Look, we didn’t choose this pandemic. It wasn't our decision to lump all this stress and disruption into our daily lives. But it hasn't been all bad, has it? There have been silver linings discovered during the 'rona lockdown of 2020. And I've found that many of those upsides have to do with choice. What I mean, is that if you choose to be in a situation, you're going to like it a whole lot more.
Case in point: isolation has made us all a lot more self-sufficient. It might have started out of boredom or curiosity. In the early days of quarantines and social distancing, some tried their hand at baking bread. Others chose to buy seeds and start a garden. A few menswear-minded dudes (not naming names) starting tie-dying.
Then it morphed into necessity. Haircuts had to be done at home. If you wanted to workout, you had to find a way to do it outside of the gym. When it was difficult to find hand sanitizer or toilet paper, I became an online shopping sleuth—sourcing out rare and underutilized vendors to acquire the things I needed.
When one Valet. editor's kitchen sink started dripping, his apartment building didn't view it as an “emergency” so they wouldn't send a maintenance man to repair it. He didn't want to put a plumber (or his family) at risk, so he rolled up his sleeves ... and logged onto YouTube. One hour and a new rubber washer later, his faucet was fixed and he felt like a new man.
It's practically self-care. When you choose to take on a new task, the action itself can sometimes be soothing and the results are always rewarding. The shot of confidence is invigorating, sparking the mind to wonder, “What else can I do?” Sure, we're all looking to get back to normal life as soon as possible. I miss my friends and colleagues, getting spa treatments and drinking inside a well-lit bar. But like spoiled children who discover that they're far more capable than their parents give them credit for, we've surprised ourselves with our own resilience.
Maybe it was because I had the time to slow down and get some perspective, but I'm looking at things a lot differently now. When redoing my new home office, I sold a few things I probably would've simply thrown out or donated. That money was then spent on a new desk. Then I realized I didn't need a whole new bookcase. I could paint the one I have, switch out the hardware and make it into exactly what I wanted.
Doing things on your own—making something with your own hands—is a way of taking back control over your life. So much in our pre-quar world was done for us. At the time, it seemed like a benefit. A way to save time in our over-scheduled and under-slept lives, right? But now many of these so-called conveniences seem so inefficient or unfulfilling.
I'm not above ordering takeout, but if I want something really tasty—hot and fresh—then I do my grocery shopping beforehand and make it myself. I always liked going to the movies, but now I'm streaming all the classics I “never had time for” at home. And it just so happens I'm popping my own popcorn too. Not the microwave stuff, but the old fashioned kernels on the stovetop, finished with a drizzle of clarified butter and Jacobsen's rosemary salt.
That's the thing about taking control. Once you discover you can have it just the way you want (if you're willing to put in the effort), it's hard going back to the default settings simply handed to you.
The difference between a strong man and a weak one is that the former does not give up after a defeat.
- Woodrow Wilson