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Off the Beat

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At some point during quarantine, I crossed the beginnings of the days of the week off my calendar. Instead of having Monday through Sunday, my weeks now consisted of -day, -day, -day, -day, -day, -day and -day. What purpose was there in differentiating them anymore?

The days flew by yet felt achingly slow at the same time. Each day blended into the next one until I couldn’t even remember what month it was. Until one “-day” happened to be my 20th birthday. 

After weeks of trudging along, trying desperately to focus on Zoom lectures from my bed, searching hopelessly at the grocery store for inevitably sold-out yeast to bake bread and binge-watching “Tiger King” with my family, I’d become engulfed in this time-warped, monotonous routine at home, and I hadn’t once thought about my birthday or its significance.

It felt unjust to celebrate my living another year, during a period of my life when time didn’t feel like it was moving at all. Quarantine had been eroding away the illusion of a linear timeline and a structured lifestyle.

Hours and days and years were established to regulate the passing of time, helping us organize our lives and feel comfortable in the constancy of a schedule. The past two months, however, have been more comparable to the dreams Leo DiCaprio frequents in “Inception,” wherein time stretches to be much longer while your subconscious runs free. A week in a dream might equal a few minutes in the real world.

Similarly, it feels like I can read an entire book, bake a dozen cupcakes and take multiple naps before tuning in to the real world and realizing that, still, no progress has been made and there is no end in sight to this pothole in the timeline.

Time is also analogous to entropy. Entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, is defined as an irreversible process. It represents a lack of predictability and a gradual decline into disorder. Time, too, is erratic and inconsistent.

As Einstein’s theory of special relativity tells us, time can, in fact, expand and shorten depending on people’s relative paces and perspectives. The faster a person or object moves relative to another, the slower time will appear for them — like in “Interstellar,” how Matthew McConaughey travels at lightning speed through space and doesn’t age. Inversely, considering how I rarely leave the confines of my house and have little reason to ever leave my desk chair, I will probably be ready to retire by the time the shelter-in-place orders are lifted. 

Given how sporadic the changes in the speed of time have felt since the new year, all constancy that time used to offer has dissipated. As such, time in quarantine feels fake, nonexistent. Life — real life, not the virtual transition to life — was put on hold when the shelter-in-place order began. I went home and reverted from my college life routine to my elementary school routine. Living with my parents and going to bed at 8:30, I feel more like Benjamin Button at the end of the movie than I do someone who has just turned 20.

Turning 20 is a major moment in a young person’s life because it symbolizes the end of teenagehood and the beginning of adulthood. Teen angst begone. Rapidly changing emotions become unacceptable. Exploratory phases in style or personality become taboo. Having lived two decades worth of experiences comes with expectations of acting like a full-grown adult: responsible, accountable and mature.

But how am I expected to learn to be an adult, when every time I turn on the news or read the newspaper, all I see are adults acting like children? How is my generation supposed to mature when the people we are meant to look up to seem to be spitting lies and hate at each other?

It feels like the nation has become increasingly divided throughout this global crisis, fighting against each other instead of working together for the greater good. The media portrays an antithetical society, in which, on one side, the situation is worsening exponentially, yet, on the other, things are ameliorating. In my eyes, society has never felt so tumultuous.

In a time when it seems logical fallacies are normalized, I have come to terms with my birthday through syllogistic reasoning:

Because civilization has come to a crashing halt and civilization defines time, then it follows that time too has come to a crashing halt. As such, I hereby declare that I am still 19 years old until the government can definitively keep this disease under control.

I am now counting the days until I get to officially turn 20, until the big kids in the papers grow up and time regains structure. Perhaps this means I will be stuck as a teenager forever, but at least I have found a reason to differentiate between Monday and Tuesday.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the summer semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.