As I gaze out of the window, the sun rays filling my small room, I am barely able to remember what day of the week it is anymore. Or, for that matter, the date. Hours have melted into endless days, which have blended into weeks and months, and suddenly, I realise it is May and 2020 has been one hell of a ride.

It’s hard to stay positive given the current situation, and it is harder to do so when you wake up and scroll through social media. Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp…the news keeps rolling, the photographs of people baking delicious treats keep popping up, and tik-tok has somehow become a culture across age groups (we all know that one aunty who wants to be a tik-tok sensation, let’s face it). But honestly, these things just make for a more sobering reality. Instead of actually getting out there and chasing our dreams in the manner we had hoped to when the new decade rolled around, we are sitting indoors trying to find alternate ways to find meaning in life and creating new purposes for ourselves.

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-10 at 9.44.01 AM (2)Take me for example. I wake up and stare at the same old sights outside my window. No one is on the street, and the days are dull, with barely any sunlight to brighten up my mood. I roll over and pick up my phone, and see texts from my nearest and dearest friends…and spam messages on the dozens of Whatsapp groups that I have been added to. After a half-hearted attempt at falling back asleep, I roll to my feet and proceed to start my morning in the most soothing way possible – with a large cup of steaming coffee. Some days, I read a book while sipping my coffee, but nowadays, in an attempt to stay productive, I take it to my desk and switch on my laptop. The whirring sounds of my laptop lull me into a familiar pattern. Work never ceases, be it a pandemic or not, although bosses are lenient.

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-10 at 9.44.01 AMI find myself seeking refuge in learning and try to pour as much of myself as possible into my work. My mornings are a blur of reading old dog-eared textbooks, scientific articles, and jotting down notes. Some days, I attempt some modeling software; yet other days are filled with the tap-tapping of keys as I write an article or edit a document. I make frequent pauses to speak on the phone with friends. Not very conducive to productivity, I know, but sometimes, sanity is derived from these small acts. While talking on the phone, I pace around my room, telling myself that this is more for exercise than out of habit. On other days, I can’t bring myself to work. I find it hard to tell myself that this is all right, that we are going through a global crisis and not being able to function normally is fine. But why does it feel like failure when I tell myself that?

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-10 at 9.44.00 AM (1)After a morning of attempted (mostly successful) productivity, I resign myself to a more mundane lifestyle. I eat lunch, and then try to avoid taking a nap. Increasingly, however, I have started to find myself falling into the pattern of sleeping in the afternoon to avoid overthinking and worrying about this situation. At least my mind has to put on the brakes when I’m asleep! After napping, I drink some chai and then try to get moving. Dance is my go-to exercise, and I try to alternate between classical and freestyle. If I find myself thinking or worrying too much, I go for classical. The structure, taalam, and need to engage my mind throughout the piece keeps me focused on something other than the thoughts in my head. For the duration of the song, I am at peace. As the final notes drift away on the breeze, I pant, my heart content. Some days, I devise dance challenges or try to record myself dancing in full makeup and costume. Small tricks to make me focus on something at hand. I also go for a brisk walk most days. Getting fresh air is one way of making me feel normal.

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-10 at 9.44.00 AMOn other days, I feel lethargic and want nothing more than to lie on the bed. People think that I am always on the go; I think this pandemic and lockdown have gone a long way in showing me that I am not always able to keep going, that I too need to slow down and just breathe at times. On such days, I used to write, but nowadays, I turn to painting. Luckily, I have a small stock of supplies, and I spread them out on the dining table and immerse myself in the colours. I think I have created more artwork in this lockdown thus far than I have ever created in my life. I am also learning that I have a very short focus period when it comes to art – if it doesn’t take shape within an hour, I abandon the project. I hope this doesn’t carry over into other aspects of my life!

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-10 at 9.52.55 AMI dearly love reading, but now I am running out of books. My bookshelf is divided into three categories – fiction, science nonfiction, and textbooks. March swallowed up my fiction novels, and now I am steadily munching my way through the other two categories. But how I miss the days when I could run over to the library or bookshop and find myself a new read! Ah, privilege. But at least I will emerge from this lockdown armed with knowledge that I used to mug up in college days. It’s as good a chance as any to relearn things that will prove useful in taking my career forward. Maybe I’m not able to directly work in my field right now (fieldwork is a huge component of ecology), but I can certainly power through the theory!

WhatsApp Image 2020-05-10 at 9.44.01 AM (1)At the end of the day, what really pulls me through is the hope that tomorrow will be a better day, or at least, just as good as today. I have learnt to not think ahead and, if I do think ahead, to think positively and not steep myself in panic and blind fear of things that may or may not happen. We all have loved ones who we worry for, careers that we care about, and goals to accomplish. I am only a small cog in the much larger wheel of society, and this entire wheel is currently stuck in a rut. Maybe the best thing to do is to stop whirring aimlessly, slow down, and focus on what I can do today. Importantly, if I cannot do anything today, I should be kind to myself. Self-care matters. And I hope that one day, when we are able to resume normal activities, I will emerge with more knowledge of my own abilities, my weaknesses, and a clearer view of the path I need to take moving forward in a new normal.

Stay safe and stay strong, everyone! This shall soon pass.

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