This year has not gone the way any of us would have ever anticipated. Many of us had plans of traveling abroad, starting internships or even just meeting new people back in March. Clearly, 2020 had something else in store.
Now, it’s September. Online classes have started, people are continuing to work from home or on the frontlines of the pandemic. Almost seven months have gone by. The time is passing by torturously slow, yet also speeding by in a blur. I’ve used this time for many things (some more productive than others) and I’ve also learned a lot about myself and the world around me. While this fight is nowhere near over, these are some of the most vital things I’ve learned over the last six months in the pandemic.
The importance of fresh air
Before quarantine, I always talked about wanting to start hiking regularly. Living so close to Shenandoah National Park, it felt like I was wasting so much potential that the Blue Ridge Mountains had to offer. Every weekend, I would tell myself that I’d finally start. Lo and behold, it wasn’t until I was forced to be indoors that I finally pushed myself to explore the outdoors. With the help of my family, we would trek the hour drive to the mountains every Saturday and get our exercise in for the day. I never would have guessed how much this hobby would wind up meaning to me.
Not only is hiking great for your physical health, but it’s also amazing for your mental health. Going into the mountains where the air is crisp and fresh really helps ground you mentally, and being stuck indoors has taken a huge mental toll on all of us. Even if you don’t have the means to go on a full-blown hike, just a walk around your neighborhood or opening up your window can allow for your mind to reset. Go and get some fresh air!
Cooking can be a great creative outlet
My whole life, I was never one to cook much. I could manage making something simple, but I never pushed myself much further than that. It wasn’t until the pandemic that I discovered how amazing cooking can actually be. Whether it be banana bread, sourdough starter or olive oil cake, cooking and baking can be creative outlets to release all of the negative energy quarantine has brought.
One of the most rewarding aspects of cooking is tasting the finished product of your labors. Similar to tasks like building furniture or writing a paper, cooking gives you the satisfaction of enjoying your hard work. The ability to create something delicious and nourishing from scratch is a feeling unlike anything else. So, if you’re feeling bored this week in quarantine, skip the UberEats and try making something from scratch!
Never take time with family and friends for granted
In the era of face masks and social distancing, your friends and family can feel like they’re miles away, both physically and emotionally. While I was fortunate enough to be quarantined with someone I like spending time with, some aren’t so lucky. It can be really hard to be isolated from your loved ones, especially when facing the emotional trauma we’re all experiencing.
If you’re feeling lonely, try scheduling a FaceTime or Zoom call with your family and friends! You can play games together, watch a movie on Netflix Party or just talk and catch up. We’re all going through a hard time, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Having a space you love will improve your mood
One lesson I’ve learned about working from home is the importance of a space that makes you happy. Even something as simple as a new throw pillow or a new poster can make all the difference in a small dorm or apartment. While most of us don’t have the luxury of a dedicated office space, setting up a desk with a cute planner, keyboard and wallpaper will help increase your productivity. However, I’d argue that having the rest of your home decorated in a calming way is just as important as your workspace.
Throughout quarantine, I added fairy lights to my living room, rearranged decor pieces, and moved furniture around to help bring a much-needed change of pace into my life. Opening up all of your windows to allow for more natural light can also boost your mood and productivity throughout the day during quarantine.
Technology and resources are everything
Now that both school and work have been moved online, access to a reliable laptop, desktop, tablet, phone and internet provider has become vital in everyday life. While professors like to assume that everyone has equal access to these resources, that’s simply not the case. Many students live in areas with unreliable internet or are in financial situations that don’t allow for buying new technology.
The pandemic has really shown how transformative access to technology can be, highlighting how class disproportionately affects people in our country. The disparities between rural and non-rural access to technology are only becoming more evident, showing the increasing need for legislative reform in these communities.
The world is changing
Whether or not you believe that the world will return to normal in the near future, we can all agree that “normal” will not be what it was before. Working from home is becoming all the more common. Face masks are required, to some extent, in all 50 states. Major companies like Facebook and Google have announced plans to extend work-from-home until July 2021. What does this mean for the future of the United States? No one knows for sure, but it’s clear that social norms and constructs are rapidly changing before us. The results of the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd will also largely impact the course of the pandemic. Regardless of the outcome, be ready to adapt to a new environment in the coming years.
What did you learn during quarantine, collegiettes? I hope that you were able to take the last few months to improve on yourself, whether mentally, physically or spiritually. This has been a difficult time for us all, but the fight isn’t over yet.
Remember to social distance, wear a mask, wash your hands and VOTE this coming November!