In early March of 2020, I was a full-time student at Virginia Tech. Like any average college attendee, I constantly struggled to find a balance between academics and social life. Accompanying this, I was embarking on a difficult period in my life; relationships were falling apart and my seasonal depression was at its yearly peak. In a seemingly inescapable rut, I searched to satisfy an unidentifiable void.
Desperate to find the light at the end of my semester-long tunnel, I needed a pause. I longed for the chance to escape the mundane routine I had created for myself. Spring break was just around the corner, so I decided to hold on for a little while longer.
Around mid-March, I was preparing to leave for home in Front Royal, Virginia. Rumors of a serious disease called Coronavirus had been echoing during the previous weeks. Social media were warning us to brace ourselves—the disease may entail more than we anticipated. Playing it “safe”, I packed just a little heavier than I would for a spring break getaway.
Before I even completed the three-hour trip to Fro Ro, everything changed. Virginia Tech decided to close campus for the remaining part of the semester. Shocked by this news, I was fully aware that we were living in what would be an important part of history. I felt scared, unsure, yet admittedly, relieved.
The period following the shutdown of the country was, to put it simply, weird—for everyone. Expectations were difficult to create during that blurry duration. Times were tough. Without a choice, most people surrendered their daily lives for quarantine, a word whose meaning would forever be altered.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. I knew no more than most people during that time, but I was confident in one thing: I was determined to make the most of my isolation. Without further ado, here are the lessons I obtained from Covid-19.
1. Inner work is hard.
Let’s face it, we all got to know ourselves better throughout our quaran-time. Although many Americans still worked outside of their houses—which I am greatly thankful for—life became different for everybody. As shops, restaurants, and even parks closed down, we all retreated to the comfort of our homes. Not only were we forced to spend more time with family, but also with our shadows.
“Shadow work” is a form of self-examination, healing yourself from the inside out. While this term is better known throughout the spiritual community, its presence is prominent in everyone’s lives. Sometimes, we run from inner work, which I am guilty of myself. Going within and acknowledging your bullshit is hard, but it was never made to be easy. Shadow work is imperative if you desire to grow.
For far too long, I was avoiding it. I was comfortably living in a victim mindset. It is easier to blame your problems on external forces. Nonetheless, the Universe has a funny way of making it so that you have to face your demons eventually. Shortly into the pandemic, I realized I outgrew the need to attribute my issues to outside contributors.
An individual attracts situations into their own life. We must work to heal the parts of our psyche that are subconsciously manifesting harmful patterns into our realities. The sooner one can accept this, the easier it is to navigate the obstacles.
So, I surrendered to it, which honestly was the hardest part. Slowly but surely, I learned to recognize my toxic traits. Inevitably, everyone possesses them; it’s human nature. I embraced the duty to unpack and retrain some aspects of myself that I developed throughout the years. I discovered that solitude is the key ingredient to this recipe.
I am no Buddha, and I am surely not God. I do not have all the answers and solutions to life. That being said, I am so proud of myself for committing to bettering my shadow. I am only just getting started on this life-long journey. Shadow work is not for the faint of heart, but it is essential in the game of life.
2. Minimalism is the best thing since sliced bread.
Ladies, I know you can relate to this scenario: You’ve had a bad week. Work sucks, your parents are upset with you for excessively going out, and your J-name-of-the-month is being flaky—again. You have an epiphany: You’re in need of some retail therapy. So, you head to TJ Maxx to carelessly drop $87 on new underwear, a few blouses similar to those you already have, and some CBD-infused soap. As your hard-earned money slips away, you instantly feel better. When you return home, the retail-high has faded. “Do I really even like this top?” You hang up your new clothes, only to never witness them leave the hanger again.
That, my friend, is known as instant gratification. We are all guilty of it in different forms, such as procrastination, immoderate snacking, sex, etc. They provide us with shots of dopamine, which is addictive. Quick fixes are easy, as patience is difficult. But sowing the work and reaping the rewards is better.
When I moved out last Summer for my Sophomore year, I took nearly everything with me. As I settled into my apartment, I found myself crammed into a 7’ x 10’ area. I festooned my shoebox with superfluous posters, decorations, and knick-knacks. If a stranger would have walked into my bedroom, they might have recommended me to the producers of Hoarders.
Before I retrieved the rest of my belongings, I found that I was doing just fine without all of it. I had managed to live off of what I packed inside a small tote for four months. I ended up selling and donating those redundant items. Not only did living simply make me feel lighter, but it is now my preferred lifestyle.
Of course, I am a firm believer in developing a space to be your own unique sanctuary. Even so, I never needed to fill a room with useless possessions. Clutter provokes chaos. Moving forward, I will be thoroughly considering the purpose and efficacy of an item before purchasing it.
