Being cooped up in a little flat for days on end can be stifling and depressing – but it can also give you something most of us complain about never having enough of – time. Now that we have all this time, we complain about what to do with it. It got me thinking about how I spent my time when I was younger.
When I was eight or nine, staying home for days on end wasn’t the most unusual thing for me. I was a shy kid probably best known for always having her nose in a book. I had friends with whom I shared my tiffin and secrets with. But hanging out with your friends regularly outside of school wasn’t something a lot of nine year olds in Chittagong were doing back then (at least to my knowledge). The concept of kids needing “playdates” hadn’t really taken off there yet. We went to the odd birthday party every once in a while, but most kids I knew usually just spent a lot of time with family, playing with siblings/cousins/neighbors. Unlike them though, my only family in the city were my parents, older brother, grandmother and one aunt. And by the time I was nine, my brother was a rowdy teenager away at boarding school in a different country.
So I was a pseudo only child in a rather secluded house with only her parents for company. I spend the majority of my time (when not in school) at home, and usually alone. Summer vacations, other than family trips abroad or to Dhaka, often meant many consecutive days at home at a time. You could say I have been practicing for this quarantine period for a very long time. I know all about passing hours without anyone’s help – although it must be said that my attention span was significantly better in those days of no smartphone, no streaming on demand, and not a whole lot of instant gratification.
Mostly I read. I accepted my fate as a bespectacled little nerd and hoarded books without shame, often buying as many as fifteen at a time because my parents were incredibly generous when it came to indulging and encouraging my interest. I read before school, often at school, and most of the time after school. I read secretly in the bathroom when I was supposed to be doing my homework, and under the covers when I was supposed to be asleep. I read almost every book by Enid Blyton ever, and desperately wanted to be like the little British children who were always going on adventures, eating sandwiches made of interesting things like sardines and potted meat, and had dogs who seemed to be more clued in on what was going on than most of the adults in the stories. This was all despite the facts that I almost never played outdoors, had no idea what a sardine tasted like, and my mother would rather have let me drop out of school than get a dog (I did get a dog about 13 years later, but that’s a whole other story). The point is – I was almost always completely entertained and I didn’t require anyone else for it.
I haven’t really read like that recently. With the constant distractions of notifications on your phone, making plans (I grew up to be a relatively social being), and general life responsibilities, getting lost in a book just doesn’t happen. I am a little too in touch with the reality around me at all times. I like to think that when I’m alone I spend my time doing necessary and important things like cooking dinner or cleaning the house, but the truth is, a lot of the time is actually spent mindlessly scrolling social media and bingeing Netflix. Which is probably why extended periods of time alone these days can make me feel pretty bad about myself. These habits mean we end up equating alone time, or even time spent home, with unproductiveness and boredom, and it really doesn’t need to be like that. I have decided this quarantine is my chance to rediscover the sheer joy I used to get out of disappearing into worlds nothing like mine. The total lack of pressure to live a “fun” life for a bit is providing a rare opportunity – to figure out what you like to do when no one is around. Personally, I plan on exploring as many different worlds and living as many different lives as I can in the next few weeks, through words.
My point in rambling on about my childhood is to remind you (but mostly myself) that having limited options on how to spend your time doesn’t necessarily have to be the worst thing. It forces you to get creative with the options you do have. Maybe reading wasn’t your thing, but maybe you liked to draw, build things out of Lego, play made up games. Find the adult equivalent of that. Let yourself do things just for the sake of doing, no end goal in sight. What is this blog for? I am doing it because it makes my heart happy – and that means it is not wasted time. If someone else enjoys reading it, that’s amazing. But if they don’t then I still have this thing that I made and I love it. It doesn’t need to do anymore than that for me.
So my two cents on how to make the most of this difficult period: take all this extra time you have now to let yourself be and find pleasure in that, savor the opportunity. You’ll thank yourself when all this is over and time is once again a scarce commodity.