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  • Laura Felder, UCTech

How 2020 Prompted Me to Self-Reflect

There is no denying that 2020 has been a challenging year, to put it mildly. As I sit at my laptop right now and ponder what has become of this year, I can only describe it in one word: “unpredictable.” While this year was not up to par with celebrations and engaging events, for me personally, it has been a huge year for reflection.

I am an introspective person. When the State of Emergency was declared and then online learning commenced in mid-March, the entire country started spending more time at home. Families created song parodies about the coronavirus and discussed how to spend their time at home. Meanwhile, I spent the majority of my time doing my school work and reverting to the internet.

Aside from completing school work, my days were spent walking, doing arts and crafts and listening to music. I have always enjoyed being surrounded by the great outdoors. After all, my name comes from the Latin word “laurel,” a plant. Prior to the lockdown, I had been walking around my neighborhood about twice a week due to my heavy workload and hectic after-school activity schedule. After the lockdown started, I began walking four times a week. During these twenty to thirty minutes, I would appreciate nature and take photos of the beautiful plants that I spotted, allowing me to clear my head of any worry or stress. Walking has been shown to improve mood, balance and coordination. Therefore, walking time is reflection time. I did not worry about anything else in my life other than the cars passing by, the dogs barking and the sun shining in my eyes. This habit remains the same this autumn, except that I am now watching the leaves descend from the trees and wearing a sweater as I stroll.

I have always enjoyed immersing myself in art and never limited myself to a specific medium. During my time in quarantine, I would occasionally take markers or dyed yarn and try to make an interesting color scheme. In May, I became interested in calligraphy and experimented with basic styles out of curiosity. Over the April spring break, I painted sheets of paper so I could cut them up and make jewelry from paper beads. For the remainder of my spring break, I further challenged myself by only using the primary colors, white and black to create all the hues, shades, tints, or tones I could think of. This stimulated my mind to imagine unique colors and then figure out the combination of primary colors needed to create them. It often took several tries to succeed, since I was simply working with three colors. When I paint and experiment with colors, I am usually by myself in a room. The quiet, sometimes silence, is extraordinarily beneficial to the mind. Silence and solitude have been shown to improve decision-making skills and reduce stress. They have also been shown to lower blood pressure and improve focus on one task at a time. Consequently, in a time of such uncertainty, silence is truly golden.

In addition, music has assisted in maintaining my composure this year. I will sometimes listen to music while I do other activities. I tend to play whatever type of music fits my mood. When I am feeling great on a Friday night, I will play Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration,” and when I am in a contemplative mood, I prefer “Let It Be” by The Beatles. I also practiced my violin. Music is a wonderful way to channel your emotions and connect to messages that are relevant to life. There is a certain comfort of hearing someone else creatively express emotions similar to yours through music, from a shared feeling of gratitude to the sorrow of losing a close friend. Listeners are comforted by knowing that they are not alone in their opinions and are united by the common message or the vigor of the music. Listening can boost memory and lower anxiety. The relaxation effect of music may even enhance sleep quality.

In essence, I have been engaging in home activities to entertain myself and stimulate my mind. I, like most Americans, cannot wait for the State of Emergency to be lifted, but it is ultimately out of my control. Quarantining has become tedious, yet I believe that a major benefit is that it has enabled me to spend more time on my own and get to know myself better.

I recognize that my situation is similar to that of most Americans in the northeastern United States. Some states have lifted lockdown restrictions, some families are large, and it is more difficult for them to find a few minutes of alone time. Regardless of whether we leave our homes once each day or three times, it is easy to comprehend how interconnected we are with each other. Front-line workers and medical professionals deserve the utmost respect for all of the time and safety they have sacrificed. There are negative and positive effects of the lockdown, and we can still center around the positive facets, so as not to view 2020 as a complete misuse of a year.

As the late author, educator, and businessman Stephen Covey stated, “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” One may choose to take advantage of their time at home or merely complain about it. During a time in which we may not be literally moving forward, the time can certainly be used to move forward figuratively by pondering ideas and forming new insights. Lockdown has forced individuals to be creative with their indoor activities, especially as winter inches closer. The year has not yet finished. In the final weeks of 2020, let us consider how we can use this time at home to focus on ourselves and identify personal flaws and attempt to fix or mediate them. Increased time at home has encouraged us to find our inner peace. By remaining at home, we are less distracted by outside events and problems and are granted more time to spend with ourselves. By using this solitude to improve ourselves and our lives, we can return to pre-lockdown life even stronger and more appreciative of our home, family, friends and health.

It is November of 2020. I do not know if any person on Earth predicted a year as full of twists and turns as 2020 for the beginning of a new decade. My father made a New Year’s Eve joke about us being able to see more clearly this year because of ideal 20/20 vision. While the present and the future seem quite cloudy, I must admit that he was correct.

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