Daring to Be
A long day. A thousand thoughts are burning in my head and the stress of the upcoming week starts overwhelming me. I sit down on my bed, pick my favorite notebook, and start writing. The slow speed of writing allows my intrusive thoughts to gradually queue up to be expressed, and I patiently listen to everything my mind has to say. After a few minutes, my body comes to the present moment, and I allow my feelings and thoughts of that day to be gradually channeled through pen onto paper.
A month has passed since I stayed behind with a few hundred students after campus’s official closure. During the first few weeks of quarantine, I was restless. I FaceTimed friends constantly, went for long runs, and binge-watched all the shows I’ve never had time for. But recently, I lost all my motivation. I had no energy to call friends and family through a screen or tune in to live Zoom classes. I would take long naps and scroll endlessly through Instagram and Facebook feeds. My day doesn't really get going until 5 p.m. Somehow, time both slips away and passes excruciatingly slowly. There seems to be a distinct quarantine fatigue that comes from being alone inside all day.
The summer before college, before we all went to separate countries or states for college, my friends and I reassured ourselves that we would keep in touch. Even with an ocean between us, we promised to talk to each other frequently and share updates of our lives since we have Instagram and Facebook to bring us together at any given moment. Since then, the promises have been, as expected, held infrequently and a surprising reason for that has been an impersonal use of the social platforms.
Moving on to the first semester of college, during the often lonely and busy days of the transition to a new culture and environment, I often spent all the free time I had on scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. Sitting on my bed after a long day of school, tired and still adjusting to my new environment, I would see the smiley faces of my friends from home and watch their daily adventures on social media. One friend posted a beautiful profile picture, another shared their thrilling travel experiences over the past few months, and third shared moments of wild parties with their new friends. I would experience these moments of my friends’ lives through bright pictures or twenty seconds of their Instagram stories, but I was usually left feeling drained and more disconnected afterward.
In front of you is a stunning view of a huge forest, up to a mountain top, and you are listening to the sound of birds chirping, with sunshine warmly touching your face, and fresh air coming in through your lungs. Breathing in, you take in this moment fully, and breathing out, you cherish the peace this moment offers you from the chaos of your life.
Moments in nature, similar to what you have hopefully just experienced in your mind, sparked my interest in mindfulness several years ago. During a summer countryside trip back in Mongolia, looking at a sunset beside a small lake, I could not help but notice how my thoughts disappeared and how I was simply aware of all my surroundings and sensations: the orange, pink, and red colors of the sky and the fresh smell after rain. It was freeing and peaceful not to think for a time and simply observe my surroundings.