Life lesson #1: Appreciate your surroundings.
One of my most memorable travel experiences was staying at a ryokan in Japan. Travel writer Pico Iyer describes this traditional inn as an infinite space, where the “sense of simplicity and silence are so luxurious”. These days, I’m stuck in a house with a view of my neighbor’s ongoing construction project — it’s enough to give anyone cabin fever so I find myself channeling my time at the ryokan.
Maybe being in one place for an extended period of time is the antidote to our hyperconnected, super-saturated lives. As Iyer writes, “If there are a hundred things in a room… the mind gets dizzy and overwhelmed; if there is just one, it grows so calm and spacious — so attentive — that in that one it can find a universe.” At the risk of sounding New Age-y, maybe it’s time to discover the universe within our homes (and within ourselves).
Life lesson #2: Sometimes all you have to do is nothing.
Our social media feeds are filled with bold proclamations of quarantine. (Read all those books! De-clutter and get organized! Do yoga every day!) But if you’re anything like me, there are days when changing out of your pajamas is a struggle in itself, and the accompanying guilt just makes things worse – we have so much time on our hands, we should be making the most of it, right?
But sometimes, “making the most of it” doesn’t mean cramming our schedules with self-improvement activities. On a work trip to Coron, Palawan a few years ago, I had a couple of free hours in between shoots. Sitting by the hotel pool, I was feeling restless, thinking that I was wasting precious time. That is, until a friend remarked, “You need to learn how to do nothing.” Since then, I have slowly embraced the idea of doing nothing instead of seeking fulfillment from crossing out items on an endless to-do list. I have learned that I shouldn’t equate busyness with worth.
If you’re feeling the pressure to keep up with the Instagram Joneses, just remember: It’s a pandemic — you’re not called on to be productive. You’re called on to stay home and stay healthy. If getting out of bed is all you can manage today, then that’s OK. Do what feels good for you instead of what’s going to look good in your IG Stories.
Lesson #3: Be open to good things happening.
On a solo trip to Sydney, I joined a walking tour made up mostly of couples. I also spent a good chunk of my trip with my happily coupled-off friends. And though there was a part of me that was wistful, I didn’t wallow in self-pity and instead thoroughly enjoyed my time there, open to the ways in which the universe could surprise me. (And surprise me, it did.)
There’s so much uncertainty in the air right now that it’s easy to fall into the trap of negativity. But, as one of those motivational quotes go, always believe that something wonderful can happen. We all have to get through this pandemic one way or another — wouldn’t it be so much better to go through it with hope rather than sadness and fear?
Life lesson #4: We’re all in this together.
My ultimate Frisbee team once played at a tournament in Taiwan, where we were seeded 15th and battled our way up to second place. It was a hard-fought podium finish with lots of high-pressure games but we stuck together. The energy from teammates both on the field and on the sidelines was unmatched. But it wasn’t just the team’s performance that made the trip memorable. Off the field, we sang Filipino rap songs and explored night markets together, good vibes all around. The camaraderie was a big factor in propelling our run.
These days, when everyone is on their last nerve, the chances are higher that we’ll all just turn against each other (whether it’s against a roommate or a stranger on Twitter). But examples of kindness and the bayanihan spirit abound — designers using their resources to make PPEs for our frontliners, ordinary citizens providing food to poor communities — and this is what’s going to help us all get through it. We’re all part of one team. And while not all of us are on the field, so to speak, we can do our part by staying home and cheering from the sidelines.