Since my second week of undergraduate classes at the University of Virginia in 2013, I have found a companion in my planner. My beautiful, color-coordinated, perfectly designed planner. I mean, I vividly remember breaking down in ugly tears the day I spilled my coffee on it during my Fourth year, and thinking “how will I survive without my plans?” My social life, my academic needs, my career trajectory and everything else that mattered, including “free time”, was scheduled inside those pages. It was my confidant and my sense of control: I always had a plan.
I think it’s safe to say that no level of planning ahead could have foreseen these last weeks. A global pandemic has completely and abruptly disrupted our plans on a scale and magnitude that is difficult to imagine without our heads spinning. Businesses have shut down, jobs have been lost, health has been compromised while healthcare has been flooded beyond capacity, all with a looming economic recession on the horizon. Every single person is impacted in some way. In fact, coronavirus may be the most alarming reminder of our common humanity, as racial divisions, differing political views, and even generational wars can’t change the fact that we are all vulnerable to this disease. And we all have a role to play here. Non-essential workers must stay at home. Social justice demands it. Public health demands it. Humanity demands it. STAY. AT. HOME. So that’s what I’ve done… and I’ve sort of enjoyed it.
This is not an attempt to ignore the fact that there is suffering and pain in the world. In fact, I can’t seem to stop thinking about that, and feeling a sense of responsibility to give back or contribute in some positive way. But the reality of the matter is that most things are out of my hands. I cannot make the virus disappear, or make the lost wages reappear for families. All I can really control right now is myself: I can stay my ass at home. But whether I am in a constant state of panic and fear of the unknown, or whether I actually choose to find some joy in this mysterious situation, well that’s entirely in my own control.
I just finished reading a book for pleasure, for the first time in like, 7 years. I finally have an opportunity to cook three meals a day at home (I actually stuffed a whole fish and baked it last week! I DID THAT!). I have spent more time in nature this past week than maybe the entire last year, going on evening walks with my quarantine-bae on a quiet, mostly-empty trail outside of our apartment. I haven’t set a morning alarm all week. I haven’t been in a car for 8 days. And for the first time in my adult life, I forgot about the damn planner.
Even though three years have come and gone since the tragic coffee incident, I think I’ve finally learned a lesson about letting go of the need for control. The order to stay at home has been like hitting a much-needed “pause” button in my never-ending ambition for moving forward. And I like it.
So we’re here to tell a slightly different story about coronavirus. It’s about finding new joys, or reconnecting with old ones during this temporary new normal. It’s a story of overcoming and (or, by) doing less. Creatively flourishing and finding new ways of being that reconnect us with what it means to be truly alive. I challenge you to find some joy in this new-ness, and share it with us. Guilt-free. Shame-free. It’s our responsibility to stay at home, but it’s our choice to learn something about ourselves in the process.
To submit your story, send a picture and proposed caption to @Creatively_Flourishing on Instagram. Tell us how you are finding joy, however small or large.
Kimia (CLAS 2017) wrote and edited at Iris before graduating from UVA and going on to obtain her law degree from George Mason University. Among the many fond memories that Iris editor, Mary Esselman, has of working with Kimia is the trip they took to Target together to replace the very 2016-17 planner featured in this story.