Just a few months ago in December 2019, a novel coronavirus called COVID-19 started spreading in Wuhan, China. Back then, from the comfort of New Jersey, we didn’t think too much of it. We heard it was like the flu, that only really impacted the elderly, and that it wouldn’t spread too far beyond Wuhan. Oh, how wrong we were.
Now, only three months later, it has sickened hundreds of thousands and killed thousands. It has shut down most of the United States and several other countries. Just like that, it is as if COVID-19 pressed a button and paused everything.
Today, I have officially been practicing socially distancing for two full weeks.
It has been a crazy month so far. I, along with the rest of the world, have experienced more emotions than I ever have in such a short amount of time.
Just a month ago, I was making my way through my second semester of my freshman year at Rutgers University. I was stressed about midterms, contemplating my major, going to work and classes. I was pretty used to college life, but things still felt fresh and exciting to me.
I had some pretty exciting things lined up for the remainder of my semester. My friends and I were starting a company and funded by our university to go to Toronto to pitch our ideas in a competition that gave out a one million dollar prize. I was planning a case competition as part of my job, the first big event that I ever planned. And I was just about to go to the Amazon offices in New York City to meet with my mentor from a women’s empowerment program that I was a part of.
I was also surrounded by high spirits and exciting things coming up. Rutgers’ basketball team made March Madness for the first time in a long time. My friends were all planning their trips for Spring Break and for studying abroad. Seniors were taking graduation pictures, preparing to walk at graduation in May in their cap and gowns. There were a couple of days where it felt like spring was upon us, when the sun would shine and the campus would just come to life, full of students playing frisbee in the lawns and people walking, biking, skating.
COVID-19 caught a glimpse of us in our glory. But it had other plans.
Things kind of happened gradually, but somehow so fast that it felt like it was all at once. First, our competition in Toronto was moved to a virtual competition. This was highly disappointing, but we were quickly satisfied again when the competition invited us to a four-day impact conference at a resort in Cancun for the summer, which our university also agreed to pay for us to go to. That felt like it made sense. After all, the coronavirus had just hit Toronto. But just a few days later, schools all around the United States started announcing that they would be moving to online classes after Spring Break, which was coming up. We prepared ourselves for that email from Rutgers, but it didn’t come for what felt like forever.
That’s when the situation started getting really bad, really fast. COVID-19 started hitting cities all around the world and all throughout the United States, and it was hitting hard. Before I knew it, I was signing petitions left and right to get Rutgers to move to virtual classes. Suddenly, what was known as a flu-like illness in China was becoming an actual deadly threat in neighborhoods neighboring my own.
When the announcement finally came that Rutgers would switch to virtual class after Spring Break, I was hit by both emotions of relief and sadness. But I didn’t have much time to process at that time. Rutgers was evicting us, and we all had to leave and go home in the next two days.
My freshman year of college came to an end earlier than I was ready for. Everything that I had been planning quite literally went out the window and disappeared.
As my first year away at college officially came to an end, I prepared as much as I could to be stuck at home for who knows how long.
How I Made The Most Out Of My Free Time Alone
1.Entertainment. I’m not going to lie, I have spent a significant portion of my social distancing catching up on Netflix that I wouldn’t have had the time to watch otherwise. That’s the first thing I thought to do actually. If you have some free time, go ahead and partake in a guilty pleasure and don’t feel bad about it for once!
3. Passion Project. Michelle and I came up with the idea to start this blog, Meraki Beans, as we were social distancing and working out together through FaceTime. We both love to write and have a little bit of background in making websites. We are very excited about this platform and it has turned into our passion project and our baby. If I hadn’t started this project, I definitely would have found something else to pour my heart into, like a coding project.
4. Learning. With creating this website, I have watched many tutorials on topics ranging from marketing tactics to HTML/CSS coding for the most specific of things to do on blogs. I highly suggest taking free time to learn something new that is perhaps kind of random and something you wouldn’t normally have the time to learn. I also have just ordered myself a penny board and will be attempting to learn how to skateboard too when it comes! Since we will probably be social distancing for much longer, I also want to try new recipes and learn how to cook more complex dishes.
5. Catching Up. Even though my plans got canceled, life goes on. I spent some time applying to programs for next semester, catching up on school work, etc. It was also important to me that I take this free time to catch up with friends who I don’t normally get to speak to during college and to spend a lot of quality time with my family, especially since everyone is working from home as well during this COVID-19 outbreak.
Whether your world has been turned upside down by a pandemic like COVID-19 or your friend has canceled on you for brunch, you can make the most out of it. Things happen and no matter how much you plan for something to happen, it might get canceled. I get it, it’s disappointing when you’ve looked forward to something for a long time that is suddenly not happening. When big things get canceled, it is easy to think about what could have been, but remember that life goes on and that free time is what you make of it.
Life moves so fast that we almost never have free time, and when we finally do, we don’t know what to do with it. Your free time is what you make of it, and your canceled plans can always be rescheduled.
Originally published at http://merakibeans.com on March 25, 2020.