by Libby Chalamish & Emma Zhang
graphic by Emily Zhang
“Hand me the glue, will you?” Libby asked her mother as she worked on a quarantine art project. The hours at home had driven her to make all sorts of impractical things –– confetti out of leaves, a caterpillar out of pom-pom balls and even model magic sculptures of her family members. At that moment, she was in the process of making a collage of old magazines and scrap paper while dressed in her usual quarantine attire –– a nice shirt for her virtual classes coupled with pajama pants and slippers.
Once COVID-19 was declared a national emergency and quarantine began in March, people had to find creative ways to spend their newfound free time. Almost an entire year later, vaccine distribution has begun, and people are eager to leave quarantine behind and transition toward the “new normal.” Despite the pandemic’s challenges, quarantine encouraged the exploration of new hobbies, improved people’s adaptability and increased awareness of frontline workers’ sacrifices, all of which should extend even upon a return to “normalcy.”
Toward the beginning of quarantine, the amount of free time we had on our hands seemed akin to a vacation. We took this time to foster our hobbies that get pushed aside during our typical schedules. Some channeled their creativity through art, taking to home improvement projects, tie-dyeing and fine art.
Avid home chefs took to the internet, sharing recipes for banana bread, Dalgona coffee and sourdough bread. For us, it was baking and art –– our houses were either full of art supplies or ingredients for the recipes we found on social media. Above all, isolation allowed us to discover qualities about ourselves that we otherwise would not have taken the time to notice.
Certain habits that would have been unthinkable before the pandemic will hopefully remain in our post-pandemic lives. Though mask-wearing may be uncomfortable, precautionary measures such as frequent hand washing and an overall heightened awareness of hygiene can protect against not only COVID-19, but also other viruses. Considering all the benefits these hygienic precautions have on public health, it is only sensible to continue them.
During this pandemic, healthcare workers have led the charge against COVID-19, showing tireless dedication and sacrifice. Many communities bonded over their appreciations of essential workers. Healthcare workers’ selflessness is not new, however, and public recognition of them should extend far beyond the pandemic’s end.
While the rapid lifestyle change of the pandemic proved to be extremely challenging, it encouraged self-motivation and adaptability. When lockdown orders forbade people from seeing their friends, family and peers, we had to find creative ways to maintain some semblance of our old routines without physical contact.
Schools and offices were moved to Zoom, challenging people’s motivation. Many people organized get-togethers with friends on virtual platforms, where they played online games, talked and tried to make up for the months they spent apart. We had to think of out-of-the-box ways to celebrate birthdays and other special events; some made their parties virtual, some had them outdoors and others organized drive-throughs for gifts and greetings.
Although we are still getting used to these changes, they taught skills that will undoubtedly serve us well in the future. Quarantine has been difficult. Understandably, many want to leave it in the past. It’s crucial, however, to remember the positive habits we learned in quarantine. These lifestyle changes may have been unusual and unwanted, but now that we have learned to integrate them into our lives, we should preserve them.