“You Do You,” Quarantine Style
About two weeks into being cooped up inside my house, I received word from some of my friends that they were following Chloe Ting’s ab workout. I listened to them talk about how they had never had time to work out during school, and so quarantine was the perfect opportunity to do so. Three weeks in, my mother sat me down and advised me seriously to use my newly freed time to scour my AP books. I listened to her tell me about how only those who used quarantine to their advantage would benefit from an otherwise negative situation. By the fourth week, I’d heard a story from my father that would change my entire perception of quarantine.
Many of us know of the period of history when England was ridden by the bubonic plague, but perhaps not as many of us have heard of the part about Isaac Newton. I certainly hadn’t until this quarantine. In short, during his quarantine, Newton basically developed calculus, created the science of motion, made major breakthroughs in understanding gravity, and so on and so forth—clearly, the man “used quarantine to his advantage.”
From this point onward, I began taking notice of related sentiments all over social media, which I could only sinfully spend hours and hours browsing in my new quarantined state… and begin feeling guilty about. Forget about my own friends who were foraying into body building and creative writing and baking for the first time, or my family members delving into their own unique experimentations; I witnessed a wide variety of celebrities and influencers reinforcing this pressure of needing to do “something” with ourselves in order to call our quarantine effective. I found myself internalizing these messages and beginning to legitimately wonder whether everyone else but me was embarking on some deep soul-searching and finding their new side hustles while I was being left behind.
And yet, after the initial jarring realization of how people were beginning to view this quarantine period, I considered how we were all truly falling slave to the pressures of self-discovery. Most of us no longer view this time as a time to preserve our health, spend time with family, and reflect on various things, but as a time to potentially reinvent our entire characters. And the faster we do it, the better, because it’s a race against time and one another. Recognizing that this has become a widespread mentality has been important for me, and I firmly believe that the perspective of quarantine should be reworked. I do not advocate for us to all cease our efforts in improving ourselves and learning new skills, because doing this is valuable; however, we all have different interests, access, and capability to work right now, and giving ourselves this kind of pressure is not fair to ourselves. Using quarantine as some time to self-reflect and stay healthy rather than learning how to bake the perfect chocolate cake or publish a new novel should be encouraged, not scorned. And, as cheesy as it may sound, the more effective question to ask during this time should not be “What are you doing,” but “How are you doing”. Let’s take care of each other and ourselves, and let’s redefine what it means to live meaningfully during a literal pandemic.