October 22, 2020

Make Space to Reconnect to Your Pre-Pandemic Self

Quarantine has disrupted our lives so much that we may find ourselves detached from our old selves, but we can reconnect if we make space to.

Our pre-pandemic routines helped give shape to our identities and affirmed basic parts of who we are. For more than six months, though, COVID-19 has significantly disrupted those routines. Things that used to be everyday occurrences, like walking into the Reg, are far enough in the past that sometimes it’s hard for me to remember details of pre-pandemic life. How tall were the tables in Ex Lib? Did I pay attention to the ducks on Botany Pond? So much of our day-to-day existence has shifted over the last few months that we’re struggling to hold onto small memories, and I’m worried that forgetting these details is just the tip of the iceberg. In order to adapt to this new lifestyle, we’ve let go of parts of ourselves. I’ve felt it happening to me—a strange feeling of being off-balance, disconnected—and I imagine you’ve felt it, too. To counteract this feeling, we must create spaces outside of the buzz of our now-virtual lives and reconnect with the parts of ourselves that have been pushed out by the pandemic, the parts of us that ground us.

If you’re anything like me, quarantine means spending a lot more time in your bed than you usually do. With no commute and no physical place to be, going to sleep in the wee hours and waking up luxuriously late becomes a feasible routine. At first, this felt strange to me: In pre-corona times, my body woke me around 7 am every day, and it was rare for me to turn over and go back to sleep. I would never have imagined setting an alarm to make sure I was up by 9 am. But when I started staying up till all hours of the night just because I could, that alarm became necessary. And I got used to it. Somehow, it seemed, my adaptation to quarantine meant that I became a night person. I enjoyed spending that time with my roommates or watching TV or FaceTiming with far-away friends, so, despite having been a morning person for my entire life, I didn’t question the new rhythm my life fell into.

As school started, though, something shifted. My status quo started to make me feel unsettled and off-balance. There was a pressure in the back of my brain, a feeling of being unmoored, drifting a little apart from the friends around me—living parallel to rather than with them. Interrogating this feeling, I realized that, as my routines shifted, I had started neglecting parts of myself. During pre-pandemic times, I made a point of taking solo trips to explore coffee shops and thrift stores in faraway parts of the city each weekend. I had gotten up early to go to Ratner (sorry, Crown fans) or for a run outside. These rituals were more than just things I did; they were an expression of integral aspects of my personality—the love of being awake before the rest of the world and the need to deliberately make space to be alone with myself—that I had been neglecting.

Once I realized what was making me feel disconnected, I decided to make a change: For a week, I would wake up early and watch the sunrise at the point. I do yoga, stretch, and then sit and write as the sky lightens. For me, this ritual has been incredibly centering. Having a routine outside of school or work is something we can turn to at any stage of our lives to keep ourselves feeling like ourselves. Many of us are overscheduled already, so it’s important to remember that this routine doesn’t have to be time-consuming; it could be something as small as lighting a candle. What’s really important is that you’re making the choice to do something for yourself.

The group of middle-aged folks who pull on their swim caps at 6:40 am every morning know this. The woman who does yoga a few rocks over from me at the very front of the point knows this, too. So if you, like me, have found yourself adapting to the past months in a way that no longer feels right, if you are feeling the strange together-but-apart-ness of socially distanced life and virtual school, I urge you to create space for yourself. Make a routine that returns you to who you know yourself to be.

Elizabeth is a third year in the College.