Back in January when we were writing down our resolutions, lying to ourselves once again that this will be the year when we’ll run a marathon, write a bestselling novel and read a hundred books, little did we know that in three months’ time, the world will… stop. And we will finally have what we always complained we’re lacking – enough time. 

Perhaps this hasn’t happened in the most desirable way – a virus that has killed tens of thousands, left millions unemployed and put the entire world in lock-down. Yet, speculating and over analyzing the circumstances never helped. 

Initially there was the phase when I felt overwhelmed

Mum used to frantically send me stories with conspiracy theories about the corona virus she found on Facebook or videos on how to properly wash my hands (including the types of songs I could sing to meet the 20-sec duration). Then, she started sharing jokes and memes from the Internet (spoiler alert: they weren’t even funny) probably in an attempt to pretend ‘she’s fine’ and not worried at all that her daughter refuses to return home (or ‘home home’ anyway, as she’ll never understand how I could ever call London home). 

Being subscribed to quite a few media outlets and listening to news podcasts on a daily basis made it worse. Don’t get me wrong: I have a degree in journalism, I like being up to date with the latest trends and events and I am genuinely passionate about the complexity and level of rigor this profession (or rather lifestyle) entails. But it’s a lot. And despite being one of the biggest advocates of the role that journalists play in society, this whole covid-19 situation took everything out of proportions. Suddenly, there was only one story to agonies over. Do I really care about the ways to ensure the well-being of my goldfish during corona virus? 

Then, there was the phase when I felt useless and frustrated.

What? You don’t do 100 burpees a day, practice the headstand pose and bake a 12-layer chocolate cake? Then what do you do?  Oh, right. You’re meditating and filling your journal with daily gratitude. What a time to be alive!

Instagram got overloaded with ‘mindful’ posts about how this isolation shouldn’t be treated like a productivity competition. Let’s take care of our mental well-being because oh well, you know, ‘we live in unprecedented times’ … 

Eventually, I got bored. And lonely.

Should I or should I not try online dating? Apparently, video dates are the new thing. How do you dress for such an occasion? Do I have to live stream my dinner? What if the screen freezes and it shows my big forehead pimple? 

How about Tiger King? You don’t understand the hype around it? It doesn’t even matter – luckily the fourth season of Money Heist got released too.  

In other news, did you know that a cat’s ear has a total of 32 muscles? 

Finally, I decided to be productive – on my terms

Yes, I (started to) exercise on a daily basis – 10 – 15 minutes. Sometimes I even have a run in the park. Sometimes just a walk. 

I downloaded Tasty and am trying new recipes – nothing too complicated.  Yesterday I made a basic noodles soup with broccoli and tofu and felt like I won the Masterchef. 

Gave up reading news – not entirely – every morning whilst making breakfast I listen to the Global News Podcast by the BBC World Service. I happen to alternate with Today in Focus from the Guardian or the Stories of our Times from the Sunday Times. Otherwise, some podcasts that I regularly listen to – Modern Love by the New York Times, Ctrl Alt Delete with the journalist Emma Gannon and everything from the Belgian author and psychotherapist Esther Perel.

I’m also doing my bit in supporting the local businesses – I ordered some books from independent bookstores and I paid to watch Fleabag, the one-woman show that inspired the BBC’s hit TV series with the same name. 

Those who know me understand my obsession with learning all the time – the more diverse topics, the better. So, thanks Coursera and edx for providing such great food for thought – I personally started a couple of courses on sustainability, world literature and feminism. 

Oh là là – almost forgot – I am taking French classes and doing some boring homework deciphering the use of the subjunctive mood. That’s me cheating a bit – I started taking French classes before this pandemic. But I suppose it counts that I’m still investing time and energy.

Hang on a second. That IS a lot that you’re doing. You should feel proud of yourself – you’re actually productive given …you know … these ‘unprecedented times’ that we live in… 

‘Doing stuff’ works for me

I get all this ‘stay positive and don’t aim too high’ mantra during this quarantine, yet this doesn’t mean you can’t actually use this time wisely. 

I do all this because I enjoy it. I’ve always wanted to have the time to do it. Now there are no excuses. My motivation? I know that I’ll hate myself looking back at this ‘opportunity’ if I wasted time. 

How do you do it? 

Well, first off, what I don’t do is to wake up at 5 am, give up on chocolate (fyi – that would NEVER happen) or work ten hours a day.

I do a little bit every day. I don’t have a schedule per se, yet I do have ‘sessions’ that I fill with whatever activity I’m in the mood for. One day I might feel like doing two sessions of French and other day I feel like doing none and just read a book or join a webinar.  

I do have ‘cheat days’ too – days when I watch Netflix for eight hours straight or browse the ASOS website adding items on my basket that I’ll never actually purchase.    

What works for me is that I know I don’t ‘waste’ the day – I find joy in doing activities that fulfill me and make me even more curious about the world around me. That gives me inspiration too. Occasionally I find myself jotting down ideas in an old notebook thinking that one day I might write more. Yes, I get frustrated and sometimes angry with myself that I don’t do ‘enough’ writing. But that’s not the point. 

Don’t force yourself on doing what you don’t feel like doing. 

But then Teodora, isn’t writing what you like and what you’d hope to make a career of? Yes, it is. But because I like it so much sometimes it becomes scary and makes you doubt yourself.  And when you’re alone and self-isolating, the last thing you need is to beat yourself up for not doing enough.

There will never be ‘enough’ of whatever you think you need.

Back in 1759, Voltaire published Candide, one of his best-known works in which he uses irony and satire to attack Leibiniz and the optimistic beliefs of the Enlightenment. The idea that we live in ‘the best of all possible worlds’ is ridiculed by Voltaire through the number of twists his protagonist, Candide, is facing. Eventually, Candide realises that the point is not to prove that the world we live in is a terrible and flawed one. Rather to find grounding in a chaotic world. Balance. Harmony. 

Despite all this uncertainty, stress, grief and pain this pandemic has brought in our lives lately, it is perhaps more important than ever to start doing activities that we enjoy and bring a sense of satisfaction. Not as a means of distraction, but rather as a way to move forward. 

By Teodora