Lockdown’s Life Lessons

Amid all pandemic darkness, I found some silver linings.

Author: Veronica Navarro

Lockdown wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it seem.

I’m not saying that I’m glad the pandemic happened, that so many lives were lost and so many people became unemployed, but after two years of mourning the time that I “lost” being pent up inside, I’m starting to realize that the time away from the “real world” wasn’t the worst thing for me. In fact, I think that it helped me a lot.

At the beginning of lockdown, I have to admit, I spent a lot of time on the internet and avoiding sleep. Little of my focus was on my school work, despite having more time to prioritize it. I didn’t eat healthy or exercise much.

However, I also spent a lot of time making friends, learning a skincare routine, finding new ways to keep myself busy, spending time with family and strengthening other relationships. After a while, I even began going outside more, taking walks, and discovering ways to exercise in my room.

Before lockdown, during my freshman year at Saint Mary’s, I focused far too much on competing with and comparing myself to those around me. I was constantly looking around my classes to see if anyone was wearing an outfit similar to mine to make sure that I didn’t stand out. I would regularly refresh social media to see what other girls were posting, trying to mirror exactly what they did on my own social media pages. More importantly, I made an effort to go to parties and stay out late at night, even if I didn’t want to, just because my peers were doing it and I wanted to fit in.

I found that following what everyone else was doing wasn’t a good habit and didn’t really pay off, but I didn’t have the courage to realize that until I had time away from worrying about what everyone else was doing. With everyone else being trapped inside, there weren’t lavish trips to be posted, outings with friends to be shared online, parties to be bragged about, etc.

I noticed that everyone else was a lot like me, and mostly everyone also cared about what others’ thought about them, no matter how trivial that seemed.

Lockdown allowed me to be alone with my own thoughts for the first time in a long time. As corny as it sounds, I discovered who I really was. With all of the time I had to myself, I had nothing to do but think about the future. Mainly, I thought about what life was going to be like once the lockdown was over and things went back to normal. I thought about what I wanted for the future, outside of what would look best on social media, or what my peers would think of me if I chose a career that didn’t make much money.

Lockdown was also the period of time that I found out that I was accepted to Notre Dame, and I decided to take that opportunity to reinvent myself before the first day of classes. While I had continued exercising and eating better than I had at the beginning of the pandemic, I became more interested in reinventing myself on the inside.

I have never felt like much of a good person, and I never had really considered it to be an issue until I realized how alone I felt, trapped in my room with only one friend to talk to and an uncertain future. While I am eternally grateful for that friend and the comfort that she provided me during that time, it would have been nice to look forward to having a group of friends on campus once lockdown was over.

Navarro Covid Essay
The author was accepted “Here” amid COVID-19 restrictions.

Now, I recognize that my motivation for self-improvement was not entirely pure, and I probably should have had a better reason for trying to become a good person, but hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right?

I took the time that I had to text old friends, check in on some acquaintances I made during the year and spend more time with my siblings. I had a few socially-distanced walks with some of my favorite people. I started to enjoy quality time with those around me simply because I liked having them in my life — not because they would look good in a photo next to me or because they might know of some parties they could invite me to.

My conversations stopped being about other people and started being about my goals, hopes and dreams. I became a better listener, and paid more attention to how my actions made people feel. I started journaling about other ways I could improve. I also started telling these people how much they meant to me.

Being outside of the realm of constantly competing with those around me was refreshing. I don’t think that I really was capable of enjoying life when I made it about what people thought about me. Now, not only am I more comfortable with doing things (or not doing things) that might not make me look “cool,” but I also am confident in myself because I know that I would be perfectly fine on my own.

I no longer depend on those around me for validation but that makes my relationships stronger. I realize the worth of my friends, and keep them in my life because I like who they are as people and I look up to many of them for the awesome lives they lead. I am inspired by those around me, not because of their social status, but because of their character.

I also learned to love myself for more than just what I looked like or what I had. I learned to love myself for my sense of humor, my compassion for others, my determination and so much more.

Lockdown gave me a perspective that I had been lacking before. The alone time taught me about myself, and it also taught me about life.

Life is about being the best version of yourself you can possibly be, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Life is about treating people the way you would want to be treated, and being there when other people need you. Life isn’t about which filter looks best for my new profile picture or how many likes I can get on each post.

With the pandemic putting so many communities at risk, I valued the time that I did get with people, learned to prioritize my well-being and the well-being of others and thanked God continuously for my health and safety.

As odd as it may seem, I think lockdown was just the wakeup call that I needed.

Veronica Navarro, a rising senior and South Bend native, is this magazine’s summer intern.