It’s September – and in some ways, life feels exactly the same. I no longer understand the concept of time. In March, the world transformed. The loud roar of cities became quiet as people stayed inside. The crowded corridors of college campuses became isolated as students returned home to finish the semester. The buzz of amusement parks went mute as people put their vacations on hold.
It’s been about six months – and slowly we’re learning how to live life in these circumstances. I think of my “old life” often – and it amazes me how much I took for granted. Those long grocery store trips with my dad. Those random coffee shop runs with my mom. Those morning classes at my university. None of that fits into today’s frame and there are moments when I’m overwhelmed with this weird sense of loss. I am grateful for my family, my health, and my life every single day, Alhamdullilah – but this moment in time was supposed to be different.
In my head, I imagined moving back to Austin for my final year of college. I was excited to live in a cute studio apartment and spend this last phase of my college experience making memories. I made a list of coffee shops I wanted to visit. I made sure to have a flexible course schedule, so I could explore the city during the week. I made this plan – and none of that panned out. I’m telling myself to be hopeful for the spring semester, but, honestly, I don’t see much changing.
I sometimes feel like this is the new normal – and it’s going to be this way for a while.
However, though at times these dark thoughts loom in my head sometimes, I have slowly been coming to terms with what has happened – and I’m finding this light. Being home for my last year of college has been relaxing. My parents sit steps away, we eat dinner together daily, go on frequent walks, and spend nights talking on the couch. It’s been nice.
I’ve spent so much of college isolated because “I have to study,” “I have to get this grade,” or “I need to do that” – but I no longer have such a hyper-focused academic attitude. Of course, I care about school and want to do well, but in these wild and weird moments, I’m choosing to find happiness. I’m choosing to find internal peace.
One of the most refreshing things about this whole experience has been my newfound appreciation for nature. I adore the outdoors. I want to go on a picnic every day. I want to go hiking every weekend. I want to spend all my free time in the sunshine. It’s been wonderful to explore the natural world and appreciate all of the beauty Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon us.
I’ve also been able to re-connect with books. Somewhere between graduating high school and starting college, I stopped reading for pleasure. And I never realized how much I missed it. Books are beautiful. They are these mental escapes that allow you to travel through magical places, meet unique characters, and experience a wide array of emotions. I’ve been finding a lot of comfort between the pages of the books I read.
This wild time has also allowed me to discover new recipes and baking techniques. I never thought I would enjoy cake decorating, but recently, I’ve been getting really into piping bags and frosting. I have the most fun baking, decorating, and (of course) eating cakes.
So, yes, this time in my life has been nothing as I imagined, but I’m realizing that though plans can go astray, the only way to find joy and peace is from within myself. I have to choose to be happy – I have to make these moments full of wonder and joy. In the past, I’ve had a very conditional mindset about happiness. I tell myself “I will be happy when…” – and now I don’t (or I try). I won’t allow my happiness to be dependent on items I can’t control. I will be happy because I want to. And if I’m not happy, I will find a way to be happy – whether that means taking a study break, going on a long walk, or baking a cake.
Obviously, this mindset is difficult for me to implement at times and there are moments when I feel down – but each and every day, I’m learning new ways to live. And with that, new ways to find happiness in the daily moments.
2020 isn’t what anyone expected it would be – and though it’s not what I expected, I’m trying to make it through, I’m trying to make this a year of lessons that will provide me with strength and wisdom as I continue on my journey.