The COVID Quandary
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
They say that boredom breeds creativity. That might be true for run-of-the-mill boredom. But the boredom that the COVID quarantine produced was a different animal altogether. That boredom bred a monotony that drowned my creative spark.
About a year and a month ago, the world shut down. Without social events, long commutes to work, and children's playdates, to name a few abandoned pre-COVID pursuits, people suddenly had a lot more time on their hands to be creative. They bought out all the flour in grocery stores to bake bread. They bought all the yarn to knit sweaters. They learned languages, took online guitar lessons, and created scrapbooks full of memories. And I, being a writer, penned drafts of poetry, prose and song lyrics to fill volumes. Except, I didn't.
When the school where I teach closed down due to COVID 19, I began to educate my students remotely using Zoom and what seemed like every other online learning platform known to humans. The learning curve was steep. The stress was overwhelming. I worried about everything. Was I asking too much of my students? Was I asking too little? Were they still feeling connected? Where was all the pasta in the grocery store? I suffered through more migraines that spring than I had experienced in the last five years combined. Writing was the last thing on my mind.
While teaching remotely wasn't easy, I still thanked my lucky stars that I could work safely from home. I was grateful for having a job, a roof over my head, and money to put food on the table. I knew that my life during a pandemic was much easier than most. People lost their jobs. People lost their loved ones. People lost their lives. Like the stress, the guilt was overwhelming. This was no time to be creative.
When the quarantine happened, I was in the middle of finishing the sequel to my first novel. I was patient with and forgiving of myself for not writing diligently while still teaching. After all, I was working really long hours to recreate the classroom for my students on a computer screen. I thought that when summer break started, I could rest for a minute and my creative energies would return. By the end of June, I'd be back on track.
Week one went by. Nothing. Week two went by. Nothing. Week after week and nothing. For the entire two months of summer vacation, my brain remained wrapped in a COVID fog. We canceled our summer trip. We canceled the visit with my mother who was in a nursing home in another state. We sheltered in place with very little to do. I had all this time on my hands, and I still couldn't write unfettered. Every stroke of the keyboard seemed like a chore. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever feel passionate about writing again. Would the boredom, the stress and the guilt dissipate? Would my creative juices start flowing?
It is now April, and I have taught in a hybrid model since October. I see about a third of my students in the classroom at the beginning of the week, another third at the end of the week, and another third on Zoom all week. It's not ideal, but it's better than 100% remote learning. The stress and guilt still remain, but I'm managing them better. I'm working even longer hours than I did last spring as I juggle the groups of students who need very different things from me constantly. My brain never seems to shut down. I have less time on my hands, and yet, I'm beginning to feel a stirring in my mind beyond the day to day teaching challenges.
As the world starts to reopen, I've noticed that my brain has slowly started its own reopening as well. Here I am on my blog page, a place I haven't visited in well over a year. I'm finally able to process the quarantine experience, and forgive myself for not being more creatively productive during a period when I had few distractions and demands. Sure, I had the time, but I also needed the stimulation. New experiences bring new thoughts which bring a desire to communicate them. At least for this writer.