What is life like now during quarantine, what was it before, and most importantly, what will it be after? Before quarantine I had structure and a routine, it was like a pattern, a rhythm, it came so naturally to me. I understood, and I lived by it. The importance of schedules and structure during quarantine is a concept that Psychologist Claudia W. Allen strongly believes in. Allen the Director of Behavioral Science in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine believes that “while telecommuting initially sounds like an unplanned vacation, in reality, isolation, lack of schedule and not enough to do are a foolproof recipe for depression” (Allen 1). Years’ worth of buildup and creation of a routine and all it took was a week to lose it all. But why? I’ve gone on breaks before, I’ve broken my daily pattern before, so why does it feel like now more than ever there is no structure? Why has quarantine made me feel like I’m losing….everything. What did the future have in store for me and my life, or my structure, and could it fully come back? I sat there on Friday night going into Saturday, having those exact thoughts. I simply couldn’t help but wonder: is having great expectations for the future being optimistic and hopeful or are you ultimately setting yourself up for failure? Now, this is a question that I not only don’t have the answer for but perhaps never will. Because if I’ve learned anything during this quarantine, it’s that life truly does have the most unexpected ways of working.
Before quarantine, I was riding on the peak of my highs. It felt as if for once in a very long time I could finally sit back and relax. Maybe it’s the territory that comes with being a senior in high school, but I didn’t feel that I cared any less for school than I did before. In fact, it was the opposite; I was passionate and had huge goals for the school, The Column, the hallways, Bushwick Generator, everything. Now, what do I have to look forward to? Everything is in question: concerts, trips, internships. By looking forward to that am I setting myself up for disaster? Because if you asked me two months ago what I thought I would be doing in June, and asked me now, my answers would have no similarities. Not that I’m not hopeful or optimistic, but it is hard to look forward to a future where everything is back to “normal” when it took a couple of weeks for everyone’s lives to come crashing down before them. I don’t know how much more some people can handle, in confinement, alone, how much is enough? And even if we as a society reach a point where we are fed up (most of us will), we can’t just decide to all of a sudden return back to that point we were at a couple of months ago. I don’t think we ever can. The world we return to is not going to be the same. That’s not saying it’ll be bad, it just won’t be what it was before.
This quarantine has shown me the most unexpected things in the most unlikely ways. It has shown me what truly matters in life, and perhaps it is unfortunate that I needed a global pandemic to realize that. This quarantine has unfortunately created a rift between myself and people that I never expected. How does one stop a divide when they feel it forming? It’s hard when you know what’s going on around you but feel so powerless and unable to make a change. This not only relates to the bigger picture but in a smaller scope I feel that my loss of motivation and my loss of passion have reached out further than just my school life. It has now impacted my whole life. I don’t even feel like doing things that I used to always do. I get a text, and I don’t even want to read it. I don’t want to do anything. And I know that may sound sad, even concerning, but it just really is difficult at times. It was then at this moment that I realized that I could only imagine what everyone else was going through, my friends, my family. What was happening to us? In times like this, it is important to remember that you’re not the only one experiencing this. On top of that, you never know what else someone is going through. This reminds me of a lesson we were having in my AP Literature class in March. My teacher, Mrs. Fields, was talking about how we all as humans react to situations differently, and the way I would react to a situation could be extremely different than the reaction that my fellow peer would have. Everything that’s going on is affecting every single person. This isn’t exclusive to one group, or one region of the world. Mostly everyone across the world has had their daily lifestyle impacted by COVID-19. I for one find myself lost in the days, waking up, falling asleep, not knowing when it is or who I am anymore. How is it possible that this could so strongly impact the way my life functions? Perhaps my failed structure is a product of my own misdoings. Did I have a strong structure, or did I lead myself to believe that for convenience and peace of mind? Just as I shuffled these questions in my head, again and again, a friend texted me, and I remembered, and I realized. It’s tough not to be able to be with the people who are in your lives every day. Especially when most of your forms of de-stressing are reliant on being outside or with friends. But I don’t think it’s fair to yourself to put so much stress on your mind: the stress of comparing yourself to others who are learning or doing something “productive”. Everyone is different and everyone is handling this differently. Yeah, it’s good to want to do more with yourself. But if you can’t or you just don’t feel up to the task at the moment, then don’t stress yourself out because of that. Your time will come to learn stuff and do stuff and if that’s not now then that’s not now. You have a lot on your plate and it can be hard trying to manage all of that and then trying to make yourself do way too much at a time. Just try to take things one day at a time…one day at a time. It is also important to, “use any extra time very intentionally; don’t drift through the weeks” (Allen 6). By giving myself so many great expectations to accomplish, and deadlines to meet, I was hurting myself. In a period of growth and learning, I was forcing myself to handle too much, overwhelming my mind to the point of burning out. By fine-tuning my expectations, and looking at the reality of the situation, I realized I was only hurting myself. And like clockwork, my life in this multi-month period became much easier to digest and understand.
Life now isn’t easy to navigate by any means. It never was. However, by taking this journey day by day, it feels as if I’ve liberated my mind from my own restrictions. I’m going to have goals, and I’m going to break them, and that’s fine. I can’t get mad at myself if I slip up here and there because if I do then it’s all back to square one. Making my journey one day at a time is honestly the best thing I could have done for myself. I don’t know what tomorrow or today has in store for me, but I do know that I can try to make the best out of today, and then tomorrow when it comes. In my time alone I find myself reminiscing on the past, on the memories I have. Yes, the past was amazing and beautiful, but I’m too busy being stuck in the past and not living in the present. I know that this situation is not the most ideal, but if I continue to wrap myself up emotionally, in what was or even what could have been, I’ll lose myself. I need to be in the present, even if that is hard for me to do. I know I’m going to make it through, and whatever it is that helps me get through it then so be it. I know that when I’m outside in the future and I see the sunset, I’ll remember all those days in quarantine when I stared out my window watching the moon rise on Menahan Street. Will I miss it? Probably not. But, I will never forget the lessons I learned and the experiences I went through. Because to forget that, and leave this without having grown at all, what was it all for? To forget the past and not learn from it is to allow the past to happen again, and I know I don’t want that to ever happen.