By: Taruna Anil
It’s 7:30 in the morning. School starts in thirty minutes, so you sluggishly roll out of bed, brush your teeth, and salvage the last bit of energy you have praying that you somehow manage to take on eight hours of online school. By the time your teacher lets you out, you’re exhausted.
As you lay in your bed trying to recharge (because you still have homework to do), surprise surprise, you start overthinking. I mean, we sit in chairs for hours and are somehow exhausted from that solely. Isn’t it crazy? We used to wake up at the crack of dawn, catch a bus (or have your parents drive you, if you’re lucky), walk around our campus for hours, participate in sports or other extracurriculars, go home, do homework, and resign yourself to bed. But now, sitting in a chair while staring at thirty blank Zoom screens is somehow equally as tiring as running five miles?!
Though you’re tempted to go into an endless thinking spiral, you let these thoughts subside. After all, you have so much work to do! You start tackling your to-do list. Even though the volume of schoolwork doesn’t seem as bad as when life was normal, you’re burnt out after just thirty minutes of studying.
Nevertheless, you persist because you have an 11:59 deadline to reach. If you’re fortunate enough, you have an extracurricular activity to do in between study sessions. But if not, that time is filled by staring at the ceiling, scrolling endlessly on TikTok, or snacking.
Then comes all the regular, mundane, “night routine” stuff. Dinner, awkward conversations with your family about how you feel like nothing matters anymore, showering, brushing your teeth, completing last-minute assignments (if you’re a procrastinator, like me), and finally, letting your eyes rest.
Now, you’re probably reading this wondering, “Why did she just describe a random day in quarantine?” But let me ask you a question: can you take this description I wrote and apply it to a specific day out of your nine months of quarantine? Unless your nine months in isolation have been extremely eventful, I don’t think that’s the case.
The truth is that every day since March 13, 2020 has felt the same. Sure, maybe some days don’t feel so average. One day, you might have felt really accomplished. Another day, you have a breakdown over your math test. But, spending the past nine months confined to our homes and staring at computer screens is…. weird (for lack of a better word).
It can mess with our perception of time. I’m writing this on a Thursday, and I can definitely say that the week has passed by way too fast. It feels like I’m wasting time. The minutes I spend glued to my Chromebook are minutes I can never get back. My mind tells me to spend that time elsewhere, but I simply can’t. As a result, we are left to cope with this feeling of loneliness and anxiety, knowing that there’s nothing we can really do to truly feel normal.
I find myself exploring these existential thoughts almost daily. About how nothing truly matters, how time doesn’t exist, and how my life is slowly passing me by and there’s nothing I can do about it. How do I “live life to the fullest” if I can’t truly live?
For the past few months, the only thought that has given me comfort is the thought of a normal life. The thought of my life before quarantine. The hope that numbers will go down, curves will flatten, restrictions will ease up, and the millions of people in the U.S that are struggling in every way imaginable will finally have peace. I clenched onto the thought of regular human interaction so much that my past self is suffocating.
The harsh reality remains: we don’t know when things will change. When we can finally see the smiles on our friends’ faces, behind the masks. When you can go for a normal outing without worrying whether you’ll get a deadly virus. When we can celebrate holidays, birthdays, firsts, lasts, and everything in between.
But dwelling on these thoughts and hoping every day that normalcy will show up in a cute little package at your front door is not healthy. It doesn’t change the fact that hundreds of people die alone in a cold ICU room every day. It doesn’t change your loneliness, your odd perception of time, or your stress.
What you can change is the way you look at life. While things may not be as we want them to be, all we can truly do is take one day at a time. It’s normal to have moments of sadness, stress, anxiety, etc. However, there’s a difference between having these thoughts pass by once a while and hyper-fixating on them.
The solution isn’t clear, but nothing has been this last year. So, for the new year, do the best that you can, spend some time relaxing, take a break from your phone, whatever you need to get through the rest of this pandemic. You’re doing great. I believe in you.