Pandemic gratitude: reflecting on the good, bad and ugly May 6, 2021 — by Hannah Lee Graphic by Hannah Lee Being stuck at home all day has its ups and downs, but it's always important to look back on your past experiences with gratitude. Permalink I still vividly remember that Friday last March when we were told that we’d have an extra week off of spring break. More than a year later, as I stood in line to get my COVID-19 vaccine on my 16th birthday, I began to reflect on how my life has changed during the pandemic. As social distancing protocols escalated with the beginning of quarantine, I found myself doing and discovering a multitude of things I had never dedicated time to before Needless to say, transitioning from a packed daily routine to a slow but productive day was a sudden, yet much appreciated change. I wasn’t as lethargic or drained by the end of the day as I was during in-person school, and had enough energy to be productive until bedtime. In fact, through my productive journey, I became hooked on ambiance videos to help me relax and study. Videos like “Sitting in a rainy cafe” to “Beachside in Greece” helped me picture myself traveling anywhere I wanted from the comfort of my own room. Spending more time at home also meant more valuable time with family, and I grew closer to my older brother and sister during the summer before they left for college. My sister and I made a routine of doing something fun and safe every week to make the most of our free time. One week we drove around the neighborhood with the windows down, and the next we’d go on endless boba runs and sit at the park for an aesthetic picnic. Not only did we get closer, but being quarantined with my siblings rarely made my days boring. Although I’m a complete introvert, it was still nice to try a new recipe or go on a Target run with my sister as a break from sitting at my desk for school all day. Looking back, I can say that those interactions were truly the most healing moments of my quarantine months. Another pastime I was able to immerse myself in was music. My Spotify screen time shot up as I spent hours exploring a plethora of genres, from soft rock to ultra-nostalgic hits. I would also spend months endlessly fangirling over my favorite musicians like The Japanese House, Men I trust, Bruno Major — even holding mini concerts for my audience of stuffed animals. I also ventured into podcasts thanks to my extra free time, spending hours listening to soothing, comforting advice to dark horror stories of lore. Some of my favorite discoveries were Emma Chamberlain’s “Anything Goes” and “Lore.” Not only did my Spotify screen time drastically increase, but my usage of many other social media apps did too. Although it has its stressful moments, one of the biggest perks of social media and advanced technology was the ability to contact friends and family regardless of physical distance. Thanks to Instagram DMs and Twitter, I was introduced to and made dozens of new mutual friends who reside all across the country. It all started with a friend in Washington state, who introduced me to a few other of her friends, specifically ones with similar interests. As the months went by, I slowly got to know my new mutual friends and bonded over our likes and dislikes. Before quarantine, I didn’t have nearly as many friends at school that I could speak Korean to or talk about certain hobbies with, but now I can say that’s changed. All of this alone time to be spontaneous came with good and bad ideas. One of my not-so-great ideas was trying out a TikTok trend where people rubbed the top of their nose bridge to get a bloody nose. I followed the video out of impulse and was left with non-stop bloody noses for three days. Thankfully, it was a short-lived trend and most of my friends didn’t come across it on their For You pages. Looking back, it wasn’t the smartest idea I had during quarantine. In addition to having all this alone time in the pandemic, all of the issues and movements that arose this past year have educated me immensely. The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, an increase in AAPI hate crimes, political debates and more made me more aware of underlying problems in the world that I hadn’t fully understood before. And while it may seem that I had a ton of fun being at home during the pandemic, with the influx of negative stories in the news, I felt as though my sanity was slowly withering away. In addition, it was tough to see my close friends and family members struggle with mental health issues of their own. As for online school, I’ve had my fair share of low points. One of the downsides was the endless technical difficulties, from shattering my laptop screen to random power outages that were both incredibly hard to explain to my teachers. Although I feel excited to return to normalcy, I also have quite a few concerns about what will emerge when I leave quarantine. While many are thinking about what post pandemic life will be like, I find myself worrying about how different I’ll be in comparison to my pre-pandemic self. One of the biggest worries I have for returning back to school is adjusting to being around so many people again versus through my phone or laptop. Even when I do simple tasks such as grocery shopping, I find myself discombobulated from the bustling environment of the public. It’s definitely concerning, but I assume others feel similarly around crowds due to living in isolation for so long. Frankly, I won’t say that the pandemic has had the best outcome, but it’s refreshing that I can fondly look back at a majority of the time I spent in quarantine: bonding with some of the most truly supportive people in my life and discovering new hobbies and pastimes that I would have never thought to explore.