When all of this chaos began last March, I was pretty burnt out and didn’t even know it. If you know me, you know I am someone who loves to keep moving and doing and socializing, and before quarantine, I thought that was the way I thrived as a result of my extroversion. And then I was forced to cancel all future plans (and not make any new ones) and stay home—every.single.day. At first, it was really difficult to get used to. My mental outlook was pretty negative since I couldn’t do anything or see anyone besides my live-in boyfriend. Now that’s not to take away how grateful I am that I’m living with my significant other during a global pandemic, but him and I initially handled this very differently, because we are different. As an introvert, he loved having no obligations to see anyone or do anything, and being able to work from home in his boxers and play video games for hours on end was basically his dream come true. Not to mention his family lives six hours away, so he is used to not seeing them often as it is. But for me, it was way more of an adjustment, as I like to see my family at least once a month and my friends every weekend. As a result, I definitely had a few emotional breakdowns that first month…and then I started to make use of all this free time I had on my hands, and I felt a total shift in my mindset.
I made a to-do list on Google Docs titled “Me, Myself and Quarantine” (felt pretty clever for that one), which consisted of all the things I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to do or accomplish unless this was going on. Some things were simply time fillers like puzzles or adult coloring, while others were more productive like learning how to sew and completing home improvement projects. And then somehow—even though it wasn’t on my list—I organically picked up a few old hobbies and even started some new ones.
That’s when COVID-19 changed me for the better.
A few months in, I began honing my baking skills with recipes from scratch, and realized that not only was it fun, but I was actually decent at it—which was a boost of confidence for me because I suck at cooking…like legitimately SUCK. But then of course all of these sweets we were now eating made me want to work on my body as well, determined to not gain “the quarantine 15”. So I used all the empty space we have in our basement to start dancing again, a big part of my past I had left behind. Suddenly every night after work, I was downstairs self choreographing new moves to hit songs, and using that as a way to keep my body moving while still having fun. Eight months later, we now have an actual home gym in our basement—complete with mats, machines, equipment and a TV—and I actually lost 15 pounds instead of gaining them.
Then on June 3, my grandfather succumbed to his long battle with cancer, and it was because of COVID-19 that I was able to work remotely from my mom’s house and help take care of him in the last month of his life. I will always be grateful to this quarantine for giving me that time with him. To help cope with the loss, I reverted back to how I used to deal with pain and negative emotions, and that was writing. Without knowing it at the time, what I wrote for him ended up being the eulogy at his funeral. This moment was so cathartic for me. Through my writing, I was able to process my grief more easily and in a healthy way, and sharing it with others gave everyone the opportunity to heal together and know we aren’t alone in our pain. That’s when I realized I needed to bring writing back into my life again, but not just for the bad stuff that I keep in a journal under my bed. I thought maybe I could use my writing for the good too—and then share it with other people like I did that day. Maybe (a big maybe), I could heal others as I was also healing myself.
So on July 13, I launched a blog. A blog you are visiting right now (Hey!). And then I made an Instagram account to promote it (yes, I have to shamelessly plug my IG handle right now: @twentysomethings_blog. Go follow me). And by managing both of these sites, I was freely accessing my creative skills again, something I don’t always get to do in my full-time job. Now the creative juices were constantly flowing, and I really did feel this major shift in my mental energy, which—combined with my physical improvements—translated to an overall healthier and happier me.
So yes, I am actually grateful to the COVID-19 quarantine for forcing me to take some time off from the busy lifestyle I was leading. Between working a full-time job five days a week and spending all my weekends out and about—whether adventuring with friends, traveling back and forth to see my family, or running errands I didn’t want to do at night after work—I never gave myself time to just sit still and chill. When all of this is over, I know certain things will go back to normal. I will be back in the office every day, and I will still travel with friends and family, but I trust the changed me to find the middle ground between then and now—to live at a slower pace than I used to and take a few days for myself and my new hobbies. For example, Sunday mornings like this are perfect for baking and blogging, and help me kick my week off in the right frame of mind. And weeknights after work are perfect for exercising downstairs and clearing out all those toxic stressors of the day from my body.
I know how easy it is for us to harp on all of the negative shit that happened in 2020 as a result of this pandemic. It was definitely a bad year, and part of 2021 (hopefully only a small part) will feel similar. But I also learned a few things amidst all of this that I will take with me moving forward—like appreciating the small things and just slowing the F down—and I hope you all did too. Right now, I feel more in tune with myself and what makes me happy than I ever have before. I can taste great things on the horizon and I am going to give credit where credit is due for forcing me to realize what’s important to me. So thank you COVID for helping me find myself again. Because I didn’t even really know she was lost to begin with.