My coworker said to me, “Just stop buying stupid shit.” Hearing that, I realized that I would rather pass on an antique, floral footstool in order to save money and visit its productive country. It all comes down to the question: materials or experiences?
3. Immerse yourself into any chapter in your life.
For my Freshman year of college, I attended Radford University. As leaving home is a hard transition for anybody, I was facing a rough patch. Although I have always been attentive to the sunny side of life, the people I surrounded myself with did not like our school, incidentally, causing me to feel the same way. I spent the majority of my first semester at Raddy dreading my situation. It was my responsibility to develop my own opinion, but you become the people you share the most time with. On the weekends, I would pass the time by partying at Virginia Tech, as they distanced about fifteen miles. As a result, I applied for admission to Tech for the following Fall semester.
Despite all odds, I was accepted into the university. I was slightly saddened at the chance; Radford had really grown on me when I allowed it to. Even so, I figured I would explore the possibilities the opportunity had in store.
During the last few weeks of my time in Radford, I was motivated to live presently, as I knew my moments there were numbered. I suppose it is easier to behave in that manner when the final act is in sight. I was slightly regretful for not taking full advantage of that wonderful school when I had the juncture to. You might think I had learned my lesson, but sometimes, we have to watch the same play with different actors to fully understand it.
As my time at Virginia Tech commenced in the Fall of 2019, I succumbed to the grips of depression. It was a version I had never encountered before. I was highly functional, but still extremely unhappy with my circumstances. My body began to show signs of discomfort through means of low energy, a horrible sleep cycle, and other detrimental habits. Although I did not foresee the potential repercussions, I began to wish my time away. The only thing keeping me truckin’ was the weekend. Every Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday, I would travel to Radford to party with old friends, ironically. It became a rather harmful routine, both physically and emotionally.
I was aware that what I was doing was wrong. Although I could not articulate the feeling, I knew. I failed to give my new school the chance that it deserved, using my former life as a crutch and distraction. In a desperate attempt to make sense of it all, I sought out a therapist. Her unbiased perspective was able to shed light on many things.
“How do you expect yourself to enjoy your new school if you’re playing with the ghost of your old one?” she asked.
Following the session, my perspective shifted. I had woken up and realized that I made my bed.
Shortly afterward, Corona struck the world, resulting me in no choice but to return home. I ascertained that although it may seem like so, the grass is not always greener on the other side. As Miss Lana Del Rey once sang, “It turns out everywhere you go you take yourself, that’s not a lie.”
I still had to face myself even when I physically escaped my old reality. I realized that I could have been further ahead on my path if I capitulated to what life was throwing my way instead of ignoring it. In retrospect, I can admit that I did not utilize my time in the ways that I should have. I do not regret it because everything happens for a reason, but I will never do it again.
We must make the most of what we have in the present moment. The past nor the future exist; they are figments of the imagination. Depression is a derivation of holding onto the past, and worry is generated by thinking about the future. We are the creators of our own realities. Our thoughts directly shape our lives. You see what you want to see, subconsciously and/or consciously. Discomfort is an indicator; if you are not satisfied, do something about it.
There is a reason for every season. It is the individual’s innate responsibility to welcome the current moment. How else can one truly live?
4. Control is overrated.
Each day in quarantine warranted its own distinctive trials and toils. No one knew what to forecast. Planners were rendered useless and expectations were impossible to accurately create. Before this time, I gave a lot of my energy to creating expectances. I would set standards for events, and even people, consequently disappointing me when those hopes would fail to follow through. During the beginning of the pandemic, I released the need to expect. I allowed the days to create their own stories, which saved me a lot of frustration. The mystery within it evoked a sense of fun in my day-to-day life.
I have found that I enjoy living more that way. Of course, plans, hopes, and dreams are beneficial. In fact, life would lose its spark without them. But the need for control is invalid.
Some of the best days of our lives entail spontaneity as their foundations. As expectation is the root of all heartache, we gotta loosin’ up, man. Besides, when does life ever go according to plan?
5. Always remain teachable.
Not only were there several things I needed to learn, but also many, which I did not know I needed to. Humans change every day, even in minuscule ways. In quarantine, my progress was accelerated. I assume this was made possible by my willingness toward education.
There is always something new to experience; it is the fruit of life. Knowledge is power. It can be unlocked in anything if you seek it out. Always assume that there is something to be taught in everything you experience, as well as from anyone you interact with. Listen with an open heart and mind, and you just might be pleasantly surprised.
Quarantine was an unpredictable, dangerous, and fearful point in our history. Unfortunately, many people lost their lives due to Covid-19. As a result of ignorance and carelessness, preventable deaths are still occurring. Nonetheless, order is present in every chaotic situation. I believe that this pandemic is a noteworthy and formative event. Nothing will ever be the same, but perhaps, we are better off that way. There is beauty in everything—if you know how to find it.
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”