I’ve mentioned in my first blog that I’m a very extroverted person, and that social distancing and quarantine was essentially my worst nightmare coming to life. Well, I’ve been in quarantine for almost three months now, and I have to say, it really grew on me. Does that mean I want to continue living like this? Absolutely not! But I could go a few more months and not mind it. Now, before you start thinking of all the ways quarantine sucks and why I’m some chippy antisocial weirdo, let me take the time to explain some of the good parts about quarantine. Trust me when I say this. If there’s anyone’s personality that isn’t built for quarantine, it’s mine. I love the company of others and I’m terrible at spending time by myself. If I can see the good parts, then I’m sure you can too.
Much Needed Alone Time
I used to be the person to think alone time was kind of useless. Why would anyone need alone time? Aren’t people more energetic when they’re around other people? Turns out I was really missing out. If you’re an introvert and often find yourself lacking the alone time you really need in our busy world, then you just won the lottery. I’m sure you’re probably finding this quarantine much easier than some of your friends are because you already know the value of alone time.
To my extroverts out there, alone time is needed. We don’t even know how not having alone time is affecting us because we’re too busy always trying to surround ourselves with other people. In the last 3 years, I never prioritized alone time for myself. I just thought I never needed it. I was always with my roommates, and if I wasn’t with them, I would probably be at someone’s house or I’d be trying to make new friends. Even when it came to things that I should’ve been doing alone – like studying or any productive work – I would look for a friend to do it with me. Looking back, this was absurd. The reality was, I don’t think I knew how to appreciate my own company when I was by myself.
After spending some dreaded time alone, I came to realize a few things. For starters, it’s pretty awesome to spend time by yourself. Yes, it takes a while to get used to the silence, but after a while you’ll be asking yourself why it took a pandemic for you to realize the importance of alone time. By being alone, I really had the time to figure out what my likes and dislikes were, what my passions were. I was even able to realize that a lot of the things I did was because everyone else around me was doing them. When you’re constantly with other people, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. I was around people so much, I never even had the time to stop and think why I was pursuing certain paths and not others. I needed time alone to figure stuff out. By doing so, I was able to find a new career that might be a better fit for my personality than medicine. I agree that friends are great for providing help and support, but you first need your own ideas and values before anyone can help you. Those ideas, virtues, and values come from spending time alone away from people.
Spending time alone is also amazing for all your relationships because you realize just how special and important the people in your life are. By always being around my friends, I took their time and company for granted (I even found myself being irritable for no particular reason). In our current world, we’re always connected. Literally everyone you know is in your pocket. You need time apart from the people you love. Otherwise you’ll never miss them.
I think the most important thing I learned by spending time alone was that if I didn’t enjoy spending time with myself, why on earth would others? Think about that the next time you’re alone and feel the need to be in someone else’s company.
Time to Become the Best version of Yourself
Let’s all just take a second and be honest with ourselves. You and I both know how it goes. You make a promise to yourself and to your friends about doing something amazing. You start doing it for maybe a week, you post your updates on Instagram, and then after you get some likes you quit. Over the last 2 years, I told myself I would get a 6 pack (cuz why not), learn to eat healthy, fix my sleep schedule, work on my time management, and not procrastinate. I was like Leonardo DiCaprio waiting for an Oscar, except –instead of eventually winning best male actor– I won worst picture. I gained 25 pounds, slept at three in the morning, and my schedule was falling apart as I improvised. I failed to do everything I said I would do, and I blamed it all on time. Well, now I have time and I think a lot of you do too.
Here’s the way I see it. You can either come out of this quarantine as a brand new person or as someone who squandered a lot of time. Either way, I doubt anyone’s coming out of it the same. You’re either going up or down, so why on earth would you choose down?
During this quarantine, I finally had the time to start exercising and eating properly again. I was able to get rid of the 25 pounds I gained over the course of the year. Learning also became fun again. I found out, much to my surprise, I was still able to read books (and that I actually enjoyed reading them). I even started picking up new tricks and skills such as music production, meditation, magic, writing, and even cooking, which is something everyone thought was a lost cause for me. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of these things, if it weren’t for quarantine.
