The biggest theme I’ve seen throughout quarantine so far is that the idea of time has disappeared. The days have begun to bleed into each other, and regular hours for sleeping and eating have been erased. This quarter has felt like the world has completely stopped, but the days on the calendar keep getting crossed off and I’ve been struggling to keep up. For my Quarantine Chronicles, I pictured myself writing something along the lines of “this is a difficult time, but here are all the great things that have come out of it for me!” Unfortunately, I haven’t suddenly gained tons of new hobbies, learned a new skill, or even been able to establish a loose schedule for myself. Online articles and posts lately either describe the doom and gloom of today’s climate, or they brag of how someone has used this time for self development and have emerged a better person. I found I can’t fully relate to one side or the other because that doesn’t tell the full story. So, in the hopes of being as authentic as I can be, I put together some snapshots from the quarter so far to show the tough and uncertain alongside the beautiful and unexpected.
Online classes. Five courses for the first time in my academic career here at UC San Diego, but things are bound to be easier since they’re online. I have a sparkly notebook from Walmart for each course and a brand new pink pen. Even though I have always been the type of person that has to drag themself out of bed each morning, I see myself becoming an early riser in the near future. I’ll get up early, find a fun quarantine workout, and have schoolwork done by 2 p.m. each day. I’ll journal, read more, and cook all my meals. Hit me with your best shot, quarantine!
Another email from my teaching assistant. Do I intend to turn in any of my missing assignments any time soon? Sounds like the kind of question I should let myself mull over after another nap. I should eat something, or at least drink some water. Picturing myself getting out of bed and walking all the way—20 steps at most—to the kitchen brings actual tears to my eyes. My roommate laughs over a Zoom call with a friend from class in the living room. Maybe I’ll just try again tomorrow. Back to sleep.
Bioluminescence. I finished some missing assignments and it’s 12:30 a.m. already, but I feel good. Start the car, put on a good song, and drive. The ocean looks like someone broke a glow stick and spilled its contents into the water. I stand and watch the flashes of electric blue outline the waves. Magic. Filled with awe, I am reminded that there is hope and beauty and wonder, even now, in this strange time. At a stoplight on my way home, I’m playing The Cure too loud with windows down. A cute boy with a stupid snapback pulls up next to me, rolls down his window, and sings along just as loud. The light turns green and we go our separate ways. Missed connection?
I cry in a Zoom meeting with my academic counselor. I can’t get out of bed or get work done. Staring at the ceiling while wrapped like a burrito in my blankets has become a familiar pastime. He tells me I’m not a failure and that this is just a strange, strange time. He says that now is not the time to hold myself up to such high standards. Lower the stakes. Drop some classes. Don’t let myself crash and burn when there’s no reason to.
I’m now enrolled in two classes and that’s okay. I tell my academic advisor I decided to drop the other classes and he tells me there is no right or wrong decision, but he’s happy that I followed his advice, which, according to him, is always the right decision. I’m caught up on my classes and I can feel the fog lifting. I forgive myself for not being able to be the student I know I can be when my mental health isn’t getting in the way. I revisit the book on self-compassion that I only bought to please my therapist and finally start to connect with the words. I make real meals that aren’t microwaved frozen burritos from Trader Joe’s. I watch Camp Rock and let myself revert back to being nine years old again and laugh at how in love with Kevin Jonas I was.
I FaceTime with my sister and she tells me to come watch a tv show with her on her bed. Even though I’m currently a cool 500 miles south from her, I tell her I’m on my way and I’ll be there in 10. I stay up too late and look through some old pictures on my phone and start to miss the home I don’t have anymore. I let myself feel sad and go to bed. In the morning I attend my Zoom University classes and wonder how it’s already week seven. Trader Joe’s has pretty pink tulips, mini pots of colorful calandivas, and a cute, green plant called a peperomia that all look great in my room. I host the Quarantine Chronicles on Instagram and I don’t know what I’m doing, but I pretend like I do. Turns out that me with cut bangs is actually a crowd favorite.
Quarantine is hard. We are living in a tough and confusing time that no one has ever had to live through before, and yet, we still expect ourselves to carry on with work and school as if coexisting with a worldwide pandemic won’t affect our productivity and/or mental health. We are not meant to simply power through this. You can use this time to pick up a hobby or to lose weight, but if you end up doing the exact opposite, that is nothing to be ashamed of. Continuing to be a student, waking up before noon, or even just getting yourself to change out of your night pajamas and into your day pajamas are all still accomplishments. If quarantine has been hard for you, this is a perfect time to practice being gentle with yourself. Feel your way through the hard things and remember to cling to all the good. We will all get through this, six feet apart, but together all the same.