When the year began, not many people were expecting to be prised out of their regular routines and plunged into an unprecedented crisis that would have most of us spending more time in isolation than ever before.
Whether you were self-isolating all alone or with loved ones, the COVID-19 lockdown has forced us to come face to face with who we are in a much more intimate manner. So, “what have you learned about yourself during this time?” is the question we posed to four people from different walks of life, here is what they discovered.
[Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.]
Magali Vaz, 28, digital content creator, Mumbai
I learned that I’m a homebody in every sense of the term. Once the initial shock passed, I didn’t mind staying home, I feel like I have my important people and things around me. During the early days of isolation, I struggled with more negative emotions than I have in a while. Once I was done mourning, I’ve actually started doing things I had put off for years for lack of time — I’m sort of surprised at [my] ability to find joy in things around me like a nice cup of masala chai or a new recipe that tastes amazing.
With reduced work and fewer events, I have a lot more free time. Instead of waiting till the last minute and then impulsively ordering food, I’ve [gotten into] cooking regularly. It used to be something I did occasionally for fun and now cooking every meal doesn’t seem daunting anymore because I’ve improved my skills and [started] meal planning.
I’m struggling with discipline and consistency more than before, especially for simpler tasks. I work for myself, there are days when I’ll work myself to exhaustion and days when I can’t bring myself to do any work. But, [building cooking into my routine] has helped me become more disciplined and has cemented the idea that I can prioritize things that give me satisfaction with a little bit of extra planning.
Andrew Gurza, 36, disability awareness consultant, Ontario
“I have been surprised by how resilient I have been as a disabled person during this time.”
I have learned that you can do activism from a keyboard. Having been [at home] since March and having only gone out four or five times during this time, I have learned that I can make an impact through technology.
I also realized that I have to be more patient; as a disabled person who needs help with pretty much everything throughout my day, I have already had to learn patience but I have had to be even more patient now with staff shortages.
I was surprised by how lonely I would get, and how much I would miss touch and access to my body. I am used to being touched by care workers as a disabled person, but [despite] working in sex and disability, I have been unable to access sex or sexuality in the last five months, and I really miss that. That being said, I have also been surprised by how resilient I have been as a disabled person during this time.
Musfirah Taqdees, 24, content creator, Karachi
[It has become clear to me] that living in capitalist society has made many of us into [the proverbial] hamster in a wheel. We are constantly stuck in this cycle of doing rather than being. I, like many others, have been prioritizing our worth by our productivity, what we produce, and how much we work. So [it dawned on me] that I needed time to pause and reflect on my life and prioritize mindfulness over hustling.
[During this time], I’ve unlearned that my work is not my worth and learned to give time to mental well-being.
Anjali Kooverjee, 24, medical student and entrepreneur, South Africa
The main thing I learned about myself in isolation is that I am actually able to have a structured day, fully created and controlled by myself. It has been extremely difficult to do so, though, especially in the beginning. Finding the motivation to adhere to an “imaginary” timetable is hard for someone like me, who is so easily distracted. However, I learned that if I need to be, I can live up to what’s expected of me. I’m able to get the work done under nothing but my own supervision.
I also learned that hobbies are not completely leisurely. The hobbies I enjoy, for example, embroidery, often take thinking and planning, so it sometimes feels like work. When I’m feeling drained or burned out, even hobbies are not something I can productively do. Therefore, they are activities for which one must allocate time and energy.
Another thing I learned about myself is that I really, genuinely do enjoy staying at home. And I don’t have to feel guilty about that anymore. I enjoy the privileges of sweatpants and a kitchen full of food much more than I yearn to go out and socialize.