21

We’ve endured more than 330 days in quarantine, and I’ve spent my entire time as a 21 year-old in that period. It probably goes without saying that I didn’t have the most typical “21” experience. My birthday is on April 12, so there was no bar-hopping or get-togethers last spring. In fact, I actually spent my birthday completely alone. My mom had to work that night (a job she couldn’t call out of, as a nurse on the frontline,) and my boyfriend at the time couldn’t travel out to see me because it was Easter (yes, my birthday occasionally falls on Easter.) I’m pretty sure I spent the day eating cake, drinking pink moscato, and watching reruns of Jeopardy!, so unaware of what was to come.

Within less than a month of my 21st birthday, I was living away from my mom in an apartment in Boston with two other housemates. I had no job, no license, and no money to my name, but hey, at least my useless art degree arrived in the mail just in time for the economy to tank! 

I applied to over 200 jobs that summer and burned through all of my tax money, savings bonds, and help from my mother to pay my rent. I started getting food stamp benefits to take the burden off paying for food. I landed a job at Starbucks in July, which I was actually excited about; the only problem was I had to walk four miles a day to get there and back. That was fine for the summer and most of the fall, but when the November chill hit and the sky began darkening with dread at 4:00pm, I began to panic. 

I transferred to a closer Starbucks at the end of November, which downsized my daily commute from 2-3 hours to only about twenty minutes. Towards the end of December, Starbucks began cutting my hours due to COVID-19 policies and overstaffing. In less than the span of a week, I found myself balancing filing for partial unemployment, losing all my life savings to fraud, and going through a tremendously painful breakup all at once. Meanwhile, both of my parents were hundreds of miles away from me and not exactly on-hand for me to run to for a hug. 

Needless to say, 21 has not been the dreamiest year of my life. 

With that being said, I didn’t write this to complain about how hard my life is or throw a pity party about being poor and tired all the time. In fact, it’s actually the opposite. I wanted to talk about the past year of my life as something I’ve learned an enormous amount of lessons from, something that I am appreciating and learning to take in stride. After all, I am so privileged and fortunate to admit that I haven’t (yet) lost a loved one to COVID-19. I haven’t lost my home or my job or my pets, I haven’t gotten sick and been stuck in a hospital for weeks and weeks hooked up to a ventilator. And even though I haven’t been able to hug my parents or talk to them in person in so long, neither of them are dead. They’re only a phone call away, ready to love me and support me when I need them.

I think I’ve cried more tears and felt more stress at the age of 21 than I ever have before in my life, but I’ve also laughed so much and made so many beautiful memories in this messed-up, absurd world we’re living in. I’ve made friends for life in Boston and bonded with the customers in my coffee shop. I’ve cherished each and every dollar of tips I’ve ever made, saving them up for weeks so I could buy that new eyeshadow palette I’ve been pining for, or a new bed set, or a fresh set of toothbrushes from CVS. This year, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted and love each and every thing in my little apartment that I bought with MY money. I’ve learned how to be a responsible spender, how to earn a few extra dollars here and there with Facebook Marketplace and Etsy so I can worry less about paying my rent and more about the things that matter. 

There’s an analogy from a book I really love. It talks about how we all have invisible veils hanging down in front of our faces, and while they make the world a little bit blurry, we like it that way. We like to walk around in our own little bubbles of ignorant bliss, only staring at what’s in the way rather than the big picture ahead of us.

If my ignorance and comfort was my veil, then 2020 really yanked the hell out of the veil and ripped it away from my face. At 21, I’ve lived through historical protests against police brutality and racial injustice. I’ve lived through one of the worst presidents this country has ever known, the most tragic disease outbreak of the century, a broken economy, and violent political turmoil and division. The last year of my life has taught me that it is my privilege to use my voice, and I am ready and prepared to do so to help keep this world full of kindness and acceptance.

If you had told me on April 12, 2020, that this is how the next year of my life would pan out, I probably would have been dejected and scared. And truthfully, I still do have moments of being frightened of the world around me and hurt by the big-ness of it all. But in retrospect, I think the past 330 (or so) days of my life are something I really needed to grow up. And growing is painful- that’s why they’re called growing pains.

I hope that everyone reading this can find some comfort and ease in knowing that you’re not alone. Especially young folks like myself who’ve found themselves confused about their direction and their identity in a world that feels so out of control, I see you and I understand you. And truthfully, I’m looking forward to 22. I’m hoping it’s filled with more cocktails, more pretty girls to kiss, more yoga and journaling and confetti and pets, more time with my parents, more special memories to make and hold onto, and more lessons to learn.

