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What a year it has been so far, and we still have three months to go. One thing that the added time from quarantine has allowed me to do is binge-watch pretty much every show ever made. But it also has given me the opportunity to learn about various productivity methods. As the summer days kept passing, I became more aware of how much time I could be using in a productive manner, and so I began to set up a desk.
I will shamelessly admit that I am one of those people whose camera roll and Instagram stories are filled with sunset photos. The beautiful blend of warm and cool palettes against the city landscape never fails to give me a sense of peace and a reminder of how beautiful the Earth can be, especially after being stuck inside for so long. Sunsets usually signify the end of a long, tiring day and a time for a bit of rest.
On the afternoon of March 13, I got my admissions decision from Hopkins. I opened it in my car, parked in the mostly deserted senior parking lot of my high school. Some track athletes were talking a little ways off. When I read “You’ve been admitted,” I hoped they couldn’t hear the screams coming from inside my Mazda. I double- and triple-checked my portal, and when I was partly convinced my acceptance wasn’t a mistake, I drove home floating.
I am a romantic in every sense and in particular, regarding the idea of love.
It is hard to sit still enough to write. It is hard to be still. There is some nervous energy that runs through my body, making my heart beat faster than it should, my mind race faster than it should, and making me unable to write in a manner that would be of any value.
1. I recently found my "Hopkins Bucket List" while cleaning in quarantine. Fourteen theses bulleted on a sticky note. I'd stuck the page in a bright red Leuchtturm 1917 days before O-Week.
Each night around 8:00 p.m. this past summer, I would walk out into the backyard with my mom to water the plants in our garden. I usually started around the squash plants and then worked my way over to the lavender and rosemary before misting the flowers at the right edge of the bed. This was often my favorite part of the day. There is something ineffably comforting about providing nourishment to flowers and herbs after long hours of studying and running errands.
Over the past few years, I’ve become something resembling an extrovert. I was more of a homebody during middle and early high school, but my social life got more active toward the end of high school. When I got to Hopkins two years ago, I moved into a double in AMR II and quickly became close friends with my roommate and other people in the dorm.
The past few weeks have been challenging, to say the least. The difficulties presented by the already fluid schedule of college life have only been exacerbated by the fact that I never technically have to leave my bedroom if I don’t want to. This flexibility makes it easier to procrastinate, shortens my attention span and all but kills my motivation. To add to it, the lack of human contact, or repeated contact with just a few humans, has made this somewhat dull routine even more mundane.
One night, after we have shut the doors behind us, I dream my home is haunted. In the dream, I lie in my bed in the inkblot dark, twisting my hands through the sheets, when the faintest white glow softens the room. I rummage through the drawers of my nightstand and strike a match. In the firelight, I see a specter suspended midair above my bed, one hand reaching out for me. I take it, and the ghost pulls me into its translucent arms. I can’t help but dissolve like sugar.
Content warning: I’m going to discuss suicide in this column. Please don’t continue reading if you aren’t in a place where that’s something you can read about — I know that I wasn’t for a long time. Take care of yourself, and if you or anyone you know is suffering, know that you are not alone, and that help is available. Please see the bottom of this article for a list of resources.
So I thought I’d have my life all figured out by now. I would be a legal drinker and one step closer to a mortgage. I was positive I would have every step planned from graduation to grave by the time senior fall came around. Oh, how I was wrong.
The roast duck at Alan’s deli next to Great Wall supermarket hangs in a neat row, skewered in place by the neck and dripping with oil. My mom half-shouts to be heard over the sound of a chopping knife as she orders duck, char siu and crispy pork belly from the man behind the counter.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a well-known cliché. Though Nietzsche was a little more eloquent in coining the phrase, this is the version that’s ingrained in our minds, thanks to Etsy’s wide array of T-shirts and pillowcases sporting it and Kelly Clarkson’s 2011 hit song. So it’s no secret in 2020 that failure is an opportunity to learn as opposed to something necessarily negative. But I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m down, I don’t want to hear that.
Quarantine has, I assume, pushed us all to some kind of edge, whether it’s manically honing dozens of hobbies and skills for a sense of productivity, or biding your time by lazing around the house and having regular existential crises, or maybe oscillating between the two. I personally tend more toward the “biding my time” option, but thankfully I’ve also been able to hone a skill or two here and there, particularly cooking. And a few weeks ago, I was able to cross off one of the things that’s been on my cooking bucket list for years.
In my last column, I boldly claimed that I had learned to listen to what I want through my study abroad experience in Sweden. Yet listening to my heart still proves to be a challenge. Even if I’ve wanted to follow my desires — my true inclinations — sometimes I didn’t know what they were. Every option has a flip side. One option seems better because of this, and the other seems good because of that. In another light, I have to lose something either way.
As the plane landed in Baltimore, the sun set. A brilliant fiery globe, fiercely yellow against the red sky. My first thought was ‘Wow, this means something.’ A new start maybe. The sun setting on my old life and a new dawn breaking. My second thought was to dismiss this — I have often chided myself for my romantic notions, my silly thought process, my living life as if it is a novel or a movie. Yes, my romanticization of things has gotten me into trouble a lot of times, and yes, my life does have more drama than most. And yes, I do not think I would have wanted it any other way.
To say, “I graduated from high school in 2020,” holds a lot more meaning than we might have thought it would. For those of us who wear that badge, it means an orchestra of mixed emotions, and with good reason: As graduating seniors, we expected the nine months between college application deadlines and the first day of college to be smooth sailing. And suffice it to say, we were royally ripped off.
“We can’t make anything grow, but we can foster environments where growth is a byproduct of living.”
Even before the pandemic hit, staying at home everyday always left me feeling restless. I am the type of person who needs to be out and about doing something productive, whether it’s finishing errands, meeting with friends or simply walking in the park. So, aware that I would be spending countless monotonous days at home in this new normal, I knew I had to redirect my energy somewhere else. That’s why I turned to working out and learning yoga.