Opinion | Find a quarantine hobby

By Matthew Krauter, Columnist

As syllabus week comes to a close, the reality of a most unusual fall semester has begun to kick in. Tumbleweeds rolled across the Main Quad as freshmen forewent a traditional Quad Day for a digital adaptation, basketball courts on campus have been noticeably stripped of their hoops and Campustown bars are hard to distinguish from a human petri dish. 

Students are faced with a serious question: What is there to do? Academics and public health obviously are of the utmost importance and the University has rightfully received national attention for the safety measures and COVID-19 saliva testing methods implemented on campus. Still, the extracurricular life of students both on campus and remote learning deserve consideration. Professional opportunities, mental health and activities all have suffered. 

The amount of young adults ages 16-24 not working or enrolled in school has risen from 12% to 28% in recent months. Internship opportunities over the summer and fall dwindled, with many programs being forced online or canceled altogether. The negative effects of these lost opportunities on a young adult population nearing entrance to the workforce should be obvious to anyone. 

Mental health is another factor of great concern. According to the Center of Disease Control, feelings of isolation and uncertainty about the pandemic are likely to increase stress and anxiety. The effects on mental health naturally vary person to person but must be taken seriously alongside the threat to physical health from COVID-19.

The University issued guidelines for in-person events to Registered Student Organizations, requiring face masks, social distancing, COVID-19 occupancy limits, maintaining of attendance at events and tiresome bureaucratic paperwork. Despite the University’s best efforts to encourage virtual events, the realist student must recognize adapting to college in a global pandemic requires a certain level of resourcefulness.

A balanced lifestyle doesn’t orbit solely around academics, especially if you’re a remote learner. Despite the daunting nature of all these setbacks, finding new sources of recreation and self-improvement remains feasible to all. It’s important now more than ever to reevaluate how you spend your time.

As nauseating as it may sound, it’s not too late to pick up a quarantine hobby. I’ve never considered myself particularly artistic, my most recent masterpiece was the product of my fifth grade art class. Yet in the spirit of exploration and boredom from lockdown, I started watercolor painting and have produced some work I’m proud to show my friends and family. 

I then built a fire pit for my family’s backyard, picked up my first skateboard for fun and commutes to class, started learning chess strategy and even fulfilled a childhood dream of building a prop helmet from Star Wars. 

It’s not particularly important what hobby you take up as long as you find value in how you spend your time. College, at the end of the day, is about exploring new things. You may just find you enjoy something so much that you continue it beyond our socially distanced reality. 

As tempting as it may be, one should avoid allowing social media to become an excessive time sink. Technology usage is up as we’ve relied upon computers to stay connected in the pandemic and social media usage is expected to continue rising. Gen Z spends too much time online as it is. The merits of social media undoubtedly plateau after an uncertain point as content devolves into meaningless babble. 

Rather than cry over the approaching ban of TikTok, thank the digital Grim Reaper for freeing you to do something more fulfilling. If lip-syncing trends and forgetful clips are the epitome of joy to you, then by all means pay no heed to this, but I’ll strongly question the depth of such gratification beyond the short-term. 

The Declaration of Independence chartered the right to the pursuit of happiness at the birth of this nation, don’t take that for granted as we move into a memorable semester.

Matthew is a junior in LAS.

[email protected]