After finding out that I would be finishing the last 8 weeks of my junior year of college from my hometown, after panicking and packing the most random things from my apartment, after realizing all the games I was supposed to cheer were canceled, and after crossing out all the plans I had in my calendar because of COVID-19, I only had one question. Why?
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Even if something awful happens to us, we should always try to learn something from it and find a way to grow because of it.
I am a big homebody, so I didn't think quarantine would be too bad, but I was wrong.
My first weeks back at home weren't all Netflix binging, self-care days, and rainbows. Honestly, they weren't good at all. I had never spent so much time on my computer trying to keep up with school work. My family was quickly getting frustrated with each other. I felt isolated from my friends and loved ones. My everyday schedule was completely stomped on, dragged through the dirt, and thrown out the window.
I am so grateful that I have a warm home, a healthy family, and the comfort of not having to worry about simply surviving during these times, but that doesn't mean this virus hasn't affected and shaken all of us to the core.
Although we might not be able to answer "why?" for quite some time, COVID-19 has definitely taught me a few lessons that I hope to never forget even when this is over.
1. It's okay to not be okay.
When I'm upset, I tend to try to hide it from others. I will usually go to my room and distance myself from others. Why?
Because the first thing people tend to ask when you're upset is, "What's wrong?"
A lot of times, I don't have an explanation. I'm usually a very happy person, but sometimes I just get in a funk. And I've learned that that is 100% okay. During these times, my emotions have been an absolute rollercoaster. I'm talking the tallest, fastest, craziest rollercoaster to ever be built. You don't owe anyone, even yourself sometimes, an explanation. Not having a reason for being upset doesn't mean you have to hide it.
We need to realize it's okay to struggle. It's a part of life, and you don't need to have it together 24/7. Trust me, I've tried to constantly hold it together. It's exhausting and quite frankly not possible.
So be honest about how you're feeling. Listen to yourself. Give yourself the grace you deserve.
2. Stop canceling plans.
I am usually not ashamed to admit that I would rather be in my PJs cuddled up in bed by 9pm instead of going out like other college students. I think it's great that I don't feel the pressure to go out when I really don't want to.
HOWEVER, doing the same thing every single night isn't really a satisfying life. (I mean after a month of quarantine, I think I could handle a couple of hours not wearing sweatpants).
We are made to build friendships and relationships with others. We are made to make memories together and experience things.
We have to stop constantly canceling plans.
Trust me, I am the queen of spending my entire day working myself to the bone. When the afternoon rolls around, I would rather cancel my plans and hop into bed out of pure exhaustion 90% of the time.
I always say I will go out with my friends when I have more time or more energy, but we are not promised those times. We have to make time for our loved ones.
After all of this craziness, I think we all can agree that we need human interaction in our lives. Even if it's just a quick lunch with a friend, stop canceling plans and go. You may not be in the mood for it, but you won't regret it. Your Netflix show and sleep can wait.
3. The importance of your full presence.
If COVID-19 brought anything positive to our lives, it was the opportunity to slow down, spend time with our families, and be fully present.
Before all of this, when was the last time you had played a board game? Cooked a dinner several nights in a row? Went on long walks just to get some fresh air?
If you're anything like me, you probably can't remember the last time you were able to do these things.
Life finally forced us to slow down, focus on the little things in life, and realize what actually is important to us. I hope you realized a morning spent in bed with your face in your phone scrolling through social media never compares to waking up, drinking coffee, and chatting with your mom in the mornings. I hope you realized learning how to cook a real recipe with your family is better than laying in bed with a bag of chips watching Tiger King.
When all of this is over, I hope we never forget how important it is to truly live while we can.
Spend time with your friends and family, go outside, watch the sunset, throw a party, turn off your social media for the night, try a new restaurant, book that vacation you've always wanted to go on, call your grandparents. Do something meaningful.
I know we all have been dealing with our own personal struggles during COVID-19. I challenge you to take some time to think about what lessons you have learned during this chaotic time. We don't have much control over this situation, but we do have control after what we learn from the situation and how we move forward when it is over. Stay safe + healthy everyone.