Finals season got you down? Remember—summer’s just around the corner!
Those words were easy to live by during most of my education. No matter how grueling studying for finals became, there was always the summer to look forward to. In our current situation, I’m not sure I can say the same. Yes, classes will end this semester, but what is there to look forward to? Isolation, disease, anxiety, and economic collapse sound about right. They don’t have the same “summer” feel, though, do they?
I am, however, an optimist. Although those problems will plague us in the following months, I believe isolation will give us a chance at something rare and special: reflection.
We are not just nearing the end of a semester. For the time being, we have reached the end of “normal life.” Perhaps it is the end of an era. Although each of us has different issues to confront (disease, financial straits, mental illness), the defining characteristic of the Coronavirus Epoch is distance. Our safety, against common wisdom, is in solitude—not numbers.
What this ultimately means is that we are separated. Separated from family and friends, thrown out of our usual modes of living and our normal social structures—we are isolated. Although being apart from these parts of our lives that generally support and guide us is horrible in many ways, there are some benefits to distance. In being distanced from others (and from ourselves, in some sense) we have the space and the time to reflect on the past. Now that I am separated from my friends—who are they? What kind of relationship do we have and how can I improve it? For my family, how have I neglected my parents and siblings and how can I become closer to them?
The questions are endless, because there are an infinite ways in which we fail to fully understand ourselves and our actions. We regularly act in ways that are against our own self-interest but fail to recognize it simply due to habit. Now that our worlds are undergoing seismic shifts, we should reevaluate how we have been living life up to this point. What is working and what is not? What do I need to develop and what is being neglected? What matters to me and how will I protect it?
We have a chance now for widespread mindfulness, a society (and campus) wide meditation on what we value and how to maximize it, away from all the distractions that keep our minds occupied normally. I’ve seen debate break out online over whether quarantine is a time to “be productive” or “take a break” because of how much free time it offers. I think both answers miss the point. Meditate! Don’t simply be productive, question your goals. Don’t simply take a break, question your laziness. Take time out of your day to simply reflect. Start a journal, an audio diary, or meditate (literally!). Take long walks without listening to music. The revelations won’t come immediately, but if you let your mind wander it will eventually show you the truths you were missing before. All it takes is patience.
Akshaj Turebylu is a Trinity first-year. His column, 'ways and means,' typically runs on alternate Wednesdays.