Monday, September 27 2021 - 8:46 PM
art pencils
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Good in COVID

COVID hit the world unexpectedly during my seventh month of working as a student journalist in Peru. When Peru airports closed to all traffic, the country gave foreign citizens 24 hours to leave. I was one of 5,000 American citizens who didn’t make it out in time. It would take two weeks before the governments of Peru and the USA evacuated me in a combined effort.

Since I was entering the United States from another country, I was required to quarantine for 14 days upon my arrival. My family chose to quarantine with me. I hadn’t seen them in seven months, and I was elated to spend some quiet spring days with them as we lounged in pajamas, watched snowstorms, read books, and drank tea. I’m from Montana. A place where spring and snowstorms are not always exclusive.

Living in Peru was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, largely because I had learned to embrace a calmer and less frantic culture than the culture in the United States. I worried about what life would be like as I tried to integrate back into life in my home culture, and I felt relieved to know that quarantine would help smooth out that process.

COVID’s Darkness

After the original 14 days of strict quarantine, stay-at-home orders were still in place. My excitement for relaxation morphed into restlessness. According to the media, the world outside was falling apart, the news shared nothing but confusion, and I found it exhausting to keep up with current events. Plus, it had already been seven months since I’d seen my friends. I was tired of being cooped up.

COVID wove its fingers into every aspect of life, and that made it even harder to cope with quarantine. My plans to study abroad in Europe during the fall were canceled. I learned that one of my best friends dropped out of college, and I wouldn’t see him when I returned after my gap year. People who I had known in Peru were dying from COVID. The darkness seemed to grow heavier and thicker by the day, sometimes the hour.

I struggled to wake up in the morning. I had nowhere to go and little to do. There was no structure anymore and no need for one. I had no school, no job, no social life. Clearly, quarantine wasn’t going to end as soon as the world had hoped. As life grew bleaker and there was less to look forward to, I sunk into depression.

Unpacking My Creativity

Somewhere in the monotony of that summer, I started renewing old hobbies that I had left behind due to the chaos of becoming an adult in American culture. There was a surplus of time now, so I began to unpack the creative side of myself that I had barely noticed was fading. I bought some polymer clay and mashed my emotions into its soft texture, creating beautiful items from the formless material. I made things like beads which I strung into tassels on bookmarks. And I made refrigerator magnets and decorative pushpins. I created whatever came to mind and realized it wasn’t half bad. I set up an Etsy store and discovered the thrill of selling my creations. It provided me with a way to connect to the world around me, even from inside the walls of my home.

Life since coming home from Peru hasn’t been easy. I adapted to lots of unfamiliar routines. I reevaluated my perspective on life and grew in uncomfortable ways. But while this last year has had plenty of downsides, it’s had a few highlights too.

Learning From COVID

I learned that having something to do is good for me, but I’ve also learned to embrace the spirit of rest. I’ve become reacquainted with my creative side, and I’ve felt more inspired than I have for many years. I’ve learned to find inventive ways to communicate with loved ones that I can’t be with. Also, I’ve learned to see the world through a lens of gratitude for what I have rather than a lens of turmoil over what I don’t.

In the end, I let the COVID era change me. I hope I remain different.

If you liked this, you might also like When It Hits Too Close 

Brooke Sample writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About T. Brooke Sample

T. Brooke Sample

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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