When covid hit last March, it was impossible to grasp. While we all knew it would be a “thing”, none of us recognized how life-altering it would be for each of us. I just remember the constant news alerts — restaurants closed, sporting events canceled, seeing friends outlawed — and how scary and fast it was all unfolding. I began waking up in the night, jutting from my mattress to the air, out of breath as my body tried to grasp what my mind couldn’t.
However, after a few days, the quarantine was kind of nice. Lucky to have my job, apartment, health, and partner, I basked in the seclusion. No rushing to a gym class I hardly wanted to go to, no running to the crowded bus I hated standing on to get to work, and no worries on managing my time with the too many tasks I pledged to do daily. I could just be. Silent. With the rest of the world.
After the first two weeks, recognizing this was a more permeated state than Trump’s “Easter promise” led us to believe, I made some changes to adapt to our new world. I hired the nutritionist I always thought would be a good idea. I found the therapist I always knew I needed but didn’t have time for. And I even read A New Earth by Eckart Tolle. Privileged with time — and many other luxuries, unlike so many — I utilized all of it.
But then, a few months in somewhere between thriving and languishing, I began to drown in my time.
We used to go through the days so effortlessly. How easily we forgot our best moments — the familiar barista, the idle colleague gossip, and spontaneous nights out. All those belly rumbling laughs and moments of warmth by human connection were gone. They were replaced with months and months of doomsday headlines and lackluster restriction lifts that only sunk us further into a prolonged state of alone-ness. We were left with nothing more than time. And to consume the time? Memories.
My thoughts once occupied with ideas and inspiration were soon replaced with memories of my past — what was, what could be, and mostly, what never would. So many memories of experiences and people I hadn’t thought of in years resurfaced and buried me beneath them.
Bombarded with thoughts of the past, I soon began to regret parts of it in a way I hadn’t before, like the conversations where I shared too much. Or the times I didn’t say enough. I began to regret some of the people I loved, especially those who never loved me back. I was reliving my past as an escape from my present.
As I sat isolated in my beautiful apartment, it all didn’t seem so beautiful anymore. The light blue walls appeared gray as I slowly felt them caving in. My prism shrunk to just faded memories I couldn’t rewrite. And nothing seemed to rid me of them, even if I left the apartment — bike rides by the river, yoga in the park — nothing could help me escape the gray walls. They followed me outdoors, continuing to cave in.
Hoping I could rid myself of the memories, I repeated positive affirmations of who I was and what I had achieved. I turned my phone off some days, a difficult thing to do even though I knew I wouldn’t miss any potential plans or breaking news that the pandemic was ending. To my surprise, it worked.
I learned something through the delights and travesties of my covid quarantine: the pleasures we seek to derive from our journey are dependent on the mindset with which we travel, rather than on the destination we travel to. What I mean is that it is not enough to transport from your daily life to a beach somewhere else, like the southern coast of Italy or the beaches of Bali. Physically being somewhere will not change your mental state. Instead, taking in the luxuries and fallacies of the experiences on your journey is where the true opportunity to grow and learn exists. If only we applied that same traveling mindset to our homes and communities, we might find these places as interesting as foreign lands. How does one attain a traveling mindset when there is no traveling to be done? Receptivity, gratitude, and reflection may be its chief characteristics. Something that we can, regardless of circumstance, try to harness.
I don’t suppose many of us ever found our footing throughout our covid isolation. (To those who did, I salute you.) Instead, I believe we held on until hope bloomed on the horizon. Just as the tulips and cherry blossoms bloomed in full force this spring, so too did we.
I went on another bike ride today, but this time in a studio with six other masked riders. I talked to my new spin teacher after the class and felt a new friendship ensue.
I’ll no longer allow my memories to consume me as they once did; I’ll leave those feelings in quarantine. Now I’m focused on building new experiences and enjoying the subtleties — good or challenging — of my journey. Because we don’t need a fancy night out or a thousand-dollar plane ticket to feel revived. A new mindset to our world will do just that.