Time for Catching Up with The People You Used to Know
We all have our close circle of friends that are easy to talk to and hangout with. However, there used to be a time where there were other people in your life. Did you ever stop to think about what happened to them over the years or how they may be doing? There’s something super strange about my generation. Keeping in touch with people should be super easy. We have everything: phones, Facebook, Instagram, Skype. We should be the most “social” generation, yet we suck at being social. For some reason, we have a hard time keeping in touch and remembering people we don’t constantly see.
I spent this quarantine really trying to catch up with people I used to know, but stopped keeping in touch with due to time, distance, and other random excuses. I literally got out all my past yearbooks and started going down the list for people to contact. Every day I contacted someone new and said the same thing.
“Hey, it’s Farshad. It’s been a while. I was just going through some old memories and I thought of you. What’s new in your life?”
After a while, I even made more of a habit to call my cousins, aunts, uncles and even grandparents. It’s something that took 5 minutes of my time, but I could tell that it really made their day. What’s strange is that I even spent the time to contact and catch up with people that I didn’t really like (childhood bullies, difficult people, random annoying acquaintances). In my head, I didn’t really know why I was calling them, but once I called them, it was totally worth it because it showed me that everyone was capable of change and being a new person.
Catching up with people and taking the time to contact everyone, even the people you didn’t really know, will never be a waste of time. It will always give you a new perspective and you’ll realize that you know more people in the world than you think. At the end of the day, you’ll never know who you’re going to be working with, or in the same city with, so why not take the time to have a good relationship with everyone? When I really sat down to think, I realized that I was less isolated than I thought. All it took was making that one random call. The world’s a lot smaller than you think.
Time for Being Bored
I think my favourite thing about quarantine is that I have time for being bored. Life’s so busy these days. When was the last time anyone had the chance to be bored? Everyone’s always working or trying to make plans that there’s never actually time for being bored. I’m not saying it’s good to be bored, but sometimes you really just need it.
I’ve realized that when I’m bored is actually when I have my best thoughts. It’s when I can stare at a wall and think about the emotions I experienced, why I feel a certain way, and it lets me really think about the person I want to be in the future. Also, when I’m bored, I tend to get reconnected with my creative side again. I think it’s because you let your inner kid come out. I don’t know if this is true for anyone currently reading, but when I’m bored, I have random dance parties in my room, I perform stand-up routines and concerts in front of the mirror, and I really just end up having a good time.
I know that this is an unfortunate period. You don’t need to tell me that. I can’t wait for things to go back to normal. I just wanted to share some really cool opportunities that this quarantine gave some of us. When things go back to normal, we probably won’t have the time to learn those random skills we always wanted to learn, and we definitely won’t have time to go through yearbooks and randomly call people. In the information age, time is always in short supply. Shouldn’t we all be taking advantage of this rare abundance of it? At the end of the day, we’re all going through this quarantine together. Maybe this could even be something that bring us all a little bit closer.
Thanks for reading everyone and I’ll talk to you guys next week.
“Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”
Despite being a person of colour I’m fortunate to say I never personally experienced racism in my life (And if I did, I clearly wasn’t aware of it). That’s probably why I had such a hard time understanding systemic racism. I knew it was a problem, but never on this magnitude. It was then I realized that my ignorance was part of the problem. I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.
When it comes to discussing difficult subjects or political issues, I think many of us have the same problem. We choose not to pay attention to what’s going on. We choose to focus only on things that occur within our little bubble. We choose not to take the time to form our own opinions and educate ourselves. Honestly, it’s a privilege to not have to concern yourself with having a political opinion.
The word ignorant is used as an adjective to describe someone who is unaware. In other words, someone who is not woke (you guys deserve better, I know). I used to think that meaning well and caring for the people around me was enough. I thought that politics and global news weren’t that important because I felt so far removed from it. I wasn’t actively trying to be ignorant to everything going on, but I definitely wasn’t trying to learn and educate myself, which in turn made me ignorant. With the unjust murder of George Floyd, I was forced to uncover and wrestle with racial issues I hadn’t taken the time to consider before. When it comes to wrestling with systemic issues, I think everyone goes through the same four stages of thought. Let me walk you through them.
