Everything in my life feels like a chore that I need to check off my list.
I like sleeping as much as the next person. It’s generally one of the most prominent practices in a human being’s life; according to some studies the average person spends about a third of their lifetime, or on average 26 years of their life being asleep. That sounds like a dream but if you’re anything like me, a bit more of a nocturnal animal, then you’ll probably have noticed that as much as you can yearn for sleep sometimes it just doesn’t seem as much fun or productive as finishing a project, doing chores, doing groceries, or binge-watching 16 episodes of a new series you found earlier in the day and are now watching in one twelve-hour sitting. Lately, my schedule has been so busy that I’m on the go almost twenty-four hours a day. I rarely manage to get six hours of sleep most nights and I notice how it’s been affecting me in my daily life: as a result, I’m more often exhausted, a little snappier than I would care to admit, and my room is a constant mess and so is my head. On more than one occasion I forgot to take out some time in my day to eat because I was so caught up in a project, a social activity, or a bill that needed to be paid. And I know I should not have anything to complain about given my current situation and I’m aware of how privileged I am to have the minuscule problems that I have. However, I would like to create a safe space here and take you through the turmoil that is my brain.
Planning out your daytime after the entire Corona situation can be quite challenging. Here in the Netherlands and in many other countries across the globe, it seems that the days of face masks, personal space, and hand sanitiser are starting to come to an end. The clubs have been re-opened, public transport is over-crowded, and lunch dates with friends are completely clogging up the agendas. As hard as it was to adjust to all the crazy news at the beginning of the pandemic and as tough as we’ve had it dealing with the government’s yo-yo management when I ask people around me they seem to agree on one thing: adjusting to the way life was before the pandemic started is going rather smoothly and going unnoticeable. It seems that everyone is eager to pick up their old lives again. Working at the office full-time. Going back to crowded in-person classes. Sitting directly next to someone in a coffee shop without any distance in between. “It’s weird that it’s almost starting to seem like the pandemic never really took place.
Sure it was hard to adjust to all the new set of rules at first and to deal with all the free time you were left with. I remember the first two months when I only met with my friends through FaceTime calls and never met up in person. I think the first time I saw a friend in person again was when we were two months into the pandemic already, and I’d felt bad for going on a walk out in the open. Over the past two years, the rules for meeting up with people shifted a lot and with it the mindset to maintain these rules.
I am lucky enough to get a taster of the nine-to-five working life for over two months now, as I started taking a six-month internship. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity; all the skills I get to learn, all the people I get to meet and all the fun things I get to do because of it. However, I have quickly realised that trying to live as a student whilst having obligations that are similar to that of a full-time working adult is hard to balance and combine. Hanging out with a multitude of friends and committing to different types of activities with them, and also maintaining a private personal life to work on hobbies etc. is something I didn’t expect to be this hard.
What do you do when you have zero motivation left to work on yourself in your personal time? When everything in your personal life starts to feel like an extra chore that you need to check off your list. How do you maintain motivation to keep going?
What I’ve noticed is that after all these rules were lifted and everything virtually bounced back to being ‘normal’ my energy levels quickly drained as well. I often find myself overwhelmed with how packed and planned my life has become again. I go to my internship in the morning and get off around dinner time (Dutch dinner time, that is). I work a part-time job during the weekends so the only times that I really have to myself or to meet up with my friends is in the evenings. Lately, these evenings have become so busy as well that whenever I get home I’m too exhausted to spend time on my own and properly keep my life in order. Working out, doing laundry and groceries, talking to my parents on the phone that don’t live anywhere near me; I hardly ever find time to spend on myself and my ten different hobbies. I often find myself drifting toward watching TikTok during the free couple of hours that I do manage to find in a day. The short videos that are designed to keep you engaged with the platform for a long time have definitely had an impact on my attention span as well as I no longer seem to be able to keep my concentration focused on developing skills in one of my many hobbies, writing an article in one sitting or actually doing something productive.
This post-Covid situation that we seem to be getting into will bring loads of opportunities and new insights. Many of us have realised that we should not take our freedom for granted and at the moment are coming to the conclusion that there are many different forms of freedom. The first lockdown for instance was a form of freedom that we’re not likely to experience ever again. However, especially now that all social events are allowed and possible again after they were cancelled for so long, it’s easy to give in to the temptation of wanting to do too much and hanging out with friends, going to too many different social events, and spending too much money. During the beginning stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were left with an amount of free time that we will most likely never in our lives have again. From doing challenges to playing video games for hours on end to picking up new hobbies. Lockdown number one which lasted from around March 2020 till June 2020 was a time that many of us didn’t know how to deal with because we were so used to having our lives fully planned to the second.
If I had to describe it in one way: It might feel as if you stopped running on the treadmill for a while but you left it on, and now you’re trying to get back into it but the speed is way too high so you can’t keep up. An analogy that can hopefully also give you some hope if you’re currently feeling anything like I described. You just need to adjust the speed and slow down the treadmill before you start running again, instead of immediately going for a full-on sprint.
Ps. If you are of the opinion that this article doesn’t contribute anything or is all over the place and completely pointless then I think I’ve done my job in conveying how I feel at the moment. I rest my case.
Written by Marijne Ottenheym