Today we are grateful to share an essay written by Rachel Singley, who is a member of our writing circle, Maya’s Room. Here is a reflection on how she is learning to manage her time in the midst of the pandemic.
“If you don’t come out of this quarantine with a new skill, your side-hustle started, or more knowledge gained… then you never lacked time, you lacked discipline.” -Unknown.
This is just one of the many quotes I’ve seen on social media since we’ve all been sheltering in place due to COVID-19 (which I will affectionately refer to as Corona). This type of toxic messaging is one of the reasons I’ve had to be intentional about showing myself grace during this time. I often catch myself being self-critical because I’m not being as productive as I should be, I’m not working on my blog as much as I should be, or I’m not working out as often as I should be. I got to the point where I realized that I basically created a list of quarantine rules that I should be following based on the things I was seeing on my social media feeds. For the sake of brevity, I’ll talk about the top three “rules” that have been ringing in my head nonstop.
1) You’re not leaving the house therefore; you should be extremely productive.
2) You need to come out of this with tons of blog content.
3) You need to come out of this with the perfect body.
A question that I often find myself asking is: who says you have to be productive all of the time? I understand that some people are coping with these stressful times by throwing themselves into their work. But that just doesn’t work for me. And that’s okay. Once I came to this realization, it became a lot easier to take a step back and focus on what does work for me.
I find that my days go much smoother when I take it easy in the morning. I take full advantage of the fact that I no longer have a bus to catch to school. Once I’m “dressed” for the day (in my finest leggings and sweatshirt), I make my way to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea or coffee. From there, I take inventory of what projects I have in motion, and I make a choice about which one I feel able to devote my energy to for that day. And that’s what I work on. Deciding that I didn’t need to complete an astronomical amount of work on each project everyday was one of the kindest things I could do for myself.
This brings me to my next rule: the side hustle. Even before Corona, I was inundated with messages on social media telling me that one should have multiple streams of income and that if they only had one, they weren’t doing life right. Now that we’re all working from home and we don’t have the hassle of daily commutes, bosses lingering over our shoulders, or whatever, surely, we should devote that extra time to a new project that can generate income, right? Why does everything that we do have to bring money in? I found myself feeling guilty when I would sit and read a book for pleasure or do something else to relax. I would think to myself, “now that I’m done with schoolwork, now I need to start working on my blog. I have all of this extra time and I should use it to figure out how to take my blog from a hobby to a revenue-generating platform.” I wouldn’t even give myself the space to do something to relax and disconnect a bit. I have to remind myself that it’s my blog and if I don’t want to crank out content every single day, I don’t have to. And I don’t have to explain that to anybody. Once I came to this realization, I was able to breathe much easier.
Lastly, we’re at the rule that I’ve been struggling with the most: we should all be coming out of this quarantine with, “perfect,” bodies. Full transparency, I have put on some weight since being in quarantine. At first, I was so disappointed in myself. But I realized that I was doing the best that I could. While I wasn’t exercising as much as I was pre-Corona, I was improving my health in other ways. For starters, I was cooking for myself consistently which is something I had not done in a long time. I’ve started taking walks around my neighborhood with my dog and going on bike rides. For now, that’s enough for me and I’m ok with that.
I’m not an expert at how one should manage this new reality. None of us are. With that being said, I’m not going to tell anyone how they should handle our new normal. But I will share what I have learned so far. A little bit of grace goes a long way. When I find myself going down a rabbit hole of all the things that I feel like I’m doing wrong, I remind myself that this is not something that I’ve ever experienced before and that I am doing the absolute best that I can. The word, “should,” is not my friend. I can make an endless list of things that I should be doing at any point during the day, but the reality of the situation is that many of the things on that list are just not high on my list of priorities right now. What is high on my priorities list is loving myself and giving myself the space to just, “be”. I hope my story can inspire those who are struggling with how to thrive in quarantine, and to encourage them to be graceful with themselves. After all, you deserve it.
Rachel Singley is a writer, lover of food, and health researcher residing in Durham, NC. She is the author of Brown Sugar Soul, a blog that fuses the essence of cooking and mental health and how their connection can serve in prepping & simmering self-care & self-love. Rachel is also a PhD student at UNC Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, where she is studying Health Policy. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys taking walks with her fur baby, Zeus, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen.