From Studying to Singleness: Five Things I’ve Learned to Appreciate During Quarantine
We have all heard the 'glass half full' adage, but it has been repeated so many times, it's easy to forget how crucial a sense of gratefulness is. For me, it took a harsh set of circumstances to uncover my appreciation of the many great things in my life. Let me tell you about some of them...
5 - Liminal Moments
We live in a world where our devices program us to broadcast our happiest moments in a never ending attempt to gain digital approval. In the competitive sphere of social media, only our highest highs are worthy of digital hearts or praise in the comments. The result? Liminal moments - life’s ‘in betweens’ - are given no appreciation on social media or otherwise.
With many fewer social occasions and photo opportunities, I have started to find a deep appreciation for day-to-day liminal moments. Call it crazy, but washing my face in the evening has become one of my favourites. I gently massage my skin with warm water and cleanser, before splashing it all off and bringing a soft towel to my face. Seeing my damp skin in the mirror - flushed, but radiant and smooth - brings a sense of quiet contentment.
No matter who you are, most of your time is spent doing regular things. As we advance our lives and careers, things that were once exciting quickly become regular. The slower pace of quarantine is a perfect opportunity to find enjoyment in every regular 'in between' moment. Stop waiting for life’s peaks to be appreciative.
4 - My Education
Ask any university student how they really are, and most will respond with “stressed!” As somebody in a STEM major, I know firsthand just how consuming, fast-paced, and negative higher education can be.
For me, coming at school with a different mindset has made monotonous tasks feel bearable and even enjoyable. Take literature searching as an example. As you scour databases for sources, you’re not just reading words. Each experiment or paper has its own flavour, value, and flair. Behind every academic article there are people with lives and stories. That paper you barely skimmed through before citing it was somebody's passion project.
The opportunity to gain knowledge is a beautiful and powerful thing. Research and teaching among post-secondary institutions is one of the few parts of human culture that is independent of political, social, and geographic boundaries. Even so, this worldwide network of shared knowledge isn't available to everybody. Every so often, I like to stop for a moment to be humbly grateful that I’m at a level of education not accessible to most people on the planet.
3 - Common Comforts
You turn a lever, and warm water rushes out of a pipe. Food is never farther than a few steps to your kitchen or a few taps on your cell phone. Without any effort on your part, fuel flows into your home, burns without threatening your safety, and keeps you thirty degrees warmer than the outdoors.
Wait. Think about it...
You and I enjoy levels of ease and comfort practically unknown worldwide. Not only that, even developed nations haven’t had living standards like ours for very long. Both the house I live in and multiple buildings on my university campus were constructed in a time when a lot more pain and discomfort was the norm. Old buildings are just one great reminder of how lucky we are to live in a time and place where comfort and resources are everywhere.
2 - People
Not one relationship, whether it be friendship, romance, or family, can exist forever without conflict. Before quarantine, I found it very easy to focus on conflicts and negativity in my relationships. I think many of us are distracted by searching for the perfect partner, or wishing our family and friends were more like the Joneses. In all this distraction, we completely miss the beauty of the relationships and the people that are in our lives right now.
In quarantine, we can’t slam the door on the people we live with or dance our latest heartbreak away at the bar. For me, staring my relationships in the face without distraction was the first step to truly appreciating everybody that has found their way into my life. I've learned that my housemates, my siblings, my parents, and the friends I still contact virtually are all incredible human beings with something unique to offer. This appreciation has even gone beyond my personal relationships. In particular, I have found a greater appreciation for my professors. Now, I see professors not as grade-giving machines, but as people like me who enjoy sharing knowledge, but have more years and experience behind them.
1 - Me
In a society that shames singleness, many of us want a partner. If this is you, have you ever asked yourself why being without a committed relationship is so bad? What pre-quarantine me really wanted out of a partner was validation, not somebody to love and share experiences with. When the digital hearts and warm comments aren’t enough, I think many of us subconsciously want somebody just for reliable praise and approval. As quarantine toned down that need for approval, my desire for a partner all but disappeared. I appreciate the excitement of a first date or the rush of physical touch as much as the next guy, but I’m not going to ruin these interactions with high expectations. My enjoyment of liminal moments, my education, and the great people already in my life has helped me let go of the need for ‘the one’ - or anyone, for that matter.
If you’re single, don’t pine for somebody to be with, enjoy being with yourself. Singleness is a unique opportunity to pursue your interests with huge freedom, appreciate great friendships, and enjoy dating and flings. Stop looking for the one and do your thing, soon enough people will be looking at you.