“Oh wait, let me grab my mask.”

A simple six-word phrase none of us thought we would have engrained in our brains, but here we are. Here we are in a world that seems so uncertain, full of dull daily routines and bright phone screens at 3am. But then again, here we are in a time of a fight for justice, watching health care workers sacrifice every day and with access to social media which puts information at our fingertips.

Reading through other articles written for The Record, I’ve noticed a recurring theme of self-education over quarantine. I’ve found time to read new books; one in particular is called “Never Eat Alone,” which dives into the importance of communicating and networking with an open mind. On the other hand, I don’t think I can count the number of times Netflix has asked me if I’m still watching.

Keeping myself busy has been challenging. I miss nothing more than St. Andrews’ streets, and I can’t believe I miss the walk from DRA into town, but I do. Leaving university and coming home to a ghost town overwhelmed me with discomfort. Yet I believe searching for moments of comfort, by spending more time with my loved ones or getting to know myself better, has helped me cope with the uncertainty.

I’ve taken a step back from the life I lead before to truly cherish the moments, feelings, and people I took for granted before. Missing my friends across the pond has made me grateful for FaceTime, and yearning for debates in my tutorials has made me appreciate the efforts of our lecturers and tutors. The most substantial lesson I’ve learned thus far is that I am not defined by my studies or my job but by my character, and I’ve strived to discover who I am and if I’m someone I would be proud to know.

Many of my friends from school and home have all found silver linings during this time, exploring their passion for art, entrepreneurial ideas, or academic subjects they cannot study at university. These self-exploration practices help to diminish the overarching feeling of discomfort we are experiencing in the absence of ordinary.

I understand that my yearning for normality, specifically the conveniences of being able to sit at a coffee shop or go out for dinner, is minuscule, when I strive to understand the toll that this quarantine has taken on a lot of people. While I have found joy in discovering new bands and rewatching my favourite movies, many have lost family and friends, have become unemployed, or are struggling with mental illness.

Yet I believe many of us, regardless of how we have been affected or dealt with this time, have taken in our surroundings, looking through a more transparent and kinder lens. Personally, this has made me more mindful and in tune with the lives of those around me. Now I think that the woman who was rude to me at the grocery store may have lost her mom that morning, or the man who cut me off driving may have been rushing his father to the hospital.

As discouraging as my Twitter and Instagram feeds have been, flooded with the injustices in the world and exposing the adversity others are facing, I am witnessing a significant level of unity emerging from this quarantine, one rooted in kindness and mindfulness. I hope to return to St. Andrews with a more profound empathy for others and the awareness that I may never know who is fighting a silent battle.