Featured Illustration: Bailey Mariner / Verywell
Life before COVID-19 is difficult to remember. It is easy to say the pandemic has changed me and equally easy to argue that anything and everything changes people. But, I would like to propose that the pandemic has been different in this case.
To say how much I changed between the ages of 7 to 9 is hard, 13 to 15 even harder, because life was on autopilot. I attended school, I went to the mosque, I did chores; it was a rapid mix of sleep, meals, homework, prayer, repeat. Life was on auto-pilot, providing little reflection on my why’s but also, giving the flow of being on the go.
The pandemic was marked by its stark shift towards completely different rules of life. The rule I had become accustomed to, which had marked the auto-pilot nature of life, no longer applied. I was forced to sit with myself and wonder what I would be doing next.
I finished high school and entered university with a completely different view of education. While chattering classmates and a teacher had been the norm for 12 years of my life, I developed a preference for a different form of learning — one in which I can pause, speed up, and slow down my educator. One in which I developed a hyper-fixation on time. Lost were the hours of casual conversation, commuting, and other micropauses that separated work from the self. One in which I was content without classmates so long as my checklist was ticked. This love for online learning, like many types of love, has its virtues and vices. There is something robotic and bizarre about clicking Command + 1 for lecture, Command + 2 for homework, Command + 3/4/5… for research, YouTube videos, etc.
Books became the hobby I would gladly make my entire personality, both in collecting and reading texts (which are completely different things). We hear metaphors of books taking you around the world without lifting a finger, or allowing you to live a million lives — given this, I find it remarkable there was a time when I did not read. How much did I miss? With the hours I now had at my disposal, a book was always in my ear or in my hand.
I was happy with not leaving my house for the main reasons I ever left 2 years ago. But, just because something makes you happy does not mean it’s the best thing for you. Online education and reading, two things I have come to adore, have overstimulated my life.
Sensory overload ought to happen with 12 hours of screen time a day. Beams of light flashing at your eyes not simply for school or work — I opened my laptop for school, but also for studying my faith, for watching videos and movies, for scrolling. I opened my phone, each time checking my email, Instagram, Twitter, and the news with no intention. A new kind of autopilot commenced but now, I wasn’t out in the world meeting people. I was overloading my brain with new information I had no idea what to do with yet.
As we now ease into a post-pandemic society this summer, post the two and counting years of sickness, isolation, and adjustment to a new way of life among the growth and reflection, we must all confront whether we are willing to move into a different type of stimulation. One away from the screens that have held us bondage at work and school, away from the paralyzing loneliness that can come from being disconnected from one’s friends, family, faith, and community centers, and towards whatever a post-anything entails.