COVID-19 and quarantine were two things I wasn’t expecting but here we are. Our lives have been reduced to our rooms, our apartments and our entertainment is either Netflix or social media. I live on my own in the dorm and I don’t have a roommate. Sure, I text my friends every now and then but it’s not the same as actually meeting them in person. It’s been over a month and needless to say, my “social-meter” is plummeting to zero.
Sometimes I wish I was living off campus and in one of those condominiums around the university. I mean, I might be sharing an apartment with my friends or at least I might still be able to see or visit them. I live on campus and because of COVID-19 the university has issued strict visitation policies. I’m not allowed to leave campus without a valid reason and no one is allowed to enter the university. Every time it approaches the end of one Movement Control Order (MCO), another comes in place and it feels really discouraging. I’m going to be spending more time on my own it is without a doubt that my next semester will be conducted online. Well, we’ll see how that goes in a week’s time.
However, despite my anxiety and depression, I have to say that I’m quite well. The first month of the MCO was spent completing my assignments and taking my online assessments – which were way more challenging than I had expected. The questions looked simple but to answer them you had to source information from journals and articles – and I speak on behalf of all the students that this was maddening! Nevertheless, we are finally done with all that and we earned a two-weeks break – which I would have been totally psyched about but since we’re in quarantine, I felt no enjoyment whatsoever. The first day without any online classes, assignments or assessments was perplexing. I woke up, there was no urgency to get anything done so I slept back.
For the first time, I had time to do anything I wanted, to pursue any personal project of my choice. But nothing came to mind. There was a clear lack of motivation and I felt extraordinarily unproductive. I had free time but since I wasn’t doing anything, I felt like I was wasting it. And it doesn’t help when you go on social media to find “hard workers” posting statues like if you didn’t pick up a new skill in quarantine, you lacked discipline, not time. I had just finished my semester and it was a tough one. I justified feeling demotivated and unproductive because I was completely worn out. The whole semester was a rendition of Drake and Rihanna’s song “Work” because it was work, work, work and by the end of it, you have nothing in you to do anything – let alone get out of bed in the mornings. I’m not saying that there was anything wrong with the status; people should constantly try to improve themselves or expand their capabilities.
But this whole COVID-19 and quarantine is entire new for us. Most of us have no clue how to cope with it and for people like me who don’t know how to take care of themselves that well, this ordeal felt like a taxing challenge. What I’m trying to say is, sometimes the simplest things you do for yourself such as rising with the sun in the morning, exercising, meditating, brewing your cup of coffee or sleeping in until noon, preparing a warm meal for lunch, catching up on your favourite TV show on Netflix, etc can feel like an achievement enough. Taking care of oneself is a vital skill and if you’re doing that in quarantine by staying positive or keeping or physical and mental well-being in check, then you indeed are spending your time productively. You don’t need to constantly push yourself to learn new things when you have some spare time on your hands. Use the time to recharge yourself in quarantine. You’ve been exhausted the entire term and you probably deserve it. And that outlook changed my perspective on productivity.
As strange as it may sound, I took a break for a couple of days. I still had some work left over from the semester but I didn’t want to dive into them straight away. Instead I practiced doing nothing. And by doing nothing, I didn’t mean that I stopped showering or eating. No. I meant I did nothing associated to my previous views on productivity. I would wake up a little later than usual. Sometimes I’d make breakfast but mostly I have lunch straight away. I’d order comfort food like chicken wings, onion rings, burgers, fries, sodas, a whole menu of fast food (not on a daily basis though because it’s unhealthy) and spend my afternoons on Netflix watching cartoons. I’m 20 but you can appreciate cartoons at any age so don’t judge me. I watched a lot of chick flick classics from the early 2000s as well. As a Muslim, I also kept up with the best of my ability to complete the five daily prayers. Spirituality and building that connection with God undoubtedly fill you a sense of relief and safety and those were what I needed especially in uncertain times like these.
By the evening, I’d have dinner after Maghrib and I’d be on my phone most of the night. As I mentioned, my “social-meter” was way down and I found a way to amp it up by talking to new people online. It helps me network with a lot of exciting individuals and builds my confidence when conversing online. The key to remember is that not everybody you meet online is going to be a true version of themselves and you shouldn’t get too personal with your details. It’s for your own safety. I quickly lost interest in Facebook and Instagram and switched to a more vibrant app called TikTok. I had been hesitating to download that app for quite some time but I’m glad that I did. The content on the app is really refreshing and stimulating. It’s distinctive from other social media platforms because the content is very artsy. It’s all about music, dance and expressing yourself. Most of the videos are hilarious (and some super cringy) and your feed is a continuous roll of new 15-60s videos. The downside to the app is that it’s extremely time consuming. You’re vibing and the next you know it’s already 3 am. And that’s why I wake up a little late in the mornings.
I also tried to read and write. I downloaded Wattpad after what seemed like forever but the app had changed a lot. You have to pay to read the best stories and I for one is a penny pincher. I read through my old poetry and songs and tried to come up with new ones but the inspiration wasn’t there. I wasn’t going to force myself to do anything so I tucked my pencil and my notebook away. It’s better to be creative when you’re in the zone instead of forcing yourself. Oh, and another important thing I did was checking up on my friends. Sometimes we might be going through difficult situations and we tend to keep things to ourselves until we can bear it no more. I lived that and it’s painful and I don’t want my friends to go through that. So being there for someone, just being available when they need you or lending a sympathetic ear can make a huge difference. We are all going through a collective traumatic experience and the best thing we can do is to be there for each other, keep each other in our prayers and wish that this ordeal will soon be over.