COVID-19 has brought so many new challenges. Quarantine was difficult, but I am blessed to still be healthy. To cope with everything going on, I set small goals for myself. Every morning I got up and went on a walk. It only took about 45 minutes out of my day, but it was constant and it helped me feel grounded knowing that I was able to accomplish at least one task. The small goal can be anything, from making your bed in the morning or drinking eight glasses of water. In a situation where nothing is normal, it's important to find those pockets of peace.
These past eight months of the COVID-19 crisis have been challenging to say the least, but they have reminded me of the importance of cultivating a rich inner life. As an extreme extrovert, I am constantly looking for ways to fill my time with friends, laughter, and fun. However, when continuing this habit proved difficult earlier in the year, I was forced to spend more time with myself and my thoughts. To some degree, our inner lives are all we truly have. Therefore, although largely forced, I became deeply interested in prayer, silence, and meditation. Although difficult at first, I was able to structure more time for silence and reflection into my day-to-day life and have felt the tangible effects of these changes. To anyone struggling with loneliness or purposelessness, I strongly encourage you to embrace the silence and solitude offered by this strange time and take advantage of the opportunity to cultivate a rich inner life. I promise that your outer life will feel substantially richer, as well.
Everything happened so quickly. The day that Notre Dame students learned we would not return to classes after spring break, I was with almost 50 other students on a crowded bus, traveling around the American South for a Social Concerns Seminar. It was weird and difficult to go from such a powerful group experience directly into a long period of isolation.
I’m really close with my mom and younger brother, so I am extremely grateful for the extra time I got to spend with them at home. They made my quarantine experience as fun as possible, although it was sad to think about how my friends and I had a precious time of our college experience taken away from us. It was hard to get calendar notifications on my phone for events I would’ve gotten to enjoy if we were on campus - formals, club events, the One Republic concert (which my friends and I tried to replicate by listening to their music that night). I missed even just normal dinners and study dates with friends, things I had once taken for granted. The strict physical isolation my family kept made it easier to slip into social isolation; I had some enjoyable Zoom calls with friends during quarantine, but Zoom can be extremely fatiguing, and it doesn’t fulfill the same social needs as seeing everyone in person. However, this also allowed me to spend more quality time with my family, which I enjoyed.
Overall, I feel that I had a very privileged quarantine experience, especially as I watched my younger brother miss out on all the final moments of high school with his fellow seniors. I knew that I would once again get to return to Notre Dame and see my friends (albeit in a new environment), which was a light at the end of the tunnel.
One of the positive changes that the pandemic has brought about in my life is that I’m much more likely to follow through with plans. I've realized that our time here is more precious than it felt back in January. If my friends and I don’t go to the apple orchard, visit the farmers market, or set up a lakeside soon, we might lose the opportunity altogether. Plus, having fun weekend plans makes getting through the busy weekdays a little easier. If it’s possible to say so, I’m honestly a little grateful to the pandemic for reminding me to appreciate my current situation. We only get four years of college and there’s no time like the present to start planning and doing those things that you’ve always thought about.
Honestly, I was so upset at COVID in the beginning. I mean, I'm not thrilled now, but I've come to appreciate the pause that it has given all of humanity to realize what is truly important in life. When we got sent home in March, I felt isolated. It was hard for me to adjust to online classes, in my childhood bedroom, and managing home responsibilities that come with that. I missed my friends, my professors, and being able to see my neighbors’ full faces.
Quickly, my friend group of twelve or so decided to create Friday Zoom calls, where we would play games, talk, or roast one another starting at 8 p.m. It was super casual but resembled the college get-together that we would usually have at Stanford or Pangborn. That April endeavor has become a weekly event where, on average, six or seven of us drop in to talk and have fun. This has kept my friend group crazy close and especially to those who have since graduated.
This transition also has made me appreciate the value of life to another degree. Having a disease run rampant in the nation with over 200,000 deaths was something I only could have pictured in a movie, until now. Today, it is rare for one to not know someone who had COVID-19, let alone pass away from the disease. All in all, it has been a time for history books, but this chapter isn't completely dark; with friendships and family, there is a bit of light.