10 things I never knew or realized that the shutdown has taught me

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Hannah Nguyen

Being in isolation may seem like you've lost connection with life and its surroundings, but it actually brings us closer to the true meaning of life.

On that Thursday afternoon when Governor Tom Wolf announced that all schools in Montgomery County were going to be closed due to COVID-19, I had no idea what my life would be like in quarantine. Although it may seem like social distancing has given me nothing else but boredom, it has given me the chance to learn new things about life that I would have never taken the time to think about.

1. School takes up a large part of my day

My days would already be planned from morning until night. At 6 AM, I would get ready for school. By 7:21 AM, first period would begin. From that time until 2:12, or sometimes even 3 or 4 if I had decided to stay for an after school activity, I would be at school. Then, I would come home and spend most of my time doing homework until I would go to bed. On occasion, I’d have other things put into my schedule, but most of the time, I’d be busy with tasks that were school-related. Now, I wake up with no idea how I’m going to go about with my day. Even after doing all the optional assignments on Google Classroom and rearranging the furniture in my room continuously, I don’t ever have that feeling where sleep at the end of the day is actually very rewarding. I used to count down the days until we had our next break or early dismissal and now, I’m waiting for the day we get to go back.

2. Being in the presence of others means a lot

Sometimes just sitting quietly in your favorite class is all the human interaction that matters. We often forget all of the little things that can change your day in an instant like deep class discussions, getting off-topic in class (which later becomes some of the best memories), and just connecting with your peers. Just being there matters. Now, I can only hope that my friends answer my text messages or FaceTime calls, yet communicating that way feels significantly different. When you’re with others in person, you’re connected by being in the same environment whereas when you’re texting or calling them, you’re missing the essence of just being there. We just don’t think about how important it is to be with other people as much as we should.

3. If an apocalypse occurs, we would all go into complete chaos

All of a sudden, the world has run out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and we’re being taught how to wash our hands again. People are in survival mode and are buying everything they can whether they really need it or not. Our leaders don’t seem to know what to do. Celebrities are just singing and posting it online. Schools have no idea how they’re going to continue. We are in panic mode. If anything, COVID-19 has proven that we are never going to be prepared for the worst.

4. Time is crucial

The one thing that I have always asked for is more time—more time to complete an assignment, to spend a memorable moment, or to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. Despite getting all of the time in the world now, I still feel like I lost too much time. I lost time to spend the best parts of the year with my classes, I lost days of learning in an environment I now appreciate more than ever, I lost time that I planned accordingly in order for my college plans to run smoothly. My junior year took too long of a break, and I genuinely feel lost, despite the fact that I still have another year left. Even though I’ll be able to come back to school, I still lost a good portion of time that I’m unable to take back.

5. Intrinsic motivation is harder than we think

As much as I want to keep myself busy, it’s been extremely hard to push myself to get something done when I won’t be rewarded in the end. In school, while it may be sad to admit, I was motivated by good grades. Getting good grades boosted my confidence and gave me a reminder that I was doing great. When I wasn’t doing well, I pushed myself harder. It gave me motivation to be better and to get things done. I feel like I’m losing effort to be productive now because I’m not being reassured that I’m doing something right like I used to.

6. Technology will not save us… actually

My screen time increased significantly during quarantine, yet I don’t feel satisfied. I played games on my phone and watched who knows how many shows and movies on Netflix, but I still feel bored. I don’t feel like I accomplished anything. For the longest time, I felt like I couldn’t survive without my phone. Sure, I use it for important things, but it’s not my entire life to me. Honestly, it seems to add more to my boredom than anything. Technology, as it turns out, is not the solution to our boredom.

7. Sometimes, we need to isolate ourselves in order to reflect on life

While I was in school, I spent too much time thinking about the future and what I wanted to do with my life then; however, I never realized how often I forgot to focus on the present. I cared too much about the outcome of doing something or how I wanted to picture myself in the future. I never took the initiative to just start everything in that moment. I just kept waiting for the right moment, but the reality is that the perfect time starts now. When I finally took the time to be with myself and think about my life, I realized that I need to accept everything that is happening in my life and work on what I want or what I want to be now.

8. Even when it seems like there’s nothing left that we can do, there’s always something out there

Despite not being able to hang out with friends or go out, I still found ways to satisfy my boredom. For instance, I rearranged the furniture in my room, so there was something different in my life. I completed applications for things I wanted to do in the summer. I planned things to do with my friends once we get out of quarantine. I sorted out clothes and items to donate. And there’s probably 100 more things I can do, but I just haven’t thought about it yet. My biggest tip to get rid of your boredom is to start small. If you start with something like cleaning a small part of your house, you could get inspired to clean the rest. If you start going on a run every single morning, you might decide to add more workouts to do. There are so many things that you can do while social distancing, you just have to put effort into getting it done.

9. Our careless acts can affect others

At first, many of us, including myself, were honestly selfish because we didn’t take the virus seriously as it didn’t nearly affect us as much at the time. Now, with more cases and deaths rising, the situation is getting worse, and people aren’t getting any less selfish. Sadly, it only takes the life of a loved one for people to realize how serious something can be. But it doesn’t have to be that way. At this time of a major crisis, we have to set aside our selfishness and do what we can to help others, and if that’s by sacrificing our spring break or hangouts with friends, then that’s what we have to do.

10. We take life for granted 

We spend way too much of our time reading into other people’s gossip, hanging around toxic people, and holding things off because “I have the rest of my life to do this.” Just a few days into living in isolation, I could only think about what I wanted to do the moment we got out of quarantine. We never realize how important something is until we lose it. After losing the ability to go out and see others or to go and do something with my life, I realized how much I prevent myself from living every single second of my life to the fullest. No matter how cliché it is to say that every second in life matters, it’s extremely important, and I take it for granted too often.

While we may have a negative look on life at this very moment, we can take this experience as an opportunity to learn something new and become better people. No matter how long it takes, things will get better and we’ll come out of it stronger.