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Time for Some Emotional Spring Cleaning?Marybeth Bock, MPH
My social circle consists of both current college students and recent graduates, and we’re all having a mess of a time trying to keep busy these days.
As spring breaks come and go and long-awaited trips are cancelled, we’re feeling the sting of quarantine even more. Shut inside, we swing back and forth between a positive outlook and disappointment — or even fear — which is natural in such an uncertain time.
Nevertheless, we make a substantial effort to look on the bright side and put our newfound free time to the best possible use, finding opportunities for nuggets of happiness everywhere.
Here’s an inside look at what students around me are doing during quarantine.
Many of my friends are promoting the importance of social distancing and the #flattenthecurve movement to ensure we don’t overwhelm our healthcare systems. Some have medical backgrounds or family in the healthcare industry, but even more have high risk friends and family members who are relying on their communities to keep them safe.
Ashley, a friend who recently committed to a medical school in St. Louis, is particularly good at posting updated information on the importance of social distancing. She'll be attending her father’s alma mater for medical school in the fall and is passionate about keeping the public informed and encouraging them to do their part.
Thanks to the digital age, everyone can use social media platforms to remind others that it will take a communal effort to ensure everybody stays as safe as possible during this time. Many of my friends are also using social media to thank people in our communities who are still going to work to perform essential tasks such as those in the service industries and, of course, those in healthcare who are putting their own health on the line for the greater good.
Many of us have taken this opportunity to take on some quarantine life goals. It’s a great way to stay motivated and it helps us find a sense of purpose by simply striving to achieve something tangible in our free time right now, whether the achievements are large or small.
Like other seniors, my friend Kenny is finishing his last semester of college online and has chosen to spend his free time learning how to invest in stocks. He continues to work as a food delivery driver to help fund his investments, and breaks up his days with his favorite shows and an occasional nap.
Zach, who does remote work as a software engineer, has always had a penchant for modifying his car and now has more time to do this from the safety of his garage in Denver. He's also decided to try and increase his average typing speed in his free time. Since Zach has been working remotely since he graduated last May, his life hasn’t changed too much besides the fact that he can’t visit his friends and family any time soon. He's offered encouragement to the rest of us, assuring us that working remotely can be enjoyable with the right attitude.
Finn, my friend from high school, has been living and working in Chicago for the past year but now finds himself unceremoniously restricted to the confines of his apartment. He’s spending most of his time in his kitchen, where he’s learning to mix drinks and cook more traditional Chinese dishes with his mom’s guidance, courtesy of video chat. I’m following his cooking journey over social media, and messaging him constantly to share his recipes.
People are understandably a bit starved for companionship right now. Many students are using video chat apps to stay connected with all their friends. Some have even taken to their social media platforms to connect with friends they haven’t talked to in a while, asking if anybody would like to video chat and catch up while we’re all sequestered away in our homes. I’ve renewed my old video call habit, something I haven’t done much since my freshman year of college, and enjoy talking to old friends again.
A popular topic of conversation lately is about how this is a fantastic time to have (or get) a dog. There are many animal lovers in my friend group, myself included, and we have always talked about how much a pet can improve your days. Now that we’re stuck at home for the foreseeable future, adopting a new pet has moved to the top of the list for many of us. It's the perfect time to make the commitment, as you can fully devote yourself to training your new dog.
My roommate’s younger sister, Britney, is a college freshman and has wanted a puppy for a long time. Since she found herself back at home for the remainder of her freshman year, she seized the opportunity to finally adopt her puppy. She’ll use her six-month break in Arizona to properly train him and show her parents she’s responsible enough to have a dog in college.
Many students are embracing the opportunity to alleviate their boredom with self-improvement projects. My roommate, Shay, has always found her curly hair unruly and difficult to manage, so she’s channeling her boredom into trying every curly hair tutorial YouTube has to offer until she finds something she likes, hoping to return to work at the dermatology clinic soon.
Amy, my best friend from freshman year, is taking up meditation between working remotely and teaching her old dog, Cody, new tricks. Michael, on break from his real estate office, is on the hunt for the best self-help books — figuring he can work on himself while he can’t work on his career.
Michael also reacted quickly to coronavirus gym closures by snapping up home gym equipment to create a fully functional gym set-up at home with his roommates (he jumps rope for cardio). He knew he was in for a long term commitment to staying home, and wanted to ensure he could still stay in shape and stay busy.
Just as COVID-19 hit the United States, Tom, one of Michael’s roommates, was getting back into running, a hobby he left behind in high school. He’s hoping to continue his much-loved runs for as long as possible, trying to keep a safe distance from other people whenever he goes.
One of the more obvious lanes of entertainment is to deep clean the house, which many of my friends relish. Reorganizing and decluttering your space can be very therapeutic especially in a time of crisis and uncertainty. Though my roommate and I have always been diligent cleaners, now I find myself constantly vacuuming which is strangely satisfying.
We’re also planning on moving out of our apartment come August, and aim to use this time to purge every closet in our space. We’ve lived together for four years now and have accumulated a truly astounding assortment of the most random and useless things. My roommate is particularly adept at finding space for things; no matter how small our apartment may be, she can find a place for anything. While I could not appreciate her more for this, we’ve been forced to recognize that we’ve used her skills to squirrel away far too many things over the years. We’ll be using these next few weeks to reevaluate everything in our apartment and decide what we really want to keep for the future.
No matter what we’re doing to pass the days, we all try to take time away from the barrage of news, whether coronavirus related or not. While we do want to stay well-informed, we recognize that it can be unhealthy to always be refreshing the page to find out what else has changed and if the situation has worsened.
For now, we’re keeping busy, staying safe, and using our free time to move forward however we can.
Help your student take the best possible care of themselves and get support when they need it.