The roaring 20s may turn out to be the best time of my life. ✩

Dear Neurotypical people…

Dear Neurotypical People,

This is a very unsure time in history. I know you are stressed. I know you are anxious, afraid of the uncertainties that lie ahead. You feel hopeless, useless like you have no control over what is happening around you. All of your feelings are extremely understandable and valid. Try to keep in mind, however, that this is feeling-pure anxiety, depression, and hopelessness- is what a lot of people feel every single day of their lives. People with mental illnesses are absorbed by this feeling. What you are feeling right now is their normal. If your anxiety has escalated due to the current circumstances, their anxiety has too. 

Our lives have changed. Our schedules are drastically different and, for you, this might be a great thing. You have that excuse to sleep in another hour. You get to stay in comfy clothes every day. You get the option to skip that shower (who cares, no one’s going to see me anyway!) These small luxuries that you are experiencing every day could be a nightmare for someone with a mental illness. Sometimes, they make it almost impossible to get out of bed. It can make you forget about hygiene (who cares, I want to be alone anyway.)  People with mental illnesses are not using this as an excuse to relax, their mental illnesses are using it as an excuse to break down everything that they have been building to keep them strong.

So please, reach out to those in your life who you know have mental diagnoses. Now, more than ever, they are going to need to be assured that they are not alone, because their illness is going to make them feel more alone than ever. They are going to need an extra shoulder to lean on. Be that shoulder. Ask them how they are. Let them know that you are there for them, even though it may not be physically. Make a point to tell them every day that you love them; that you care for their well being. Let them know how they make you happy. We are all working together to keep each other healthy, but that does not stop at physical health. Let’s all work together to ensure that the world stays distanced, not isolated.

Sincerely,

Your Friendly Depressed Neighbor

Keepin’ Busy: Date Ideas for Self-Quarantined Couples

So, it’s pretty indisputable that things suck right now. Several of us are finding ourselves trapped indoors without hobbies, tasks, and most crucially: socialization. I consider myself lucky to be introverted and happily a homebody, yet it’s rough being away from my friends and extended loved ones.

Even though many of us are limited in the things we can do, that doesn’t mean you and your loved ones can’t keep things exciting and fresh (and let’s be realistic, there’s only so much sex you can have together in quarantine before you need some more activities.) These indoors date ideas are coming from my perspective of being in a relationship, but they would be perfect for friend-dates as well. Just remember to keep your social circle small, and don’t let weird people cough on you.


Pot some plants together.

three green assorted plants in white ceramic pots
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Potting plants is an inexpensive, interactive, and educational activity that you can do right from the comfort of your own home! Especially when you’re stuck at home in quarantine, having the responsibility of keeping a plant alive can be a great motivator to keep you going and give you something to look forward to. I recently just potted some basil, which I have grown before in the past, and I’m eagerly looking forward to watching it sprout and flourish every day. It’s easy, it’s wholesome, and it’s a great activity to do in the comfort of your house.


Take a nature walk.

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If you’re really starting to feel the cabin fever hit, consider going for a nature walk together to get some fresh air and get your feet moving. Obviously, stay away from areas that are populated or full of people, because the point is that we want to stay distanced, but a little nature walk outside is actually recommended by professionals to keep your spirits up during these hard times. I’m lucky to live in New England, where there are tons of woodsy places to visit without people around. Depending on where you live, figure out what works best for your circumstances and lockdown regulations. 


Take a bubble bath. Preferably, a bath full of hand sanitizer, but that’s probably not possible in these trying times.

bathroom bathtub ceramic chrome
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Just kidding, please don’t waste hand sanitizer. But for real- bubble baths during these trying times is exactly what most of us need right now. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some music, chill out in the bath, and try to think about something besides coronavirus for awhile. If there was ever a time for pampering and self-love, it’s now. 


Read books in bed together.

photo of a book on white textile
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As the poster child for introversion, reading books in bed is one of my favorite things to do, especially with someone next to me. It’s a sweet, tranquil way to bond and be near each other, but it doesn’t require any conversation (incredible, right?). Currently, I’m rotating between Memoirs of a Geisha, Slaughterhouse Five, and Disappearing Earth to pass the time. Napping together also falls into this category. 


Have a wine-tasting/cocktail-making shindig. 

close up photo of wine glasses
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No, you shouldn’t be going out to any liquor stores right now, but the good news is you can still buy booze online! Regardless of if you’re with your family, your partner, or even just by yourself, consider hosting your very own wine-tasting/cocktail-making party at home. Come up with some new alcoholic concoctions that you’d never thought about trying before. For bonus points, consider watching something cheesy like America’s Next Top Model or The Bachelor to complete the suburban mom aesthetic. 


Watch Jeopardy! and other feel-good shows. 

