Pandemic Life: A Saga
Updated: Nov 19
How are you doing during these unprecedented times? Hanging in there? Me too
I've been worse. I've also been better. At the moment, I'm experiencing a sort of... quarantine blues? Pandemic woes?
The rut isn't really about COVID or being at home. It's everything together after months of the new normal. And it's finally beginning to process the loss of life as I knew it before. What exactly did I lose? The undefined that could have been...something that would've set my senior year apart. All the un-made memories and un-lived experiences that I might've had. And a perhaps less-anti-climactic ending to the 16-year academic portion of my life.
My friend recently called it "ambiguous loss." A fitting term, in my opinion.
As the weather cools and I take fewer outdoor adventures, I've been feeling as if I'm reliving the same day over and over. I wake up, and I know exactly what my day will look like. I haven't felt my usual excitement and energy in a while.
Nothing is terrible. There are no significant challenges I can focus on overcoming. I must simply be at home, living the same day with the same people. And I only have so much mental stamina to continue the boring marathon of...doing the same 5-10 things. The repetitive experience has led to the important realization that a life with little spontaneity and change is not as fulfilling to me—something to keep in mind as I plan for the future.
These last few weeks, I've received newsletters from Chris Guillebeau and Mark Manson addressing the sentiment, which helped me feel less alone in the slump. I usually refrain from bringing up struggles until I've overcome them or at least made significant progress towards a solution. But, we're all in this together. Although we don't share the same experience, we've been at home for months now. It's no longer a hot topic, yet, not just for me, the circumstances feel so much harder now. Frustrating and perplexing indeed.
Pitch black arrives at 5pm, speeding closer towards 3pm every day. Nothing new for Boston. But among the expected challenges of New England winters, there is some unsettling newness: planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas alone as a family, because gathering with our usual friends would be unsafe. Studying for midterms at home. And grieving the loss of a loved one from afar.
Many others are experiencing the same and more. I simply want to contribute to the growing, comforting content out there intended to share private-yet-widely-shared struggles. You are not alone.
Just a list of things that have brought me joy:
Tech: Woebot. AI meets therapy/mental health. A guest lecturer included this guy in his presentation on machine learnings advancements around us, and I'm quite impressed by its (his/her?) conversational tone.
Poem: "How to Be at Home". A beautiful watch + listen, found in a Creative Mornings newsletter.
Company: I'm so grateful for my brother being home with me. Although we had to adjust to spending so much time together, he deserves some serious sibling appreciation. His jokes and friendly presence break up the sameness and counteract loneliness with laughs and memorable conversations.
Trip: I visited friends in DC last weekend. There really is nothing like spending time with friends in person. I had a fun weekend of nostalgic sights and touristy activities, and coming back, the temporary change of setting acted like a reset-and-refresh for my life back in Boston.
I've accepted that treating quarantine like a limited-time-opportunity to maximize my productivity and skill-building does more harm than good. Instead of lofty goals and projects, I've decided to focus on the following intentions for the remainder of 2020:
Draw in the positive energy I need and gently let go of those contributing to stressful and anxious feelings
Brainstorm creative ways of having a different-but-still-fun holiday season at home (any suggestions? Let me know)
Communicate (even more) with my family about what we each need during these times
I've been reading about toxic positivity and the importance of acknowledging and understanding negative emotions. For the next few weeks, I'll be sitting with my anxious thoughts, providing them the space they need. I'm all for focusing on the upside, but hello self-compassion and new understanding. Welcome to the pandemic saga.