Claire Williams

I’m a winter person. This year, like every year, I wanted the temperature to stay colder a little longer, the snow to melt a little slower. But this year, like every year, it didn’t matter what I wanted because Mother Nature had made a decision, and the erratic Chicago weather was too happy to comply. In early March, we went from 30-degree days to 60-degree days. I woke up to hazy sun rays breaching my bedroom curtains and birds making up melodies: the promise of a lovely day.

Once that happened, I let go of winter. There was no resisting the sun’s effect on my mood, especially this year. Because this year, unlike other years, the weather brought me back to a special time: early quarantine. 

For me, early quarantine was banana bread, binging “Outer Banks” and going on family nature walks. It was reading more books than I’d ever read during the school year and finally giving in to my mom’s badgering and listening to David Bowie. It was, in one word, relief. For the first time in years, school wasn’t the most important thing. There wasn’t some practice or club to fill up every moment of my weekday. I had more time to spend with my sister who had come home from college—who, while she was at college, I’d barely FaceTimed because “I’m a junior and there’s no time!”. I finally had the mental space to think and reflect. 

Reflecting was always what I did when something went wrong: “I didn’t do well on that test—time to reflect and see how to improve” or “that race was poorly executed—let’s reflect and figure out why.” It was never “your life’s been almost the same for the past four years, do you want to double check that’s how you want it?”. But when a worldwide pandemic forces you to change your life, and that colossal change is not a disaster but a “relief,” you realize some reflection may be in order. Some change may be in order.

So I reflected. I decided that I cared more about spending time with family than spending time on homework. I preferred to run for fun as opposed to running for a team. I realized that I could have ambition and dreams without starving my inner child. 

But why am I writing about this now? Why should early quarantine matter now that it’s been almost a year since? Well, if I’m being completely honest, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that as we transition into post-pandemic living, it’s going to be all too easy to transition into life before the pandemic.

It’s going to be all too easy to become convinced by society that to be successful, you have to be busy 24/7. To reach your dreams, you have to be working on them nonstop. I’m afraid that as a society, we’re going to forget what we learned about ourselves and each other during quarantine. 

So I’m writing this as a reminder of the good that could come from this past year and as a promise that I am going to remember that good. Hopefully you all will too.