As the pandemic drags on, so does the time everyone is spending in isolation. This is the longest time most people have spent by themselves with little more than their thoughts to keep them occupied. Admittedly, this can be stressful, painful and lonely (*sighs while woefully staring out the window*). But it also provides a unique opportunity. Are you struggling to resolve a certain internal conflict? Change your mindset? Or maybe you’ve been pondering life’s big questions but just haven’t had the time to really get into it?

Well, the time is now. Read these Northwestern students' stories and get inspired by their reflections to get into the headspace of processing your deep thoughts.

Gratitude for home and the strangeness of exploring spirituality in solitude

Photo courtesy of Grace Wu.

Medill freshman Grace Wu said that being in her first year of college made for a relatively smooth transition back to home life.

“It wasn’t too long ago when I was living at home with my parents and family,” she said. “It made me think of how fortunate I am that I have a comfortable place to return to.  I’m very grateful to be able to spend more time with my parents because I didn’t think that I would have a prolonged time where I can be at home once I went off to college.”

To deepen her Christian faith, Wu joined the fellowship MakeNew in the fall. While the fellowship is run through Gracepoint Church, it has recently become more affiliated with Northwestern. Wu explained that MakeNew used to hold something called D.T. or “Devotional Time” several times a week to explore the Bible. She’s trying to continue this independently.

“It is a little weird, having to explore the passages on my own,” she said. “I feel like I’m in high school English class again and I’m forced to read a poem that I don’t fully understand, but I’m working on it.”

Religious or not, now might be a good time to work through anything you’re confused about, too.

The satisfaction of tangible (and edible) results

Photo courtesy of Sylvia Denecke

Bienen freshman Sylvia Denecke’s approach to cooking might just be the right approach to social distancing activities in general.

“It takes up time, and there’s an end result to it,” said Denecke. “It’s not just like you’ve done something and then you’re done with it and you move on, it’s like you then have something to eat and enjoy after you’ve spent time making it. It gets fun, trying out new things.”

Keep it fresh, in other words  —  both your routine and your food.

The importance of human contact and life’s unpredictability

Photo by Jahan Sahni

Weinberg senior Jahan Sahni’s approach to life has always been very people-centric, so social distancing has made him think a lot about how important social contact is in both mental health and how we relate to the world. He explained that not being with people during this time has been hard for him.

Sahni’s post-graduation life has also been on his mind. He’s been social distancing in Miami, Florida, where he’ll be soon be working as an associate for Boston Consulting Group.

“Now that I’m living here already it’s become very apparent to me that this is going to be a place that I have to learn to assimilate into,” he said. “I can’t just coast off my reputation I’ve built over the last four years. I need to reestablish myself in the world.”

His advice?

“You never know what’s going to happen to your time at Northwestern. Treasure each of the moments because it does go by very quickly.”

History repeats itself . . . and so does Ghostbusters 4, apparently

Photo by Caroline Hughes

Communication and Bienen senior Caroline Hughes realized that the U.S. government’s treatment of the coronavirus is eerily similar to how the fictional U.S. government treated the ghost problem in Ghostbusters 4.

Hughes said that in the movie, the government knows the ghosts are a real problem, but publicly denies their existence. Toward the end of the movie, all the ghosts break free and are very visible to the people.

“And after the Ghostbusters save the day and the town and whatever, the government comes back and is like, ‘Oh, it was just hallucinations, holographs, it was all in your head,’” said Hughes. “It kinda feels like that, like we know this is a real thing, we know it’s a problem, but Trump keeps coming back and saying ‘No, we’ve got this covered, we’re good here.’”

Shocked (and a little sad) that Ghostbusters 4 predicted our future? We are, too.

Knowing you’re at the right place

Photo courtesy of Kenzie Misso

From her home in California, Weinberg freshman Kenzie Misso said she’d been excited to start college since she was still in middle school. While she loved her hometown, she looked forward to being at a place where she’d be surrounded by people who came from different backgrounds than hers.

Misso said that she was definitely much happier and more successful on campus than she is at home.

“I love living in a dorm kind of environment where I’m surrounded by friends and always have someone to talk to,” she said. “I’m struggling more academically at home. My house is kind of loud and it just feels wrong to be going to class in my bedroom, which is not an optimal workspace.”

Misso went on to say that in a way, missing Northwestern is a good thing. “If you were really happy about going home, you picked the wrong school.”

Homesickness, faith, and a unique opportunity

Photo courtesy of Thea Nguyen

Weinberg freshman Thea Nguyen said that being at a college so far from her home in California was a big challenge this past year. Leaving campus helped resolve the issue of homesickness.

“It’s given me time to not only spend time at home and be with family, but to sort out those feelings,” said Nguyen. “Now I have the opportunity to miss Northwestern, instead of missing home.”

Nguyen encourages people not to despair.

“Right now is a really unprecedented time,” she said. “It’s really frustrating, what’s going on, but I guess people should try to keep in mind that besides being able to stay at home and keep social distancing, a lot of it is out of our control.”

Nguyen also thinks that the situation provides people an unprecedented opportunity for personal reflection and growth. After all, when else in our lives will we be forced to spend such a long time alone?

What you make of this time is entirely up to you. Is it an opportunity for self-improvement? Introspection? Exposing the previously concealed flaws in the foundation of our democracy? Or maybe something more lighthearted?

Whether you’ve embarked on a spiritual journey or are just trying to find ways to make each day easier, we feel for you. No two thoughts look the same, but if your head is an interesting place to escape to, it might provide some relief from the strange reality we find ourselves in.