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This weekend, I learned that my boyfriend is an actual certifiable Jeopardy! legend. Dear God, we probably watched about six hours of that show total over the course of 2 and a half days. That’s probably not everybody’s cup of tea, but for us, trivia shows actually proved to be a great way to pass the time and share some laughs. If Jeopardy! And Family Feud aren’t your thing, switch it up with a binge-worthy show you can both get behind. For fans of thrillers, I highly recommend watching The Keepers or Bates Motel for some thought-provoking discussions together. If you like baking shows, I cannot recommend Sugar Rush and Food Network enough.


Teach each other a new skill or hobby.

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I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Lately, my very small circle and I have shared a lot of hobbies and skills amongst each other, including knitting, puzzles, and cooking. Most of us have endless time right now, so why not pick up a new skill or talent to keep yourselves occupied? If you want to spend 3-5 being fully immersed and frustrated in a new task, I highly suggest trying to learn how to knit. It’s the perfect combination of mental pain and fascination. Another idea is to sign up for an online class together, so that you can both learn a new skill at the same time!


Bake something together.

person holding dough on her hands
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Keeping with the trend of being extremely wholesome, baking something with your loved one is always a great way to spend quality time together and create something awesome with your hands. I’ve been really into baking muffins right now, but I’m also interested in getting into baking bread. It sort of goes back to the learn-a-new-skill thing; if you’re not very good at baking or cooking, use this time to learn some new, wonderful dishes with your partner.


Last but not least, have a luxurious spa night at home. 

lavender and massage oils
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I guess this kind of relates to the bubble bath idea, but why not take it up a notch and have a full-out spa night? You can make face masks, give each other massages, listen to royalty-free spa music, paint your nails, etc, etc. I personally have about a thousand hair and skin products sitting in my bathroom at the moment, so I’m trying to take this self-quarantine time to catch up on self love and beauty. Also, take this opportunity to catch up on rest! Beauty sleep has never been more important. More than anything else, remember to take care of yourself and the vulnerable people around you. If we all practice adequate social distancing and self-quarantining, I think this will all be over sooner than we think. Even moreso, spending more time together indoors while still branching out could be a great bonding experience for you both, and bring you closer than ever.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: How the Coronavirus is Affecting Colleges

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Naturally, I felt inclined to write about the infamous COVID-19 virus this week. In the past two or so weeks, all of my email inboxes have been papered with warnings and information about this unforeseen catastrophe, and how I, a student at a small, private university, can keep myself safe.

Living on the outskirts of Boston and attending college here, I have been able to see firsthand the potentially disastrous implications COVID-19 has plastered onto the city. The public transit is almost empty, the streets are alarmingly quiet, and the general atmosphere of my environment is a mixture of edginess and excitement. As potentially scary as a pandemic is, it is a fascinating time to be alive, wondering what will happen next as you scroll through your email and eye the alerts.

As of writing this, my school has not announced or hinted at a decision to close its doors and move online. If I had to pick a plausible outcome, I would say my university will probably extend spring break by a week or so, but probably not more than that.

(3/16 Update: Our spring break is extended by an additional week and all of our classes are now online. Students are still allowed to stay in the resident halls if they wish.) 

The risk is still relatively low for my area, and no one on my campus has tested positive for the virus. Here are all the ways the school closing down would affect students such as myself:

-Although this does not apply to me particularly, international students would be effectively screwed if my university decided to shut its doors. I know of several international students who have no other options at this point in time, especially on such short notice. 

-Students who rely on public transit, such as myself, would have a difficult time getting to our internships in Boston if we were asked to leave campus and resume classes online. Because I do marketing and social media work, I would probably be able to manage my internship online, but not everyone has that opportunity. 

-My university is well-known for its applied arts and fashion program, which basically exclusively requires students to stay on campus to utilize the materials and sewing machines. How can fashion students resume their work and build their collections online?

-Would I be refunded for room and board? Meal plans? Senior week payments?

These are just a few of the thoughts going through my head right now. As you can probably infer from the title of this article, however, I’m trying not to worry too much about these potential changes. I’m looking forward to posting an update on this situation down the line, as I believe my college is going to make a final announcement about the new course of action over the next couple of days. As I said, I believe the most extreme choice my college would choose to make would be to extend spring break by another week or two, due to the disruptive nature and implications of basically canceling the semester.

Of course, if the pandemic did reach a point where staying on campus would be an overwhelming safety concern, of course, I would be receptive to taking online courses for the rest of the semester. It would be inconvenient, of course, and a pretty meager ending to my senior year of college, but there isn’t really much I can do to control the situation. 

For the time being, remember to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, avoid large crowds, and cover your mouth when you cough! How is the coronavirus outbreak affecting your lifestyle? Let us know in the comments below.