As society reopens this summer and fall, you’re probably starting to fill up your planner like never before. You may be booking vacations, visiting family, or meeting up with friends. You may be heading back to in-person work or school, running errands, and participating in clubs and activities. But as you rush to catch up on everything you missed during quarantine, you may also want to keep one aspect of your quarantine lifestyle: downtime.
For many people, including me, this last year and a half of quarantine has been marked by an excess of spare time. I think it’s safe to say that while none of us ever again want to have that much isolation, there is something valuable in leaving a bit of extra space in your planner.
When quarantine started, the seven-hour days at my high school were shortened to three-hour school days from my house. Even with the heavy amount of homework, I discovered that without my normal socializing, extracurriculars and commute, I still had plenty of time on my hands. I was bored and needed to find some new experiences.
It was in these months that I rediscovered the outdoors. Before and after school every day, I started going on walks around my neighborhood. Sometimes I would FaceTime a friend to talk. Sometimes I would listen to audiobooks of my school reading assignments so that I could get ahead in my homework. Sometimes I just admired the beauty of nature and a neighborhood that I never fully appreciated.
I was also inspired to turn the sights I passed on my walks into pieces of art. As an artist, I have always enjoyed manipulating real objects into unreal designs. However, the more I painted natural subjects like clouds, greenery, and bodies of water, the more I realized that art does not require manipulation and that simple observation of the outside world can tell stories. Even after I returned to portrait painting in my art class during the next school year, I found that observing nature had given me a stronger perception of light, color, and beauty.
The pace of everything is picking up, and you may already be double-booked for the events and commitments of your pre-pandemic existence. But there is still time to build in a lesson from recent months. Your pastime doesn't have to be walking outside or painting nature. It just needs to be something that gives you a little bit of peace. So before you haul off all of the puzzles you bought during quarantine to Goodwill, maybe you could leave one out on the coffee table to piece together. The world may be opening back up, but you sometimes need a few moments away from the world.