Opinion: One year anniversary of lockdown: my experience and lessons learned

2020 was truly something else — starting off strong with wildfires searing our planet, to new levels of political polarity and a pandemic that shut down the world, there wasn’t much more that could have added to the atrocity that was 2020. My year, along with many others, presented individual struggles as well. From the development of anxiety and falling out of touch with myself, my personal struggles in culmination with the chaos of the world brought me in for a rollercoaster of a year. 

This was my experience with quarantine and lessons I’ve learned since the beginning of the pandemic. 

 

Quarantine experience

Let’s backtrack to the beginning of quarantine: this is when I slowly started falling out of touch with myself and all of my friends. I shut myself out from everybody; I was so tired and burnt out and I thought I just needed personal time. In reality, rather than resting and rejuvenating, I withdrew myself from everything. I struggled to keep in contact with friends and had to force myself to send a text back  or hold a conversation. This took a toll on all of my relationships, leaving me physically and mentally isolated. I was lonely. At the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything about it. Sending a text or FaceTiming felt nearly impossible, and to this day, I still don’t know why that was the case. Anxiousness over COVID and personal isolation marked the start of an ongoing journey with mental health and self-growth. 

The feeling of unsettlement and anxiousness is something that followed me throughout quarantine, but has been improving since coming back to school in August. Despite the odd transition to not being able to see peoples’ faces, physically seeing and connecting with others in person helped me slowly start to regain a sense of community and belonging. Even after gaining a speckle of normality, mental health was still something I found myself struggling with. While mental illnesses are a new challenge for me, I’ve been able to learn tactics that work for me, along with prioritizing my wellbeing. 

 

Lessons learned

Over the course of this pandemic, I’ve been granted opportunities to learn more about who I am and who I want to be. Being shut out from others during quarantine taught me how highly I value people in my life. I’m definitely a people-person, someone who feeds and thrives off of energy given by others. The abrupt shift to isolation was something that influenced my experience greatly, and I went cold turkey in shutting myself out from those in my life. 

Though I learned this the difficult way, the vitality of communication was also something I learned about during lockdown. My lack of communication with my friends over the time period weakened all of my relationships, some of which ended entirely. Successful connections with others require additional effort and input, which is something I tended to gloss over while being able to see my friends on a daily basis. 

In addition, I learned a lot about my mental health. Isolation was an event that tested my personal strength unlike anything else; experiencing newfound anxiety and loneliness showed me how I naturally reacted in unfamiliar situations, along with how I could better handle and manage my thoughts. 

While not as much of a self-growth lesson, I also improved my cooking skills during lockdown. Banana bread and shrimp scampi are two foods I mastered quite well, as they were my parents’ favorites. It’s something I wish I did more; however, laziness and time are incredible factors. 

From layoffs to poor mental health, the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges for most of the population. While it was an intense experience for my mental health, it has allowed for personal growth and solid reflection. Though it’s only been a year, the pandemic has presented me with obstacles that have spurred change and improvements in my life. 

I’m a different person than I was pre-COVID, and that’s all thanks to the vicious experience I had during lockdown. Please continue to keep in mind the uneven distribution of COVID impacts, and remember everyone has been presented with new challenges that may be far from over.