It’s a different time

Off the Beat

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About 12 weeks ago, I was planning my days to a T. I would move from class to the lab where I did research, then to a library, to another class, to The Daily Californian office and finally, to an intramural volleyball game. And maybe to Yogurt Park. I treated life like jumping rope — I had to keep hopping and keep moving. 

I have always been keen on maximizing my time. I want to make the most of college, so I try to make the most of each month, each week and each day. I want to be involved in activities, learn in class and grow with friends, so I plan. 

Sometimes that means bringing a meal or two with me to campus at 8 a.m. on days during which I have meetings or an event to attend in the evening so that I don’t “waste” time walking all the way back to my apartment. Sometimes it means asking a friend to meet at Cafe Milano instead of the original spot of Caffe Strada because the former is closer to the library, allowing me five more minutes of study time. It can be overwhelming. 

For the past five and a half semesters, there has never been enough time. Every day is a race against the clock, a question of how much I can do before I have to go to sleep. And sometimes my roommate and I discuss how much more we could do if our bodies didn’t need sleep.

Now, after 11 weeks of sheltering in place, time is still of utmost importance in my life. But my understanding of it and my feeling of needing to be efficient have drastically changed.

For the first couple of weeks under the order, I was pleasantly surprised when the clock read 5 p.m. I felt relief that we were already at the end of the day. And then I would feel guilty for wanting time to pass, as just a few weeks prior, I had viewed every hour as so valuable. 

What’s still hard, however, is that deep down, I want it to be a date and a time that it’s not. I yearn for the date when we can congregate again without an ounce of worry of spreading or contracting COVID-19. I yearn for the date when I am in Wheeler 150 watching people navigate an all-too-narrow row of seats, trying and failing to not step on someone’s backpack. I yearn for the date when my grandmas, aunts, uncles and cousins will be in our living room playing a competitive game of charades, with my younger cousins sitting on the older ones’ laps. 

I know those days will come eventually, although it’s likely that I won’t be a Berkeley student when the Wheeler 150 fantasy manifests itself.

Although I’ve found some structure in this shelter-in-place era, what’s helped me most has been acceptance and a changed mindset.

Life today is not the same as it was 12 weeks ago, and we need not pretend that it is. In acting as if we can seamlessly move from an era that was sociable to one far more solitary, or from one with options to one without, we are ignoring much and neglecting valid thoughts, feelings and emotions.

In realizing and accepting the struggles of today’s world, I have also accepted that occasionally feeling down is OK. Occasionally feeling less productive is OK. Feeling like you can no longer look at a screen is OK. It’s only natural to feel uncomfortable and upset when it feels like the world has turned upside down. There’s no use pretending that it hasn’t.

That said, there is talk of a “new normal,” that we ought to get used to the changes that have occurred in the past 12 weeks. And I support that mindset — we cannot simply live fixated on the full-fledged return of sporting events or concerts. We ought to make the best of what we have. 

That likely entails changing our expectations, a task that, again, cannot and will not be accomplished overnight in a seamless transition. But it’s important that we do gradually work to change our expectations. 

Maybe that starts with thinking about what’s most important to us. Perhaps you can’t play basketball at the park, but if being outdoors and being active is what’s important to you, maybe you can find joy in a hike. Or if playing a sport with friends is what’s important to you, maybe you can find joy in playing tennis. 

While I haven’t been in the same room as many of my friends and family for months, I’ve shared laughs during game nights over video calls. I’ve grown to enjoy playing games online far more than I ever thought I would.

While part of me and my thoughts will continue to focus on that unknown future date when every business has reopened and the threat of a second or third wave is obsolete, I am still grateful for each day and all that I can still do within my 16 waking hours — whether or not I have planned them out.

“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.