I’ll be the first to admit that I’m scared and stressed. Many of us are. Things are happening right now that make me angry and uncertain, but more than that, I’m worried about my future. Every day I hear higher numbers of COVID-19 infections. I see more instances of racism towards my people. I count the weeks until summer and until our fall semester, and I worry.
I’m writing this column for anyone who recognizes a part of themselves in what I say. I know it’s hard, but I’m telling you: hold on. Keep the faith. Here are five things that are working for me and might work for you too.
One: My first suggestion is to keep an eye out for little things you do at home that you might want to try once you’re back on campus. As I’m writing this, I’m eating a bowl of plain yogurt mixed with peach jam and dried cranberries. It’s reasonably healthy, which means that my house has run out of snacks, so I’m improvising. I’ve actually had this combination before, and I like it a lot, yet I’ve never thought to try it at Princeton. For breakfast, I’ve settled comfortably into always getting “an omelet with everything, please.” Without that routine, I’ve rediscovered a recipe from home that I’m looking forward to having once I’m back on campus. We often keep our home and Princeton lives separate, but an overlap can not only make both stronger, it can also make things more fun.
Two: Spend time catching up on activities that might otherwise have been unproductive on campus. I’ve been binge-watching “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” for the past two weeks, and it’s pretty cool. Would it have been okay for me to watch this during a regular semester at Princeton? Knowing my self-control — no. During freshman year reading period, I once watched an entire season of “Game of Thrones” in Firestone’s A level, and my grades definitely did not reflect the name of my “study” space. Now that half my day is no longer spent trekking from Forbes to class, I’ve got plenty of time to do well in class and catch up on some quality television. Watching with friends is twice the fun.
Three: Move around! For the first three days after getting home, I sat in my room wallowing in the stink of my atrophying muscles. When I finally did move, I felt like an astronaut who’d just gotten back to Earth. I also realized that moving made me feel less sad. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is great, but after a while everything starts to blend together, and that’s when you know you’ve got to get a change of scenery. Whether that’s by dancing to some music, jumping on your bed, going outside for a walk (if it’s safe enough), or lifting weights using milk jugs because the gym is closed, find a way to take care of your body.
Four: Enjoy the time you have to yourself. When we were all packing and getting ready to leave, my friend next door left books outside that he’d been assigned to read in class (he didn’t). I love reading but don’t do it much on campus, so I grabbed them. Have I started reading them? No, I’ve been flipping to random pages of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” instead, but I’ll get there! The point is, almost everyone has something they love doing that Princeton life just does not allow. Our lives are a little different now, so take time for those things.
Finally: Look for the positives. Before we left campus, one of my friends resolved to take a picture of something that made her happy every day. I’m not sure if I have space on my phone for that, but I’ve been trying to consciously notice the good things. For me today, that was the smell of freshly mowed grass, an episode of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and my yogurt. It was video-calling my friends. It was trekking to the top of a mountain in Minecraft and enjoying the sunset, because I won’t be doing that in real life for a while. This new reality that we’ll be living for the time being isn’t always convenient. It isn’t always happy. The compromises we need to make aren’t always optimal. But ultimately, by living the way we are now and through the sacrifices that others are making, we can keep things bright for the future.
So get out there and have some yogurt.
Richard Ma is a sophomore from Kirksville, Miss. He can be reached at email@example.com.