professors and peers in a physical classroom setting. Although class on Zoom has worked as a temporary way to finish out the semester, the system is flawed in its inability to provide the same quality education. As students, we need to be with each other to learn and grow academically, as well as socially. Sometimes I hear people talking about how social distancing demonstrates how powerful technology can be. I argue that this experience has taught me to value human interaction in personal relationships, classroom dynamics, and work environments more so than ever before. Generation Z already has a reputation for being antisocial, and I am fearful of the long term effects quarantine may have on this generation. 

  2. 2. Empathy is more rare than I thought.

    When the college announced that grades this semester would be universal pass/fail, I was upset by the outrage I saw as I scrolled through my Facebook feed. People seemed so consumed with their grades, despite the larger problems the world was facing. Moreover, I have noticed that many people have a hard time thinking about how greatly impacted others are by this situation in terms of financial difficulties and health struggles. Rather, they focus on the small inconveniences during this time. Of course, everyone is allowed to feel frustrated during this time, even if it’s only small problems. However, I never realized the extent to which people live in their own bubbles and do not think about the scary struggles others are facing during these unprecedented times. I hope when this is all over that we draw our attention away from grades as a valuable way to assess academic achievement, and focus on the bigger issue: the lack of emotional intelligence in our generation. I am not deeming myself an expert on the subject, but I just hope we can find a way to decrease narcissism and increase empathy in our society. 

  3. 3. Living in the past is not productive.

    Take note of yesterday, live for today, but be forward thinking about tomorrow. As a history major, I always support studying the past. Understanding past mistakes and lessons is beneficial to self-improvement. However, I condemn the notion of living in the past. During quarantine, I have definitely found myself scrolling on my phone looking at old photos with friends reminiscing about happier times. As much as I cherish those memories, getting stuck in time is also not a way to live. Moreover, romanticizing what could have been is not a productive use of time. Yes, there were good times, much better than the ones we are facing now, but that does not mean that there are not better times to come. Even if those future happy times might not happen for quite awhile, I think it’s important to always live with the attitude that there are great days to come. Cherish past memories, be present in your surroundings, and look forward to better times ahead.

  4. 4. Time is precious.

    Now that I have spent weeks regressing into my middle school-self during this quarantine, I have begun to reevaluate how I want to spend my time once normal life begins to somewhat resume. During difficult times like this, I think it’s important to pay attention to what sparks joy and what brings up negative emotions. After this horrible situation, I want to focus my time on people and activities that make me happy. I have gone through the process of leaving an organization on campus I no longer wanted to be a part of and muted Instagram accounts that I deem toxic. One might call it a corona cleanse, but I think it’s important to surround yourself with positivity as much as you can during such dark times in the world.

Although this birthday will be particularly unusual, I am truly lucky to have such amazing friends and family during this difficult time. I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe.