By: Alec Concejero
As I write this, it has been exactly 203 days since I have been imprisoned within the four walls of my house. Two hundred and three days of the same people, the same place, and the same routine. Yet I say this from a position of privilege and gratitude: I am infinitely thankful to be able to have a bed to sleep on to have the safety of a home, and my sympathies go out to all those without food or shelter. But with this place of comfort, comes a renewed sense of vitality. Human beings are social creatures by nature and we have to interact with our friends, peers, and colleagues to feel this sense of completion and humanity. What happens then when we are robbed this small comfort and thrown in an enclosed space with family members. Family members are the easiest to fight and argue with but they’re also the easiest to forgive, but as much as we all love our family, we can all attest that this is a recipe for a delicious cocktail of mayhem, frustration, and torn out hair. So, what exactly has this pandemic done to us physically, but more so, what has it done to us mentally?
Being shut off from the world impacts us deeply because we are inherently unified as “people”. A person is not formed alone, but is shaped by those around them, the multitude of ideas, perspectives, and beliefs. The pandemic has disabled us from this necessity of social interaction. Hence, we’ve been forced into a revitalized sense of being alive. Gone are the days of spontaneous nights, well-planned dates, and casual hangouts. One epiphany I’ve had lately was that being cooped up in a single spot does exactly that: give us time to reflect and think. Much like the federal justice system in democratic countries, imprisonment is meant to stimulate introspection of one’s self and possible wrongdoings. Similarly, we are now more than ever pushed to realize the small things that we miss. When I converse with my friends through Zoom, we reminisce the good times we had in this specific bar, or that one time we went to a popular restaurant and gorged on their specialty dish, or that simple walking through the hallways of our university. I believe we’ve finally come to appreciate the things we could do before being unable to do so. Much like the saying goes: We don’t know what we have until it’s gone. Only now do we truly miss and take for granted all the little things that sparked joy in our lives.
For me and my peers, we’ve been able to realize how important the simple act of being able to go out and connect somewhere in a shared physical space was; the connection when you high-five a friend after sharing a good laugh; the link created by the mere embrace from your companion. All these we took for granted because we thought it was just part of “the routine”. Our mentality has been changed to that of thanks and longing for the lives we had in the past. But just as much, we have also been able to analyze and work through our current situation. It is in the human condition to be able to overcome any sort of adversary by using our wits. As of the moment, there’s nothing we can really do about the pandemic happening around us but just to do our part and stay home and indoors. Our only real competition being locked up at home in our own minds. Hence, to surmount the feeling of solitude and lack of social connection, we have to almost coerce ourselves into looking at the positive and silver lining of being marooned within the island we call home.
We have to focus and move our eyes to the more positive side of quarantine almost at a drastic pace, because if not, we will be swallowed by the negativity that is all around us: the rising number of COVID cases in the country, the political climate locally and internationally, the countless incidents and disturbing occurrences that seem to happen consecutively, one after another, and so much more. With all of these happening time and time again, all the while being stuck at home, we will inevitably reach our breaking point, and to counter this we have to start planting seeds of positivity within our lives. This is one drastic change that we have to drive ourselves towards, otherwise we may instead be directed to literal depression from being quarantined for extended periods of time.
But more so, I think the biggest realization that’s dawned on me was the fact that all the places that we once frequented, like movie theaters, restaurants, bars, or malls, are all replaceable. All the small food stalls and restaurants that we’ve come to love that have been forced to close, or the stores we’ve patronized that can no longer continue operations, can come back in the near future or new ones can take their place. However, the people that we chose to be with to go to these pastime locations are irreplaceable and priceless. It’s these relationships that are truly important to us as social creatures. It’s these connections that we must nourish despite no physical contact with them. I find that during these new distant times that I don’t need a fancy little coffee shop or lavish diner to be able to have fun and enjoy the company of my friends, but rather just a strong WiFi connection and a set time that works for all of us. The activities that I thought were exclusive to certain friend groups were actually also applicable to the others. Buddies that I would usually only drink with, I now see are also open to playing boardgames online together. And inversely, old high school friends who seemed as if would never touch alcohol are the one’s I have e-numans with. Plainly put, this paradigm shift that we are going through is us adjusting to this new normal that we’ve been cast into.
We’ve discovered new ways to reconnect with those that we care about, and people have also found and created alternative methods to have fun with things like online games such as Covidopoly, an online version of the hit game Monopoly Deal or even simply online versions of Scrabble. We’ve enabled ourselves to make do with what we have, and not to dwell too much on “what could have been”. Sure, we still long for being able to out, but at this point in quarantine, we’ve all come to accept the reality of our situation. Though arguably, this does not mean that we have become content with our situation. Again, we are social creatures, and we will always long for the intimacy of companionship and physical connection. More often than not, most online kwentuhans would compose of walking down memory lane and exchanging stories from pre-COVID days. To some extent, this has taken a toll on us mentally of course, among my peers, we all show signs of acute depression: laziness, sleepless nights, loss of interest in daily activities (especially lack of concentration for academic requirements), appetite, and weight changes, loss of energy, and even anger and irritability. Remember though, that this is not a bad thing. Again, we are social creatures by nature, and being locked away for extended periods of time will definitely affect us, however, society has brainwashed us into thinking that having mental health issues is not a good thing or even a sign of weakness. But it isn’t. Some studies even show that a mental slump or being down is a coping mechanism when things get rough, and with the current situation we’re all in now, rough is an understatement. People choose to see being locked down for what it is: a hindrance, a hassle, a struggle, a series of boredom, a lack of freedom.
But as I mentioned above, there is still hope. If we actively choose to shift our perception of being stuck at home, we can become more productive and begin to see the more positive aspects of the whole situation. My outlook took a 180 degree turn when I realized that now I have time to do all the things that I was putting off before. I now had time to fully commit to learning Spanish, I had time to learn how to draw, I had time to play the guitar again. In essence, I realized I had all the time in my hands now that I had no classes to attend or outings to go to. I used this newfound sense of time for the betterment of my quarantine experience. But this is not to deny the fact that sometimes I do feel down and missing the old normal, but by actively choosing to see the benefits of my new condition, I could push back those feelings by just a little bit. Now for me, it was a new idea of time that did the trick, but it could be anything that holds some value or importance to you in your life. You can appreciate the Work From Home set-up because now you can be around your family or even something as simple as being able to eat home-cooked meals. It’s all in the eye of the beholder: you choose what helps you see the brighter aspects of your day.
Although it may seem as if it’s getting harder and harder to cope with the quarantine, we shouldn’t underestimate the human mind, because little do we know it but we are genuinely adjusting to it. At least for me, I’ve found it easier to adjust by purchasing things that would help. For example, for my online academics, I’ve bought a laptop stand, phone stand, and mouse to keep me focused. For working out, I’ve bought yoga mats and at home pullup bar to ground the reality of gyms remaining closed and also unsafe places. With everything going on, it’s hard to tell when exactly we’ll be able to go back to the real normal, so it’s better to accept the reality we’re in and climatize to it. It’s great to be hopeful that the quarantine may end soon but there also has to be a balance with reality. Once we’ve come to terms with our harsh present circumstance and make active changes to adjust to it and even thrive in it, we can begin to see the positives that it can bring us all while in the comfort of our homes.
Photos from Unsplash