What’s wrong with you, 2020? Everything that I took for granted proved to be something not static. It felt like my 2020 was stolen from me by the pandemic. I cannot go to university for a year. I cannot go out and eat with friends. I cannot go to the concerts of my favorite rock band. I cannot save money working part-time as I did before. When I realized, I’d listed up so many things that I CANNOT do anymore. Instead, I’ve got plenty of time and began thinking about the essence of life. These events that exhausted me at first surprisingly provided me with more positive thoughts than before. This is a journey that I have been going through in my head during this time of quarantine.
Getting up after 1 pm, I pick up a pack of udon from the freezer, cook it, put a raw egg and soy sauce on it, and once it’s cooked, slurp the noodles. As soon as I finish this quick five-minute lunch, I turn on my mat gold MacBook and log into Zoom at 1:29 for a 1:30 meeting. After taking a couple of live online classes, I then study for the on-demand classes: Cultural Psychology; African Society, North American Studies, and Methods in Teaching English, as if I were a robot. From 10 pm to 3 am, I work on reaction papers asking me what I think about poverty in the US, how I feel about the ethnic problems in the Kalahari Desert, as well as on tasks that require me to translate some catchphrases in Japanese to English or to come up with English listening tasks for junior and senior high school students using the method taught in class. This kind of lifestyle lasted for a month. I felt like I was only doing university-related things, even though I also spent some time doing what I like.
I was overwhelmed by the information about the virus and university tasks until the end of June. In the middle of March, when the situation was not as critical, I went back to my hometown. Initially, I was going to be back in Tokyo after two weeks. As the days went by, the situation got worse, and the beginning of the semester was postponed. The restaurant I worked for was temporarily closed. As such, I decided to stay in my hometown. Too much information came in every day, and the media was talking a lot about the virus. At that time, I wished that I could get back to my usual life, so I always checked the number of infected cases during the day. I got fed up with the situation, and my anxiety level went up and down depending on the news. However, at some point, I came to think, “It’s just one phase in my life.” Since then, my thoughts have not been captured by the virus anymore. Now I believe that there is no use being influenced by these factors that are not directly related to me.
I adapted to this new way of thinking. One time this semester, I failed to submit a reaction paper for a class on the Korean Peninsula. The submission box was open on Moodle from 5 pm to 9 am the following morning. I finished writing about feminism in South Korea as soon as the class ended at noon. Owing to my forgetfulness, when I realized at 9:10 the next morning, the submission box was already closed. I got irritated with myself because the box wasn’t open yet when I finished it the day before.
My mind blanked out, and I was disappointed in myself, but I soon noticed and said to myself, “Wait. It’s just a small thing, right? Don’t think too much about it. You will not fail the course and die just because you couldn’t submit one reaction paper.” As such, It’s just a small thing in life became my magic line, subsequently saving me from my own pandemic crisis many times.
From the spread of the unidentified virus and the current status that I might never physically go to university again, I also learned a valuable lesson. After all, there are two types of things in the world: something that I can change and things that I cannot change. For instance, I cannot stop the virus from spreading. I cannot do anything about it except to protect myself. Then, I realized that I should try to find what I can still do, rather than deploring what I cannot do. When I started focusing on what I enjoy, a dull day that used to be simply filled with homework became colorful. After I got this new perspective, I realized that happiness or peace of mind is not a given; one must find it within oneself. All things depend on how I look at them. Now, I’m trying to find something that makes me feel that life is not bad. Eventually, I fixed having my days and nights mixed up. I started to eat three meals a day again; instead of preparing udon for lunch every day, I tried new recipes I found on the Internet. I also began exercising regularly after getting inspired by some exercise videos on YouTube. As I adjusted to my daily routine, I began to feel that my mind was also becoming healthier.
This hard time allowed me to confront myself and reconsider the value of everything that I took for granted. There’s no guarantee that tomorrow will be the same as today, so I cherish this moment––not the past or the future. The things and people around me may change, but I can control myself as long as I stay true to myself and seek my own value of happiness. My ideas may swing and change. That’s OK. I think that’s part of me, too. I’m trying to perceive everything as it is. I won’t try to change it. The important thing is this period of time made me mentally stronger. Thank you, quarantine.