Unpopular Opinion: The ‘Translucent Lining’ of Quarantine


In a stunning resurrection of the math skills I haven’t used since my first-year seminar (FSEM), I recently observed that I’ve been a student for two decades now (that is, if you’re willing to include my formative years of regurgitating sounds and noises verbally plagiarized from Dragon Tales). While I certainly don’t need to waste my breath recounting the trials and tribulations of the higher education system to readers who are all too familiar with it, I do think it is worth stating the obvious: being a student can often feel like a thankless and exhausting lifestyle. Everyone, from the most seasoned “teacher’s pet,” to the lazy pajama-wearing “slacker,” knows this all too well. (Having fit both of these descriptions at various points in time, I would know.)

The ‘rat-race’ of academic and professional endeavors has shaped most of our actions and choices since middle school, whether we realize it or not. We’ve been conditioned to look ahead, propelling ourselves forward on a treadmill of expectations and demands that we dutifully comply with because it’s all that we know. There were exams to prepare us for high school, essays to prepare us for college, internships to prepare us for the ever-illusive “real world”. This monotonous, unfulfilling cycle of relentless preparation for “the next” never goes away; it just evolves and adapts, following us through life like a distorted shadow that begins to look less and less like our true selves as time goes on. 

It’s nearly impossible to avoid being inundated by this double-edged philosophy, nor is it entirely wrong to follow it. Some days, it feels a sadistic game of follow-the-leader, but other times, it feels like a productive rhythm, helping us achieve and accomplish things we never thought possible. But then, the pandemic happened. 

As callous as it may sound, there’s nothing like a global emergency to break you out a rut. For me, the unexpected (albeit unrequested) opportunity to live with my parents again, at the terrifying old age of 22, has morphed over the past five weeks from a hapless curse into a harmonious blessing. As resentful as I am to the Powers That Be for depriving me of my senior spring, I’m also eternally grateful to them. Without the pandemic, I would have kept blazing forward into the unknown, swallowed up by my goals and ambitions, not stopping to think about where I’m going or why. I’ve since realized that the fast-paced frenzy of college life had become a scapegoat to avoid self-reflection, an ephemeral solution to thinking about my future, shielding me from the unknown by reassuring me that everything would always remain the same. 

Finding a “silver lining” to quarantine may seem like an impossible task, especially for a college senior. However, we can still find the ‘translucent lining’, the benefits of the situation that are so obvious they may appear invisible. For me, the translucent lining to quarantine is the chance to take a step back, to stop running on the treadmill toward “the next thing” and start thinking about where I actually want to go. Having spent the past decade perpetually preoccupied with studying and getting ahead, the chance to recalibrate is not only beneficial, it’s invaluable.

It seems as though it takes a pandemic to expose a pandemic. Times of crisis can expose the virulent, insidious diseases that contaminate our institutions, our values and our lives in a way that other situations can’t. Amid the devastation, there is also opportunity. We can use this moment to rethink the systems and values we’ve always complicitly abided by, on both large and small scales. 

Our culture’s “Ferris Bueller Syndrome” has inflicted us with a constant desire for mobility and an inconsistent appreciation for life’s intrinsic beauty. Life moves pretty fast and we’re conditioned to believe we should too. While quarantine may cause us to crave movement and change, it may well be that what we really need is to stop and look around for a while. Or even longer.