When my school first shut down, my first thoughts were of all the things I could no longer do: see my kids, hang out with friends, or coach lacrosse. These thoughts were followed by all the things I was suddenly expected to do: teach online, stay in the house, and be “normal.” These seemed like impossible tasks, each riddled with challenges.
Teach online? You may as well tell me I’m a first-summer ACE teacher leading practicum lessons the next day with no idea what a lesson plan is.
Stay within the same four walls all day? I thrive off a busy schedule. I went from having a ready-made schedule to facing expectations of creating and sticking to a new routine, separating work and home life, and juggling family and friends. I struggled to handle it.
But in a recent conversation with my mom, she asked me to contemplate all the new things I could do during quarantine.
What do you want to do? When you look back on these months of quarantine, what do you want to say that you accomplished?
Superficially, it doesn’t seem like we can do much. But the more I thought about it, the more I recognized a challenge in my mother’s words. The question was an invitation to stretch myself beyond the mundane routine I had established. And so, I thought about the different things I could do, and three words materialized in my mind:
I told myself that this unique opportunity gives me the chance to expand my horizons and do things I have neglected, would never have thought about, or did not have the time to do previously. For example, my new morning routine involves reading different newspapers to stay abreast of local and world news. I’ve started reading more books on a variety of topics and issues for which I normally wouldn’t have time. In addition, I’m brushing up on my Spanish and taking virtual tours of museums all over the world. I am doing things to educate myself.
As someone who has always had a packed schedule, suddenly having free time is an anomaly. This was very disconcerting at the outset of this new normal. So, my quarantine community (Community 3.0 as we call it) and I made an unspoken agreement: we decided we would contribute to creating a space in which we could be happy and healthy as individuals, friends, and educators.
Physically, we are continuing to train for a half marathon and have begun semi-daily yoga in the living room. Community 3.0 bakes regularly, making sure we have a plethora of sweets while we cuddle up with Netflix at the end of the day. I am doing things to foster my mental and physical health.
As my friends can attest, I am horrible at communication. So I have been making an effort to reach out more consistently to friends to whom I don’t normally speak. I have also recently gotten back into creative writing, something I haven’t done since my last semester of college! It brings a certain kind of relief to see words being written on a page, to exercise that part of my brain that does not always get utilized.
So take this opportunity to do the things you normally wouldn’t or to experience those things you take for granted. Maybe one morning you get up to watch the sunrise. Keep a daily journal about your experience during quarantine, so you can look back 50 years from now and remember the daily struggles and victories of our new normal. Zoom call your friends you haven’t reached out to since college—they will appreciate it and you will too. Write a thank-you note to someone and send it along. You’d be amazed at what a little gratitude can do. I am doing the little things now that I’ve been gifted the freedom to do so.
What do you want to do? When you look back on these months of quarantine, what do you want to say that you accomplished? I issue a challenge to everyone: make this time meaningful.
What will you learn? What will you create? What will you experience? Whatever you do, make it meaningful.
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