A brand new 2020 diary, scrumptiously leather-bound with gorgeous thick paper waiting for my scrawling hand. Fast forward to March 2021 and this diary is practically empty. My concept of time has been completely rehashed, all tasks rotating around the small circle of kitchen-desk-bathroom. My social calendar is blank and my scheduled hours at University a droplet in a wide ocean. SO much time.
We have all coped with this abundance of time in different ways, but a common experience is being alone with our thoughts. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Life can feel a bit like you are on a treadmill. Having to make decisions immediately and consecutively. Yet for the first time in a long time, the guidelines to decision-making are not applicable. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, there was little possibility of internship work in the summer of 2020, very few volunteering experiences during term time, and a reduced circle of social connections, all of which had the potential to stagnate our thoughts. Roaming around our empty mind, a familiar beast has gained the strength to creep out of the shadows: the terrifying question – what am I doing with my life?
With shops, theatres, and cafes closing and time outside the house curtailed, there were few distractions. The novelty of watching movies and TV series soon wore out and finally we stumbled into a historical state of living, our routines encapsulated by cooking, cleaning, and working, with the odd hobby thrown in for respite.
Lacking our normal distraction-inducing events, our horizons seem to consist of very little. Whether University studies or a professional job, when work is all you have, it becomes vitally important you enjoy what you do.
For perhaps the first time, everyone’s purpose was thrown into question all at once. It is tempting to react negatively with a surge of existentialism, but I argue people should opt for a different reaction, one that plays on our unique strengths. Whilst holding ourselves responsible for improving on the pandemic’s destructive impacts, from mental health, to social justice, everyone becomes an active agent.
From passionate hobbies and amazing feats, to small businesses and online activism, people have invested their new-found time in the things (and people) they love. Without big social circles to get lost in, we have discovered our own individual passions. Social interactions are now something to be savoured, each and every person is worth listening to with a full heart and open mind. No activity is more or less worthwhile because of its status in society, the question is simply ‘do you enjoy this?’ and if the answer is yes – hey! You have found your passion.
Self-questioning and exploration can be tiring, but hugely empowering. It is amazing to realise how much power you have to be an active agent in this world. The pandemic has truly highlighted this fact, through our shared responsibility for the health and wellbeing of ourselves and others.
Despite the long struggle, we have learnt a great deal. A lack of distractions has allowed humanity to reflect upon what matters most, and I hope that when all the distractions start flooding back in, we will not forget what we have learnt about our joys, and our powerful ability to address the most pressing issues in society today.
image: Karolina Grabowska via Pixabay