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How the Pandemic Changed the Way I Live My Life

While sitting in quarantine, I realized a lot about myself. I learned to enjoy new things, preserve my own happiness and prioritize my tasks.

All Penn State students were sent home from college because of COVID-19. This broke my heart to begin with, and it also happened to be my freshman year. On top of that, seeing the numbers of people we were losing and the world changing because of the pandemic weighed heavy on my heart.

I was stuck in the house with my parents and ran out of ways to distract myself. My happiness plummeted, I constantly wished I was somewhere else and I honestly took so much of my life for granted. I got so sucked into social media that my confidence levels dropped fast.

I struggled to wrap my head around the reality of it all, but I snapped myself out of it. I refused to let my mental health suffer from an external circumstance I had no control over.

So, I focused on putting my phone down and doing activities that were distracting for my mind. I started to workout more, write down my thoughts and feelings and read more frequently.

I never used to regularly workout until the pandemic, and this already increased my happiness so much. Being active and being outside is something I made time for every day. I got myself into the best shape of my life, and I learned to enjoy working out.

I also began journaling. When I was little, I used to have a diary in which I would write funny things. But, it was never something serious. Now, I used my “diary” to vent out my feelings and process my thoughts on paper. It was so healthy for me to do so, especially when I was stuck being around the same people all of the time.

I spent my free time reading instead of using TikTok and mindlessly scrolling on Instagram. I have always loved reading, so it was easy for me to pick up a book and get back into it. This habit is something I continued into the school year with virtual classes and then into the summer.

The school year during a pandemic was extremely different. There were no in-person classes, no football games, no parties and no usual college activities. My roommates and I were stuck in our apartment, and it was challenging to say the least. We each had to juggle the amount of time we spent together and alone to try and keep the peace between us all.

Once the second semester began, I also had an internship. This was challenging for me to do on top of my classes and it was frustrating to see my roommates enjoying their free time when I had so little of it. This was when I started prioritizing my time more.

I learned to make lists based on the importance of the tasks and put just the right amount of effort into things instead of overworking them. This is a skill I would have had to figure out, pandemic or not, but the pandemic gave me the time to sit down and force myself to get through it.

Now, with things slowly making their way back to normal, I feel like I can handle the work I have to do while still maintaining a social life. This was my biggest goal once we all saw the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.

I knew how much I was struggling with no free time, stuck in the apartment. So, I didn’t want to have that little free time because I knew I would like to start spending more time with my friends once we actually could.

Prioritizing my tasks for class, my internship and the chores around the apartment helped immensely, and I can say I still find the time to see my friends or relax with them almost every night of the week.

Overall, committing to positive changes in the midst of global catastrophe changed the way I continue to lead my life.

Marlena is a third-year in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State where she is majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Psychology and Digital Media Trends and Analytics. She is so grateful to be at Penn State and loves learning more about communications, her peers, and herself every day. She hopes to use this knowledge and her own positive outlook to help others in any way she can.
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