Pandemic leads to self-improvement

Nicole Surcel, co-opinions editor

On the first day of my junior year last year, I remember thinking: this year is going to be, for the lack of a better word, hell. With the SAT, Physics, AP exams and college on the horizon, I gradually felt myself slipping back into the dreadful, continuous cycle of stress, cry, sleep and repeat. To make matters worse, I got a job over the summer that carried into the school year, so much of the little free time I had quickly evaporated into thin air.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, high schools across the nation closed down and switched to remote learning. The quarantine experience that filled the months of March, April, May and June was quite different from anything I had ever gone through and I’m sure many of you could attest to feeling the same way. It was strange being cooped up inside your own home for days on end, finding yourself with more time than you bargained for.

At first, this freedom to do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted within the liberties of your own home, was great! I ran more frequently, caught up on much needed hours of sleep and, most importantly, focused on bettering myself in several parts of my life. Throughout the school year, I valued my academics, but I also tried to involve myself in as much social activity as possible. I didn’t want to miss out on the joys of being young and in high school, especially because these four years are some of the most memorable in a person’s lifetime.

With quarantine starting up in March and all social activities rushing to a stop, I found myself sighing a breath of relief. It was as if the world knew we could use a break, and quarantine provided just that. As each day passed, I rediscovered parts of myself that were left untouched since my childhood, like puzzles.

The minimal social interactions because of quarantine forced me to step out of my comfort zone to fill in those free hours and I quickly turned to engaging in more meaningful activities. Along with completing puzzles and reading books, I also started to journal more often. It felt great getting my ideas down on paper and it also gave me a sense of structure to my incredibly structureless weeks.

As summer neared, I was ready to step into the world as a new person—someone with a renewed perspective on the more simple things in life. Yes, I recognize that school will never not be stressful for me and that college will introduce me to the many responsibilities of adulthood, but giving yourself time to reassess your strengths, your weaknesses and your values is essential. It’s rare that you will be handed as much time as we’ve been given these past few months, but finding as little as 30 minutes a week to do something you love can go a long way.

After all, it was through revisiting my love for puzzles that I was able to piece together my life a little more, and I continue to do so as I work through my final year of high school.