What I Should Have Learned from Quarantine, but Didn’t

Left to my own devices, I will create a life that strangles me

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Jessica Lewis via Unsplash
Jessica Lewis via Unsplash

Since March of this year, we have all faced uncertainty, change, and upheaval. For many of us, the rhythm of our lives has been disrupted. We have struggled to get comfortable with uncertainty. We have wrestled with fear, worry, and anxiety.

During the early days of quarantine, we retreated into our own, personal bubbles. We drew our families close. We avoided contact with the outside world as much as possible. A trip to the grocery store was an epic feat of planning and worry. We baked bread, read books, constructed puzzles. There were fewer planes flying overhead and fewer cars on the roads. The air felt cleaner because it was cleaner. We were scared but mixed with that fear were moments of peace and reflection.

Slowly, we began to emerge. We began to rebuild our lives around what felt safe to us. How far would we wander from our homes? How many people would we connect with? We measured, we evaluated and we each made our own choices. And we discovered all of the ways to connect virtually. Meetings via Zoom. Happy hours via Zoom. Birthday parties via Zoom. Passover Seders via Zoom.

Personally, I began to rebuild my calendar and my to-do list. It was different: there was no travel, there were no “city days” where I would board a bus for the two-hour ride to New York City, spend the day running from meeting to meeting, and collapse on the bus for the two-hour ride home. But I filled my calendar just the same, with Zoom chats and phone calls and webinars and interviews. I filled my to-do list with 100 projects and tasks, many of which sounded really exciting when I first thought them up, but less so when I had to actually dig in and do them. Once again, I awoke to an overburdened calendar and a crushing pressure to produce.


During those early days of quarantine, I was reminded about something about myself. Less is more. I crave good friends and deep conversations. I thrive on long blocks of time that give me the space to think deeply. I love to ideate and I love to figure out how to take those ideas and bring them to life.

I hate answering email. 

I hate clutter, be it physical, mental or emotional.

I love connecting with people, but can live without big crowds.

Sometimes, I need to wake up and see something different, but I’m a creature of habit, so I have to be intentional about that and push myself to break my routines in favor of new experiences.

I love to write, and that too takes intention because writing rarely checks a box off of my to-do list.

Most importantly, what I learned is something that I’ve known about myself, though it is something I’d clearly forgotten: left to my own devices, I will create a life that is so full, it will strangle me. Perhaps this time, I will finally learn that lesson.

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