If you’ve been scrolling your news/twitter/social-media-of-choice feed incessantly during this quarantine, you’re sure to have seen an uncountable number of lists that guide you on how to be productive during this period. The Huffington Post, Forbes, Buzzfeed… almost every major and minor media source (even this very publication) has posted an article with the title, “15 Productive Things To Do In Quarantine”. Add to that the viral stories of “Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine during the plague” and “Isaac Newton created calculus while social distancing”, and you can see how it’s easy to believe that everyone will come out of this having spent their time bettering themselves. However, that may not be true for a lot of us and that’s okay.
We’ve all seen the #dailyworkoutchallenge posts by our friends or celebrities. We hear of people learning new languages, cooking new and exotic dishes, learning a new skill online, or in the case of that one friend who is annoyingly good at everything, all of these at once. Quarantine has brought everything to a stop but rise and grind culture persists.
The reason for these stories is clear: to motivate and provide direction to others who might be struggling. But despite all of these public shows of exceptional efficiency, for many, the truth is entirely different. Many of us seem to be unable to reach the levels of output that we’re used to producing. Carlotta, an undergraduate student in Madrid is in this particular position, “We’ve been having classes online for 2-3 weeks now. I wake up for my class but I feel much less attentive than usual. It’s much harder to start my work assignments as well”.
This very article that you are reading right now took me two weeks longer to write than it would have taken me normally. And it’s not because I haven’t had the time, it’s because I just have not been able to motivate myself. If I hadn’t already believed the following paragraph before I started writing this, I most definitely do now.
It’s okay to wake up a bit later than usual. It’s okay to not be working out every day. It’s okay to be worried about the situation. It’s okay to have good days, bad days or worse days. We are living through unprecedented chaos that could last a while and it’s important to be kind to ourselves and others. Forgive yourself for being unorganized or paralyzed. You don’t have to make the most of a global pandemic.
In our capitalist society, we have been taught to value ourselves by our “output”. Now more than ever, we need to shed this notion so that we’re not beating ourselves up for not taking advantage of a pandemic. Take this time to speak with your family, your friends, your loved ones (all while social distancing, of course). Get to know your neighbor from your balcony.
Many of us are going to suffer grave consequences from the fallout of the coronavirus, be it the death or sickness of a loved one or extreme economic hardship. At the time of writing, there have been 11,814 deaths in Spain, 900,000 people have lost their jobs with a further 620,000 have seen their contracts suspended. All of us are struggling to deal with the helplessness we feel at watching all of this unfold. And it’s true, in many ways we are helpless.
However, there are still ways to be a positive influence. Shop in locally owned, independent stores instead of big supermarket chains. They are the ones who need your support more than ever, plus there are much shorter lines there too! Tiendas de Barrio is an Instagram page collecting the locations of small and independent stores in Madrid so you know where you can find the closest open bakery, fruits and vegetable store, butcher, pharmacy or stationery store.
We’re all adjusting to this new reality together, and anyone who seems to have it all figured out is probably not being completely honest with themselves. When a day feels simultaneously like a week and but also 5 minutes long, it can be very overwhelming. I’ve found that going back to what’s familiar can feel comforting, so read your favorite book again or watch a TV series for the 3rd time. Knowing how the story ends brings me solace, and makes taking things one day at a time a little bit easier.