On the first day of Thanksgiving break, a few of my friends and I met up to have dinner. While a dinner may not sound like anything special, the long months of quarantining at home made the simple meal with friends feel like a luxury.
In the week before the dinner, all of us were counting down the days until we could see each other for the first time since the lockdown in Manila was lifted. We were all excited to be together again and dress up. The dinner was even more special because I had not seen some of my friends for almost a year, since we all went abroad to different states in the U.S., and one in Canada, for university. Even though we had all already been back home for a few months, we neither had the chance nor the time to meet up due to conflicting schedules and never-ending midterms. Being able to eat delicious food, drink a bottle of wine and laugh under the stars was the break that we all needed from the monotonous routines of quarantine life imposed on us by the pandemic. Of course, we still practiced public health protocols by wearing face shields and masks and choosing a restaurant that had outdoor, socially-distanced seating.
One of the things that I realized from the seemingly ordinary act of eating at a restaurant in the new normal is the importance of living life a bit selfishly. Let me backtrack a little from that. Of course, COVID-19 has emphasized more than ever the need for the public to work together to prevent the virus from spreading. Many countries, especially the U.S., have failed to control the virus. This, in addition to the recent spike in cases after the holidays, should be a warning to people that the pandemic is far from over. We must continue acting and making decisions with the public’s interest at heart.
But what I mean when I say live life a bit selfishly is that we must intentionally make the time to choose to do things for ourselves. It’s fair to say that the virus has stolen so much from so many lives, and we should be open to stealing some of that joy back by creating memories for ourselves rather than sitting around waiting for them to happen.
A recent study highlighted that the number of reported mental health cases since the beginning of quarantine in March has drastically increased, which comes as no surprise with everyone being stuck inside for so long. These effects of the pandemic are projected to continue even long after a vaccine is publicly available. Anxiety, fear and isolation have been identified as some of the main culprits. Consequently, people need to do their best to address their own mental health in order to clear their heads and make informed and rational decisions for the sake of the entire community. While the road to recovery is not the same for everybody, and I do acknowledge that mental illnesses cannot be oversimplified, reflecting and changing one’s mindset does play a key role in how one lives his or her life.
“You have to start romanticizing your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character. Because if you don’t, life will continue to pass you by. And all the little things that make it so beautiful will continue to go unnoticed. So, take a second and look around. And realize that it’s a blessing for you to be here right now.”
Even if I heard this saying from a viral TikTok trend, the message of living life as the “main character” has stuck with me. Now more than ever, it gets increasingly difficult to not get sucked into the monotonous drag of each day, feeling as if there is little to look forward to in life. With each day that passes, I find my agitation to travel and go on adventures, as I normally would, increase. But at times like these, it’s hard to live life with main character energy, especially during a pandemic when you are definitely not the center of the world and resources have deservingly been shifted towards the most vulnerable populations. So, rather than focus on the message of living life as the main character, I feel that it is more important to integrate two other messages from the quote into our own lives: romanticizing yourself and viewing life as a blessing, both of which come with a change of mindset.
For most, romanticizing your life conjures images of grandiose lives filled with adventures, whether that’s partying surrounded by the neon lights of New York City or falling in love and enjoying the solitude of nature somewhere in rural Italy. On the contrary, this kind of mindset mandates a simpler action of self-care: calling on every person to do their best to find joys and adventures in the smallest of ways. I see it as a challenge to form a permanent mindset of living life for myself, being present and doing everything with a purpose, whether that’s making an aesthetic healthy breakfast or finding the time to add more workouts to my daily routine.
This goes hand in hand with learning to be thankful and viewing life as a blessing. The pandemic has been a reminder once again of how precious life is. Just the fact that we have been able to avoid the travesties of the virus and remain safe at home to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with our family and friends is a blessing in itself. Even if we are not able to be back on campus, I’ve learned to be grateful that we have the technology and resources to take classes remotely and focus on the positives that have come with online learning. Only when we are able to appreciate the life we have been given will we be able to find the joys in living.
So wake up early or sleep in, soak in that morning sun, inhale a freshly brewed cup of coffee, read a book purely for your own leisure, take a walk and get fresh air (with a mask for safety!), workout, do yoga, have a photoshoot, wear an outfit you feel confident in, learn new makeup tricks, go online shopping, go for a drive and blast your favorite songs, stare at sunsets, watch the waves roll in by the beach, look for constellations adorning the night sky, order in comfort food just because, hang out with family and friends, laugh until your ribs hurt. Be grateful for the little things and create small moments to live life a bit selfishly.
Michelle Limpe is a sophomore studying Chemistry and Public Health from the Philippines. In her articles she likes to reflect on viewing life through rose-tinted glasses to give meaning to her struggles.