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I will be the first to acknowledge that things in 2020 did not go as planned. I was led to believe that this year was going to be amazing — with all of the holidays landing on weekends and it being a new decade, after all... at least, that’s what people on Twitter said. 

But after these past few months in quarantine, I knew better than to get my hopes up about having a "grand affair" for my birthday. I accepted the fact that this year was going to be super low-key. 

The closer it got to my birthday, the more I realized how low-key it was going to be. But as I said before, I had accepted it because all I wanted was to have a good time.

This notion made me realize that things have truly changed from a year ago. I guess I went through the “quarantine introspection” that many people have talked about, and I even came out learning a couple of things from it. Here's what I've learned while turning 19 during COVID-19:

Take a beat

Take a second to look around and assess the situation. I’ve learned that taking a bit of time to yourself is the key to moving forward. I know that doing this is hard; I’ll admit it’s still really hard for me to take a pause sometimes. But, I realized soon enough that doing this allows you to create something with a lasting effect, rather than worrying about checking over things again and again. And, sure, in this instance, the beat I took lasted a little over a week, but fortunately, doing so allowed me to figure out how to have a great time still. At the end of the day, fully comprehending the situation at hand — how to go about “celebrating” my birthday — made decision-making all the better.

Figure out what you actually want

This one is definitely a little more birthday-related — I’m talking about the gifts and stuff. But I want to note that I started planning this way before my actual birthday, mainly because the start of quarantine had a definite impact on this train of thought.

In March, we were told that things were shutting down, and only essential businesses would remain open. When it came to grocery shopping for my family, we would create a grocery list and only put exactly what we knew we needed. This was done to make sure we did not spend more time in public than was necessary, as well as to make sure we would not waste anything. Even as things started to go back to normal, or as normal as things can go during these uncertain times, my family continued this practice, mainly because we found it much more efficient. Internally, I started to ask myself if I truly needed something. When it came time to figure out what I wanted for my birthday presents, I was stumped. I was in this mindset of only wanting things that I truly needed. Personally, I think that this is a better way of thinking about one’s possessions because it helps me feel more satisfied and content with what I own.

Be positive!

I feel like this tip has been on the back of my mind for the past couple of years, but it’s one that applies to many situations, more so this year because of the pandemic. There are many limitations to what people can do because of COVID, and I think the best way to go about this situation is to look at what you can do and enjoy that. I completely understand that saying “look on the bright side” in many scenarios just plain and simple sucks, but there’s not a lot we can do until conditions with the pandemic improve. I spent quite a bit of this year getting excited about going to college (in NYC!) and getting to celebrate my birthday there. But because of how unprecedented the times are right now, almost everything has changed last-minute. Sure, I was frustrated, angry, and sad all at the same time, but I “took a beat,” and realized that I couldn’t do much to alter the plans. Then I “figured out what I actually wanted” and moved on to being more positive!

These three practices definitely helped me enjoy my birthday a lot more. For those of you whose birthdays are coming up, try to remember them too! I think these tips can help you in many situations, but at the end of the day, you need to do what you want to make yourself happy — all while social distancing and wearing a mask.

Mahati Shastry

Columbia Barnard '24

Mahati is a sophomore at Barnard who is excited to experience the wonder that is NYC. She loves reading, writing, and spending time outdoors. Even though she is just entering the Barnard family, she already feels like she’s at home. Currently, she is undecided but is very interested in political science and human rights. :)
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