Dear Diary: keeping up with the [contagious] times

By Olivia Montes

Elm Staff Writer

It is a severe understatement that we are living within uncertain times. With required social distancing measures in place and people quarantined in their homes, this feeling of ambiguity constantly hangs over our heads like an ominous cloud. We might as well be living in another world, where we are still reckoning with the idea that we are far from the normal.

But the truth is that the crisis is still far from over. That is just a truth we need to accept is our new reality, at least for the time being.

And it is because of this new normal that we should take the time to write it all down.

Since  quarantine began, a wide variety of people are turning to the pen and paper to write down their feelings and thoughts about being in isolation in their coronavirus diaries.

“As the death toll rises and this pandemic stretches on, your observations matter, and jotting down your thoughts and feelings may also help you make sense of them,” Jen A. Miller of The New York Times said.

While most have not kept a record of their everyday lives up until this point, that’s okay. No one is expecting those in quarantine to write great works of literature, but rather focus on the individual streaks of a wide range of writers.

“For some writers, the only way forward is to put pen to paper, trying to conceptualize and document what it feels like to continue living as countries are under lockdown and regular life seems to have ground to a halt,” Alissia Wilkinson of VOX Media said.

According to Miller, the main idea to remember while you’re keeping your own quarantine diary is to know that your story possesses value and is worthy of being acknowledged, regardless of how ridiculous it may seem to you.

While it may appear that your own story might get lost in the shuffle of other stories, know that at the end of the day, it will contribute to something even bigger, long after this pandemic is over.

We often trick ourselves into believing that we must write a great novel detailing the most fascinating events occurring in our daily lives, even within and without quarantine, but we should not pressure ourselves.

Just write for you — hear what you want to hear, say what you want to say. You want to complain about the lack of social interaction in your life? Write it down. You want to rant about how much your unintended roommates are driving you crazy? Jot it all down.

And do not leave a single thing out: everyone’s experience during these uncertain times will be different, so find yourself writing the way you want to write down your experiences.

“The result is a first draft of how we’ll someday remember this time, filled with uncertainty and pain and fear as well as small moments of hope and humanity,” Wilkinson said.

The other objective to keep in mind is to know that you can write what you want to write. You can think about what you did that day or note what you believed to be different from the day before. Think about the changes.

While it may not seem as exciting as you hope for it, it still functions as a therapeutic escape from what’s going on in the outside world and preserves the slight fractions of humanity that remain in the light of day.

Starting on my diary has helped me organize the wide range of emotions I have been experiencing from the past month or so, including how nervous I am about when, if ever, we will ever resume our normal lifestyles soon.

The truth, I tell myself, is that it will — but at the same time, it won’t. I find myself writing about how, though I want to remain dedicated to being strictly an optimist, I know that’s not an option anymore. I want to look on both sides of the spectrum and know that we will get to see brighter days ahead — just not at the pace we want to.

Writing has helped me comprehend the world around me before — and so far, it hasn’t let me down.

Sure, we might not be scribbling the next great pages of the American novel, but at the end of the day, it’s about writing what we want to hear, processing how we, as individual writers, think and feel on our own during a crisis, especially one with an attached emotional rollercoaster.

“Who cares? Maybe no one,” Paul Daley of The Guardian said. “[But] that’s the joy of the archive. One person’s dross is another’s gold.”

While what you are experiencing might not appear as being vital, or might go unrecognized years from now, but experts argue that this daily exercise is still worthwhile, helping you to process all the crazy amount of thoughts running through your head, and eventually feel better as a result of writing them down.

And to understand that your opinions matter.

“Even if you don’t think what you’re seeing, experiencing and feeling is important, [know that] it is,” Miller said.

So, whatever you want to write down, write it down. Whether it be what your new routine looks like, or what you wish you were doing instead, write it down.

Chances are you’ll feel better afterwards.

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