When I learned about the US/Europe travel ban while in the middle of my semester abroad, I was shocked, but not necessarily surprised. For weeks, my friends and I had been holding our breath, acutely aware that our study abroad was next in the line of a long list of programs to be canceled amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, the way the situation came about was quite unexpected. To be in the middle of the vibrant center of Madrid at 2 a.m. during an unassuming night out with friends, only to learn the year-altering truth that we were to head out as fast as possible, was startling. Within 7 hours of receiving the news, I had packed all of my belongings back into my suitcase and was on a series of flights back to the States.
Coming home and self-isolating for two weeks was a complete reset. In the blink of an eye, I had gone from living this crazy life abroad to the most mundane state I had found myself in for some time. I joked with my family that it was the most boring week I had had in years, because it was honestly true. Ever since I moved out for college, I had been constantly busy. From stacking my schedule at school in St. Louis to traveling all the time in Europe, I never gave myself a break. I was constantly trying to maximize in fear of wasting the prime of my life. Now, being stuck in my unassuming hometown during quarantine, I was coming face to face with that fear.
Despite this unfortunate reality, a new perspective began to develop. I realized that while I did so much to widen my life with all sorts of cool experiences in the past, I did very little to reflect and deepen other aspects of my life. For as long as I had been away from home, my life was a nonstop case of doing as much with my time as possible. It became the norm, what was associated with “thriving”. Being in that state brought out special interests and allowed certain aspects of my personality to thrive, but there are also ways I can thrive at home that simply cannot be done in the city. I can read, journal, hike, relax again…the list goes. While these things might not be what I would have originally filled this time with, creative spurts have developed that simply could not have been seen to this extent outside of this time.
Through the various virtual conversations I have found myself having during this quarantine, it has become clear that many of us have been forced to reassess the way in which we see life. While this is a temporary situation, its effects have the potential to be much more long-lasting. This quarantine has forced us to face uncomfortable truths about ourselves and re-evaluate the way we and society as a whole. For so long, we have been trained to be on the go and on the grind, and now, being forced to slow down can feel uncomfortable. The external features of life have formulated our idea of what should make us inspired and satisfied, but it turns out that there’s more to life than just the content we experience. I miss life as it used to be and cannot wait for it to be back (we all do) but if there is one thing this quarantine has taught me it is that not every peak in our life has to happen RIGHT NOW. I can survive if I have to wait 2 more years to travel to Paris or see my favorite band in concert, especially considering that so many people never get those opportunities in the first place. We do not need every single best memory of our lives to happen right now. There is still so much to do in this time between. We are not inferior to who we were before quarantine just because we cannot leave quarantine. Our value as individuals does not diminish because of that, and there are so many opportunities for us here that we may have not been able to find outside of this space.