by Elle O’Brien…
You know Isaac Newton did some of his greatest thinking while in quarantine? Think: gravity, calculus, you know, real simple stuff.
So what will you do during quarantine? Finish that stack of books on your nightstand? Try a new at home workout regime? Master a new recipe? Finally get everything we don’t have time for in our “normal” day-to-day lives done? Are you using this time productively?
There’s a lot of talk right now about how we maintain some semblance of normalcy through this. Talk about how routines and new projects will help us from going stir-crazy, will keep us grounded right now. I think there is some truth there. On my first day of remote learning, I woke up at my usual 7:30am for my morning classes and got dressed fully (including jeans). When my sister pointed out the ridiculousness of me wearing jeans, I answered: “I can’t just get half dressed. I have to feel like I actually got ready for the day”.
There is still work to be done right now. Students still have school and a lot of people are still working from home. The world feels weird right now but it hasn’t entirely stopped turning. There are still things expected of us. And sometimes a routine helps us continue on. It is a lot less comfortable to watch Netflix in skinny jeans than it is in sweatpants and if there are little things we need to do, routines to keep or adapt, projects to take on, to-do lists to create and complete to keep ourselves on track then we should do those things.
But I encourage you to lean into this new moment, this extra time, this pause.
Being off campus for the rest of the semester, the responsibilities I normally have have been drastically reduced. With clubs not meeting and hours at my campus job dramatically reduced, my main, and somedays sole, responsibility are my classes. Even many classes have reduced their workload in recognition of the fact that, given our current circumstances, schoolwork might not, and perhaps should not, be our number one priority right now. Initially, my instinct was to find ways to fill the time. What work can I do for my dad? Let me start a list of blog posts I want to write during this time. What new creative projects can I get a jump on? With all this extra time, I can get in extra-long workouts every day. Now, I’m still excited about some of these projects. I’m happy to have a little more time back in the day to write and it feels good to move a little every day when I’m largely cooped up inside. But more and more I’m wondering what it would and could look like if I used this time to just breathe?
I’m not the only one thinking of this and in many ways this is not so much an original thought as it is a quieter thought in all the noise right now.
@emmazeck_ asked us to think about this moment as a pause. “The same systems we see crumbling in society are being called to crumble in each of us individually. The systems that taught us we are machines … What if we became curious with this free time, and had no agenda other than to experience being?”
@glennondoyle urged us to resist the call to use this time to hustle. This does not have to be the time to improve yourself. This isn’t necessarily the time to level up. This is time to breathe. This is time to rest and grieve and do some internal work.
We’ve all known the feeling of wanting a break. We’ve wanted to catch our breath. We’ve wanted more time, more silence, an extra moment of peace in the morning or the ability to spend twenty extra minutes at the dinner table. Now we have it. And it seems we are eager to fill it.
Hustle culture seems to run deep. It seems like a lot of us are desperate to not “waste” this time. To have something we’re working on so that we can post about it on Instagram or brag about all we got done when we finally get to go out to brunch again with our friends whenever all of this is over. Might it be just as valuable to say you used this time to breathe? Used this time to recharge? Used this time to just be?
My hope is that we use this time how we need it, how it makes best sense to us as individuals. Keep a routine and start a new project if that’s what makes sense to you, if that’s what helps you heal through this. But it’s okay if you don’t pull an Isaac Newton and create or discover something groundbreaking during this. It’s okay to take days just to breathe through it. One breath in. One breath out.