Life in Lockdown: 5 Little Lessons
After a glorious few months in New Zealand working with a professor at the University of Auckland–which I'm happy to discuss in a future blog post–I arrived home to a toilet paper shortage and an ever-eager father insisting that we make the most of the situation. He earnestly designed a family brochure, using a Microsoft Word template, entitled: "Unwrapping the Gifts of Corona: Questions to Answer as We Hold Basic Truths." These brochures were taped to our refrigerator and bathroom mirror, prompting us with questions like: "If I could look back in a year and see one great stride in any area of my inner life, what would it be? What about my outer life?" and "What, if any, skills, knowledge, habits and service would I like to develop in this newfound spaciousness?" I found these questions equally humorous and intimidating. How could we be pondering questions of personal development when we were about to run out of toilet paper?
Looking back, five months later, I have come to appreciate his desire for us to think critically about our mindset. We cannot control the economic recession, nor how states reopen, nor when we might return to normalcy. In this unpredictable state, it is easy to feel a loss of agency, a sense of powerlessness and frustration. These past months of navigating uncertainty have no doubt been challenging, but I've been thinking about some lessons that I want to share with you.
- No. 1
Different doesn't have to mean worse.
There are myriad ways to find happiness, even in adverse situations. A Spanish class I took in the spring exemplifies this lesson. Although very few would prefer a Zoom class over an in-person experience, our professor found ways to make the class personable and engaging. At the beginning of most classes, a student would lead us in a meditation, or recite a poem, and in one case, a classmate even taught us a Bollywood dance routine with her mom! Our last class was a "Zoom party" where we introduced our families and our pets and celebrated a term's-worth of hard work. Given the remote format, we could have easily become disillusioned by the circumstances and disengaged from the course. Instead, we were encouraged to find joy in unexpected ways, connect with each other on a personal level, and ultimately create a memorable experience.
- No. 2
Stay connected through whatever means necessary!
After not being on campus for a full year, I found myself feeling a little disconnected from the Dartmouth community. However, over the course of the spring and summer, I have been pleasantly surprised by the effort put in by organizations across campus to continue their programming. One example is the Dartmouth Student Union, which hosts weekly “Internet Commons” to explore themes like respectability politics, the redistribution of resources, and other topics relating to the fight against racial and economic inequalities. It’s been exciting to see ’24s participating in, and even leading, these calls before they’ve stepped foot on campus! My sorority also meets weekly to discuss ways to be actively engaged in anti-racist work, reflect on the problematic history of our house–and the Greek system more broadly–and strive to foster a more diverse and inclusive space. Seeing the faces of fellow students in little boxes on a screen cannot compare to real-life interaction, but I’ve appreciated the opportunity to voice my own thoughts and see that my peers are grappling with similar challenges as well. Logging into a Zoom call may seem impersonal, but it’s a nice reminder that we all want to stay connected to the Dartmouth community, even while remote.
- No. 3
Self-care isn’t selfish.
If your physical and mental health isn’t a priority, you will not be able to dedicate yourself as fully nor as effectively to the pursuits that matter to you. I have certainly struggled to navigate the balance between “taking advantage of this time” and taking care of my own wellbeing. Blame it on my dad’s brochure or my tendency toward overcommitment, but at the beginning of the lockdown, I had these grandiose ideas about all the new skills I had to develop–learning French, or how to code in Python, or becoming an Excel whiz. The reality has been much less glamorous, but no less valuable...my days have been filled with working remote jobs, grocery shopping, hiking with friends, watching Netflix, and spending time with family. Of course, we should strive for self-improvement and not become complacent, but oftentimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to ‘achieve’, that we miss out on enjoying (and being proud of) where we find ourselves.
- No. 4
Sriracha is a superior condiment.
Over the course of lockdown, I experimented with a variety of new recipes, but I’m an especially big fan of eggs in all forms! Sriracha or any other hot sauce adds a nice kick :)
- No. 5
When in doubt, return to gratitude...and give back.
On a particularly sunny day, stop for a moment and feel the heat of the rays. Before you take that first bite of dinner, take a moment to think about all the essential workers involved in getting the meal to your plate. I don’t want to sound preachy, but I believe that practicing gratitude and mindfulness has helped me feel centered in this unpredictable, and at times scary, climate. Furthermore, we typically think of charity or acts of service as requiring an extensive time or monetary commitment. However, ‘giving back’ can take a variety of forms. Maybe it looks like calling your grandparents to let them know you’re thinking of them. Or spending a Sunday afternoon phone banking for a candidate in a local election. Or something as simple as signing a petition for a cause that speaks to you. Whatever form it takes, cultivating an ethos of service will give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment. An inspiring initiative started by two Dartmouth students is Give Essential–go check it out!