Quarantine. A couple months ago this word may have invoked fear. Heck, maybe even chaos, disorder, confusion, and anxiety — perhaps, a fictitious dilemma crafted in books or movies. A couple of months ago, we may have been struggling with work or school, powering through and eagerly waiting to pounce on the opportunity to take a rejuvenating break. A couple of months ago, times were very different.
Now, quarantine has truly uprooted the way of life we have grown accustomed to. With the standard population drowning in excess time, it can be easy to lose yourself. Innumerable days have gone by with a rather unhealthy sense of time passing by. However, considerable progress has been made regarding understanding this virus, and our outlook is not as bleak.
At this stage, I just want to emphasize: Hang in there, and don’t lose hope. Although the world has paused, we should move forward — be happy, learn a new skill, renew fading bonds, and emerge stronger and better than before.
Before proceeding, I would like to take a second to spread gratitude for the healthcare workers who are toiling and fighting this battle against Covid-19. The physical and mental battle they are going through is literally and metaphorically making the world of a difference. They, along with the scientists working restlessly to find a cure, are the beacon of motivation and hope.
To the rest of us out there struggling to survive quarantine without getting consumed by our own boredom, hear me out. Have you ever wanted to learn a new skill but never had the time? Have you ever wanted to catch up with a friend or family member, but was simply too busy to take the time to do so? Have you ever wanted to get in shape, but ended up frustrated making the time to do so? Well, quarantine is the optimal condition to take that step and make those dreams come true. We should maximize our time in quarantine, to emerge smarter, better, and more capable.
A little personal anecdote to understand where I am coming from. After finishing my sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh, I was looking forward to the exciting opportunities this summer would provide. Unfortunately, the virus heavily limited the available internships and co-op programs with acceptances rescinded left and right. Imagine balancing a hectic college schedule with company interviews and site visits, and the excitement when you finally get offered a position for the summer. That is a college student’s dream … Then imagine those offers getting taken back. Yikes.
Thousands of students have faced this issue, and it is analogous to the thousands of jobs lost across the U.S as a result of this pandemic. No one saw it coming, and it calls for rapid adaptation on a massive scale. In order to adapt, we shouldn’t dwell on what we could be doing, but rather what we can do now to make up for our losses. This is definitely easier said than done, but what skills can we learn now that will help us after the quarantine is ending.
For some inspiration, I have taken on a range of skills and activities to both help the days go by, and also to learn new skills I have always wanted to tackle. On the technical side, I purchased an arduino kit and enrolled myself on an online Python course to enhance my programming skills (Since I am pursuing an electrical engineering degree, I tailored these skills to match my interests and explore opportunities to direct my career path).
On the social side of things, I have reached out to friends and family who I have not spoken to in a while to see how they are doing and renew bonds. On the spiritual/emotional side of things, I have set aside time for meditation and prayer, and have taken on the task of reading the entire Bible — something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Additionally, I am learning about investing in the stock market, advancing my skills in the guitar and piano, and also developing my fluency in my mother tongue — Malayalam.
As you can see from the sample of some of the “hobbies” I have taken on, there is not only diversification, but ample reason and motivation to take the time and learn new skills. Don’t get me wrong, I still dabble in social media, Netflix, and video games; however, I make sure I progress in each of these skills, occasionally taking a step back and admiring how far I have come.
I find that the resulting growth can be divided into 3 overarching categories:
- Emotional + Spiritual
Technical skills are geared towards your career objectives, and how you can develop an edge which makes you stand out amidst the world of talented individuals. Employers will need impressive assets to recover from the effects of the pandemic, so they will be looking for people who adapted and made the most of quarantine time.
From a social standpoint, we should renew the bonds of friendship or family for connections which have faded. Scientifically, as human beings, we are innately social creatures. Consequently, quarantine and isolation should not be an excuse to let go of important connections. Something as small as a “Hey, long time, how are you?” can spread much needed positivity.
Finally, emotional and spiritual growth is necessary for keeping your sanity in check. Sitting in the confines of your home for days on end can definitely put stress on your physical and mental well being. Things like meditation can help mitigate building stress. For the spiritual individuals out there, make time for prayer, whether personal or with the family. I can personally attest to the benefits of maintaining emotional and spiritual well being, with emphasis on promoting growth.
No matter how much I rant about what we can do for quarantine, nothing will matter if we don’t hang in there and fulfill our societal responsibilities. We have done well to flatten the curve, but we must not become restless and push for premature reopening.
Possibilities of a second wave are very high if precautions are not taken. As of now, it is a matter of persevering and making the most of quarantine, remembering that all our efforts will directly impact the healthcare workers who are putting their life on the line. If we progress with calculated and steady steps, we are bound to make it through this quarantine, and learn many things along the way.
Joshua Poravanthattil is an electrical engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh.