‘Nishi’s Declassified Home Survival Guide’

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The world has suddenly and completely turned upside down. Since school has gone digital, instead of writing to you from the couch in my Berkeley apartment, I’m writing to you from my couch back home in Henderson, Nevada. And let me tell you, I love being home. 

As this shelter-in-place order has, however, evolved from being a few weeks long to having no end in sight, I’m starting to recognize a dilemma that’s simultaneously smacking college students in the face across the country: “Oh, I didn’t think I was going to be home for that long.”

You don’t realize how different your lifestyle can be until a global pandemic forces you into close quarters with the people you love. So, this week, I’d like to share with you “Nishi’s Declassified Home Survival Guide.”

First of all, this isn’t fight club. We’ve all been there. One second you’re showing your mom a meme on Subtle Curry Traits and then you’re in an argument about marriage. It might seem random, but at the heart of every battle between teenage angst and parental fury is a clash of expectations. After living on my own, I expect to be treated more like an adult and given more independence, while my parents expect me to follow their rules and their schedule. 

Neither side is wrong for wanting those things. It’s a tense time, and my parents, as health care professionals, are on the frontlines fighting this disease. They need all the help at home they can get, but at the same time, I have grown up so much. That should matter. 

I wasn’t able to come up with an answer on how to solve this frustrating friction by myself, so I talked to my mom. She told me that just like how I’m not used to living at home again, she isn’t completely used to having her kids home again.

My mom illuminated how important it was for everyone to communicate. If you’re not doing your laundry because you’re overwhelmed by schoolwork, tell your parents —  they’ll understand. If, as a parent, you are frustrated by how late your kids are waking up, then ask them why they’re staying up so late. Maybe it’s because they’re doing homework, or they just prefer a different schedule now than the one they followed in high school. Compromise where you need to so everybody can feel comfortable.

Second, you have to get a routine going. I’ll be the first to admit that my sleep schedule is an absolute disaster. I’m staying awake later into the night and waking up much later than I did back in Berkeley, and many of my friends are struggling with the same thing. 

But the clock keeps ticking; the days blend together. On top of that, due dates and classes are constantly changing, so it feels as though you have no breathing room. With all that in mind, what are some strategies to get back on track?

I set small goals for myself, such as being in bed by midnight no matter what. That means prioritizing getting my work done earlier because I know I won’t have time at night. And since I’m definitely not a morning person, I need something to do in the early hours to wake my brain up. For me, that’s going out for a run every morning. It’s a great way to exercise, and it has the added benefit of getting me ready to tackle the day.

To keep track of my ever-changing schedule, I keep a checklist with every assignment or chore that I have to do in a given week, constantly updating it with new information. I try to treat my routine as a game where I gain points for every goal I achieve. I’m not really setting high scores at the moment, but every day, I’m getting a little bit better. 

And it’s not going unnoticed. Now that my mom sees that I’m putting a real effort into fixing these issues, we’re getting along. Things that would have led to an argument a week ago are now just goals that both of us understand are hard to achieve but are being worked on.

Third, you have to make the most of the time you have at home. Yes, it’s easy to get frustrated or annoyed by all these lifestyle changes we have to make, but the silver lining is that we have an opportunity to accomplish a lot of things.

Sure, being stuck inside can be soul-suckingly boring, but when else would you have the time to learn how to draw, pick up a new language (I’m learning French on Duolingo and YouTube) or make hilarious TikToks? One day, I learned how to bridge playing cards — it’s something I’ve always wanted to learn but never gotten around to (and is very embarrassing to not know if you live in Las Vegas). This quarantine is what we make of it, so let’s make it count.

I’ve taken quarantine as an opportunity to get closer to my family. We go out on walks every day around the neighborhood to get fresh air. I can’t believe we didn’t do this more often! It’s incredibly relaxing and is something I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to do if I weren’t at home.

I’m spending more time with my mom now, helping in the kitchen, and I realized how much I missed hearing her tell stories about her childhood. As a kid, I could listen for hours, but while I was away, I was so busy that I felt as though I didn’t have time to talk to my parents. Now that I have all the time in the world, I’m glad I can spend it with them.

Nishi Rahman writes the Thursday column on cultural and political diversity as a second-generation American.