As you sit (hopefully) at home right now reading this, you may be longing for many things you grew accustomed to. Maybe it’s the simple banter from the breakroom at work, going to a friend’s house for wine night or your weekly gym sessions. Are you feeling incredibly isolated and frustrated with the lack of control over your life and social interactions?
Since a car accident at a young age left me paralyzed, I have been a full-time wheelchair user. Having a disability has often forced me to be isolated and socially distant, while everyone else my age was out having fun, “normal” lives.
As a child, I couldn’t play on sports teams with my peers or go to sleepovers and didn’t have people I could regularly connect with who were in a similar situation as me. In college, I had surgeries where I was recovering alone at home during multiple summers, missing out on potential career opportunities or chances for new experiences.
I'm happy that for most of you reading this, the physical distancing and isolation you’ve experienced during the pandemic is temporary. The pain you’re feeling will subside and many of these minor inconveniences that feel huge in the moment will end and you will get your life back, even if it’s different.
There are many lessons you can take with you from this experience. Here are just a few that I think are important to remember:
1. Being still is not wasted time.
Our society conditions us to believe that if we’re busy and out doing things, that we’re important or being productive. That’s just not so. Your forced stillness right now is vital to having a clear view of who you are and want to be. It’s why people meditate. When this is over, schedule time for yourself to be just home, doing “nothing.”
2. Cherish your in-person time with friends.
I can’t tell you how frequently I have to miss out on parties and get-togethers because someone’s house isn’t wheelchair accessible or the gathering is at a place that’s completely inaccessible. It was especially tough when I lived in New York and I didn’t have a single friend with a wheelchair-accessible apartment.
3. Don't stress about a routine.
All of these “experts” discuss how important it is to keep a routine throughout your time in quarantine. As someone who has spent countless days separated from people and living a "Groundhog Day"-like life, I believe that a routine is not nearly as important as variety.
4. Life is not on hold.
I had a friend say to me the other day that it just feels like his life is on hold right now, and that’s simply not true. I know it may feel that way, but life is never on hold just because you can’t go outside. You can keep growing, learning, living and making life something worthwhile.
5. There's always something to look forward to.
Easier said than done, but I promise there’s always something to look forward to. When I felt my most isolated in late 2018, Mumford and Sons announced a new album. That small glimmer became my something to look forward to and it got me through the darkest month of my life.
I have an elderly aunt in Los Angeles who said she feels like there’s nothing to be excited about. I realized that we all have an enormous power to become someone’s something.
6. Grieve what you have lost.
I hope that you haven’t lost a loved one during this time, but we have all lost something. Maybe you lost your job, a trip, a graduation night. And I’m so sorry for what you have lost. You may have to find a creative way to properly grieve and it’s OK to acknowledge this disappointment.
7. Checking in on your loved ones is crucial.
Even when life gets back to (somewhat) normal, please remember to call or text people. Someone may seem all right, but we all need extra support sometimes.
Quarantine and the pandemic won’t last forever, but I hope you remember that for some, this is a way of life. You can reach out, be helpful and grow, no matter the situation you’re in. Please be safe, healthy and patient.