What I Learned From Sharing a Room During Quarantine
During quarantine, I went back to live with my parents in our small, state-owned dwelling.
Dreams of independence and freedom were gone. I was no longer a resident at my University. And on March 11th of all days.
My 18th birthday, which is also my first pandemic birthday.
Before I set off to University, I was stuck inside my room almost every day. Never left unless it was for basic needs. Living in my room was like living in a nightmare. There was a constant cold presence and the ceiling above was growing black mold because of poor insulation. As time progressed, I was becoming more miserable.
The pandemic didn’t do its worst yet though.
Prolonged exposure to indoor dampness did — by reducing my lung function and worsening my immune system.
To make matters worse, in an attempt to scrub the black mold off my ceiling, fumes of chemical agent filled my room. So we called for help. But they resigned from the job because of COVID.
The next most suitable thing was sharing a room with my mother who at the age of 60 is the sweetest, most hard-working and kind person I know. The last time we shared a room was when I was a child and we lived in an impoverished area. The kids at school teased me for it and I was ashamed. In the end, I associated sharing a room as “something poor kids do.”
Nonetheless, I shared a room with my mother during last year’s quarantine, and it shifted my perspective about everything.
Here are three lessons we forget as we grow older.
1. We have emotional weaknesses.
People think we’re born as strong individuals. But that’s not true. What makes up a strong person are the mental habits that you instill into yourself. Typically, people who accept change have better mental habits.
As opposed to seeing it as a threat, either your loved ones leave or your plans get ruined, being emotionally strong means dealing with life's trips and falls. You acknowledge the unknown and the scariness of it, but make a habit of seeing it as an opportunity for growth.
Now, building mental strength involves developing daily habits. We do this in a blink of an eye — for example, choosing to wash the dishes when you don’t want to, making it to the gym even when you don’t feel like it. In my case, it was sharing a room with my mother despite being bullied for it a long time ago. If we can accept stressful moments and turn them around for the better, we can become emotionally stronger too.
2. Be grateful for the small things.
Upon new circumstances, I was very upset. My mother noticed and wanted to cheer me up, so she thought of ways to make my short-term stay comfier. She bought me the softest pillow cushions I have ever felt.
It made me realize. Counting your blessings — no matter how small and insignificant they are — has a huge impact on your life and on the lives of those around you. It’s already been said in the world of psychology that showing gratitude increases happiness and reduces feelings of sadness.
When I was younger, I could do this easily: smiling and saying “thank you” to my mother when she made my meals. Hugging her as I came back from school. Performing musicals in our living room.
But in a post-apocalyptic world, being grateful is a lot more difficult. Alongside age, being grateful is generally a forgotten habit. Since sharing a room, I’ve made it a daily habit to write what I am grateful for in my life, and over time, it’s something I’ve learned to do on autopilot.
It could be as simple as feeling grateful for the bed you sleep on or appreciating the warmth of your room.
3. You are who you are, not what you are.
Growing up, I was ashamed of the fact that my family had no money. I said no to free school meals, I said no to my friend’s parent who offered to drive me home, I didn’t invite anyone over — I was living a complete lie.
What helped me was practicing humility. Without humility, you cannot recognize the areas of your life that need work. You might feel like it’s a sign of weakness rather than strength.
But, humility will get you very far in life.
People with humility allow criticism to fuel their development instead of anger. They apologize after making mistakes. They want the best for others, instead of looking down on them. And they don’t think that they’re entitled to special treatment.
All of these things have taught me to better navigate my losses and pick myself up. In fact, I’m no longer hurt ashamed of my upbringing. This humility feels freeing.
My circumstances have not deterred me from appreciating wholesome moments with my mother. Like when we eat popcorn, watch cheesy Lifetime movies together, and talk about our goals for the future.
Without the pandemic, I would’ve never realized how important humility is.
Most people think that it’s actually sweet how my mother and I take care of each other and we expect nothing in return. I’ll remember years from now that during this wild part of my life, and hers, we had each other to count on.
One thing remains and that is to enjoy the close relationships you have with your loved ones while you can. Because not everyone can be with their loved ones at the moment, and not everyone is lucky enough to have that kind of bond.