Make Your Quarantine Interesting

Author: Yugal SehgalOriginally published on March 28, 2020

Before you start, a disclaimer: The author would like to commend you for being a socially responsible citizen of the world and staying at home. By quarantining, you are saving many lives, not just your own. It may be hard, yes, but it is a great and honourable thing to do, and we thank you for that. You’re a hero! With that said, let’s get down to it.

So, you've got time on your hands. Lots of it. Perhaps even all of it. And you've got a disproportionate number of things to do. You could be Netflixing, Instagramming, TikToking (yep, it’s a huge thing), swamping your family WhatsApp groups with “funny” videos (or being on the helpless receiving end of it), playing board games or online ones, and of course, chatting with friends & family, among other things.

Not that all of it isn’t sufficient (or fun) in itself, but as a fellow quarantine comrade, I think some of those things, while helpful in killing time, become rather draining and/or mindless after a while. Hear me out before you kill me, how often do you find yourself hitting “Next Episode” more out of pure impulse than anything else? Or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram/TikTok for hours at a time? Or engaging in a conversation that should’ve ended 14 minutes ago?

At some point, this spree becomes more draining than fulfilling, even if you’ve come across a great episode, a super funny meme or an exciting new conversation subject.

Granted, at a time like this you’re allowed to do this guiltlessly, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know there’s some better, more interesting and productive ways to use this time. That is where I believe I can help. Here’s four non-obvious and doable ways you can make your quarantine more useful:

Revisit History: You are unlikely to find a museum open at the moment, but wouldn’t it have been a great and exciting escape if you could visit one? To view the “Mona Lisa” up close? To see the intriguing works of Vincent Van Gogh? How about the Ancient Egyptian "Bust of Queen Nefertiti"? Or perhaps, some Mughal art? All of this, and lots more, is accessible to you at this very moment, thanks to Google Arts & Culture, a virtual collection of artworks, stories, museums, and monuments around the planet. Explore cultural treasures in extraordinary detail and immerse yourself in our shared history, visit some of the best museums, experience the thrill of an art gallery, or see what some of the world’s most famous artworks would look like in your room, all from the virtual window of your device. There’s a lot more to it, but I’ll save it for your own exploration. Go seek.

Explore the World: Okay now this one is super counter-intuitive, I know. At the time of a global epidemic, “exploring the world” is not only the least sensitive advice, but also the riskiest one. But hear me out. With the internet and modern technology, it is possible for you to make a virtual visit to any part of the world without so much as leaving your bed. Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Machu Picchu, or the Pyramids of Egypt, or the Eiffel Tower, or even the Taj Mahal? You can make a trip to those places and even more through, not surprisingly, Google Arts & Culture. But what if you want to roll the dice, land on a random place on the map, and explore it? You know, for fun? Just because you feel like it? There’s a tool for just that, Google Earth. Okay I may be sounding like a Google fanboy at this point, but you’ll have to agree with me that they have built some of the most exciting products and services in the world, and Google Earth is definitely one of them. Go ahead, see for yourself, dive into the canyons, or climb the mountains. You can do it!

An illustration by the author. © Yugal Sehgal

Educate Yourself: This one's more for the non-student, although it can help the student just the same. With online learning platforms like Udemy, edX, Coursera, Skillshare, YouTube, and more, what can you NOT learn? Most of these platforms provide great education for free, and if you want to take things to the next level, you can purchase the courses for certification and professional upgradation. Right now is probably the perfect opportunity for you to teach yourself something new. Perhaps a refresher in personal finance? Or a digital marketing primer? How about digital art? Maybe even cooking? Make-up art, you say? You could learn that, and more, right now. The world may temporarily stop, but learning should never. So go on, get learning. There's some other great resources like Google Primer, and Grasshopper, if you're looking to develop your business skills and coding knowledge. Check them out if you’re looking for continuous, bite-sized learning.

Write: Ah, a personal favorite. You do not have to be a writer to write. And when I say write, I don't mean type, I mean hand-write. When was the last time you saw your own hand-writing? Like really saw it? (Do you know what the curve of your 'g' looks like?) Sit down, grab a notebook and a pen (or a pencil, for nostalgic reasons), and write away. 

But write about what, I hear you ask. Perhaps you've been repressing some of your feelings for a while now and have never been able to discuss with a confidante? Maybe the stress and frustration of "modern life" has got the better of you and you’ve never let the steam out? What if there's been a poet in you all this while and you’ve never explored that side of yourself? Or, how about a good ol' rant? Maybe a letter to a dear one? Anything goes. You can write about things you would rather not talk about with anyone else. Or you can write about things you'd rather understand better yourself before you go ahead and talk about with anyone else. Nobody needs to read it. You can keep it to yourself, throw it away, or burn it afterwards (although, environmentalism alert, don't). Writing will help you see through yourself, understand your feelings better (why you feel the way you feel), and come to a mindful understanding of your own behavior, tendencies, and perception. I can promise you that. But hey, don't take my word for it. Go ahead and try it for yourself. You'll be surprised.

Now, you don't have to do these things in isolation. And you don't have to do ALL of them either. Whatever appeals to you, give it a go. It might as well lead you somewhere you couldn't even anticipate. Life as we know it has already been disrupted, and we don't know how long we are going to be on a standstill. While you can let this time fly by happily (and nobody would complain), at the end of the day, you'll feel a tad bit more fulfilled if you did something productive, even if that means taking an 8 minute long class about business strategy, zooming into the details of "Girl with a Pearl Earring", virtually journeying to the Valley of the Temples, or writing a letter to your future self.

You've got time on your hands. Lots of it. Perhaps even all of it. Use it as an opportunity to explore your interests, or develop professionally. You may never get such a chance again.

Yugal Sehgal writes about life, mindfulness, and people. He lives in India. Follow him and @drawcuments on Instagram.