This is essentially the stage where you come to learn that you haven’t really been thinking enough about something or that you didn’t really take the time to contemplate certain ideas through. For me, this stage occurred at two in the morning while my roommate, Nick, and I were having tea and listening to jazz. I was sitting on the couch and telling him about my dreams and plans about how I would one day try to change the world (yes, I know it sounds cliche). Our conversation segued into how I felt regarding the late George Floyd and the prevalence of systemic racism. When I went to give an answer, I found that I had nothing to really say other than racism was really bad. My conversation with Nick ended with him saying that anyone who cares about doing good and being a virtuous person should take the time to look into and have at least some sort of well-articulated opinion of all issues, even if they don’t have any personal experience with them.
He was right. I only really cared about forming opinions on scientific issues and finding solutions with regards to biology and chemistry questions. There was a whole world of systemic and political issues that I knew nothing about. I guess I had more things to think about this summer than I originally thought.
Figuring Out What You Should Be Doing
After any realization, people have a moment where they ask themselves a series of simple but hard to answer questions. What now? What should I do? Where should I start? In the case of recent events, I was trying to figure out what I should be doing to be anti-racist and how I could show support to the black community. Whenever I start questioning myself or when I want to figure something out, Instagram always seems to come to my aid. There’s a lot of information out there and sometimes seeing a short simple post is a great way to get started. Here’s one that I found particularly helpful.
This image does a really good job demonstrating to people how to actively get involved. However, I think it’s missing two key things. The idea of learning and unlearning. It’s hard to really give your full support to a cause when you don’t know much about it. Start by talking to others, asking your friends and family the difficult questions. Diversify the circles in which you operate. Use Google and dive into the history of issues you see. Let go of the biases you once thought true. I personally didn’t know racism was still so prevalent due to my upbringing. I had to unlearn a few beliefs. I had to ensure that I was learning and listening with a fresh open mind.
Feeling Like You Can’t Make A Difference
I’m not going to lie. This is a pretty depressing stage to go through. It’s when you realize an issue is so massive you feel like nothing you do matters. You ask yourself all sorts of questions. Is it my place to advocate for this issue? Why should I care? What’s the point? There’s already a lot of people showing their support, what I say or do wouldn’t make a difference. To get out of this stage requires two things. Asking yourself why you care and understanding the power of a collective voice.
The answer to “why do I care” will show in the things you do. Some will sign petitions, and others will read dense literature on the topic. The idea is that all of us are trying to do what we can because whatever we choose to do — no matter how big or small — will help to make the difference we’re aiming to see in the world. At the end of the day, just by getting involved, you become an advocate for a better tomorrow.
When it comes to understanding the power of a collective voice, just look at any movement in history. There’s a message that people come together to collectively say, and every extra voice adds to the power of that message. Martin Luther King and Gandhi wouldn't have been able to make a difference if they didn’t have the support of the collective voices of the people. You may not be the next MLK, but you can at least lend your voice by doing something. Literally, doing anything will push the issue forward. Every awkward conversation you have with your peer group and every post you make on social media, doesn’t go unnoticed. After all, people are more willing to listen when information comes from a peer.
Continuous Questioning and Learning
Congratulations! You realized there were things you were unaware of and you started taking steps towards a brighter tomorrow. Here’s the thing with systemic racism and prejudice….actually, here’s the thing with any issue or problem. It requires you to always be questioning what’s going on. It requires you to always be learning. Doing something just once, doesn’t make you part of the solution. It just makes you a person who doesn’t want to feel left out. Repeatedly do things you believe in. Make it a habit. Make it a part of your personality.
When it comes to uncovering and working through your unconscious ignorance, understand that there’s a lot of things that you might not be aware of and that the world is bigger than just your inner circle of friends and your education. After you understand that, start by doing something. By doing anything. Your voice and your thoughts are more important than you think. Right now, is your chance to make a difference. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to take it. Thanks for reading, and I’ll talk to you guys next week.