After a weekend shopping in Brooklyn, news came that the city would go under lockdown. An email sent Sunday night said that my graduating year of college was essentially canceled. My last day of classes to see my friends and professors had passed without me even knowing. There were no plans to postpone senior events or graduation. I didn’t know what to do. No one knew what was going to happen in New York. So I packed some clothes and left for my parent’s house in Pennsylvania.
There I would work from home, continue my classes online, and attempt to maintain the creative projects. But it was difficult. I was mourning the loss of my senior year, a milestone that had been keeping me motivated. It was all so swift and unmerciful. I was away from my home, my calendar cleared and replaced with an indefinite amount of days to fear for the health and well being of myself and others.
Yet, I was still supposed to do classwork without the resources I needed? I was still supposed to continue my production work? Expected to be even more productive because of the extra time? Scroll through social media for a few minutes and you will see the pressures to make this the most successful and constructive time ever. You have to get all those chores done, finish all the books on your shelves, learn a new hobby, watch all the TV shows, learn all the recipes, clean all the rooms in your house, do a full face mask and bubble bath every night.
But me? I did not want to do any of that. I felt no motivation. The outside world had stopped and so did I. Everyone was mourning in some way; whether it be school, jobs, weddings, birthdays, vacations, and tragically mourning those lost to Covid-19. We were confused and uprooted from our lives. So all these activities didn’t feel right to me.
In coping with the lockdown, I had to shift my mindset away from this pressure to do more. Take a step back, and see how to make this time work best for me. I began to see this as a reset. To prioritize my goals in a new way that didn’t stress being hyper-productive and over-ambitious. It wasn’t about doing more, but doing better. Focusing on the tasks at hand and making every day count for what I wanted. Not defining myself by my productivity, but rather by my personal growth. And the only way to grow was to give my time and energy to that which brought out the most positivity.
Somedays it was most beneficial to spend eight hours zoned into (at home) office work. Somedays it meant working slowly, drinking tea, and listening to music. Somedays it meant sleeping in and playing video games. Somedays getting up early and listening to podcasts. Or spending hours on video-call with friends. Or reading. Or watching TV Or taking a two-hour walk. Or a five-minute walk.
Instead of tying myself to a structured routine, I decided to take advantage of this very strange and oddly freeing time. I know for many this might not be the best route or even a possible route. They need structure, people have children to care for, strict diets, set check-in times for work. My at-home work schedule is flexible, my class meetings are strict, and I’m privileged enough to really choose how to spend the time in between.
Now normally, I would spend all my free time taking on the pressure to do more. As a creative person – filmmaker, writer, and collaborator- I would pile on more and more projects. Not giving myself time to do leisurely activities. And when I ultimately would get overwhelmed, I would beat myself up for it, succumb to stress, and further mismanage my hours.
How often does this happen to all of us? We get caught up with life’s responsibilities and demands that we overlook the things that we should actually be putting our energy towards.
If this lockdown has shown me anything it’s that there are so many false pressures and narratives in our busy, fast-paced, and dynamic world. But in this moment of pause, we see what we can go without. So let go. We see there are more important things to prioritize. So value them. Find what you want to let go of, what you want to keep, and what you want to begin.
For me, I spent some time grieving the loss of my graduating year. Then I let it go to focus on how to finish my semester with the same success. I stopped pressuring myself into a negative structure that didn’t work for me. Instead, I make a to-do list every week and check-in each morning to see what will be the positive priorities. I know I work best in the evenings, so I spend my mornings doing something more fun. I know I don’t like to cook, so I don’t bother trying. I know writing lets me clear my head, so I open my notebook when needed. I began valuing leisurely hobbies, like playing video games and sitcom writer interviews, more. If I don’t get everything done I expected to, I don’t think of it as a failure, because these are rough times, and who wants to write a research essay right now?
Now back in Brooklyn, I’ve maintained this free-flowing routine. I make sure to check-in with family and friends. And most importantly I check-in with myself.
This may look completely different for you. And that’s okay. But I believe the one universal activity we should all be doing during this lockdown is taking real-time to figure out how to build positivity in our daily lives, in ourselves, and how to share that with those around us.
Don’t stress. Take this pause in the world to pause in your life. Don’t feel too pressured to go. But if going is what feels best, do it. Do whatever is best for you. That’s how I’ll be coping.
Photos by Sofia Pipolo
Top photo: Brooklyn from her apartment window