The plain white walls enclose me, their dullness bleeding into my imagination. I search for interesting thoughts, to no avail. Any creativity I had has trickled out of my head as I face the mind-numbing sameness of each day.
Quarantine has shown just how much our creativity depends on the outside world and its different experiences. Now, we are now left to imagine and create from the vacuous white rooms in our homes. The horrifying unoriginality of each day has never been more apparent than now. If college was repetitive, at least the fact was less obvious. At home, each day is so scarily similar in location and events that the past three weeks could be considered the same day on loop. This has presented a seemingly impossible task. How can we be creative in the face of the mundane?
One option is to consume media. After all, art is about escaping the confines of our situation, and the reservoirs of Youtube, Instagram and Netflix allow us to escape into endless new realities. But we mindlessly wander down this path so often that our consumption primarily becomes a way to pass time rather than a creative experience. We want distractions so that we feel like we’re feeding our minds something. Do this too often, however, and consuming media turns into a way to forego our creativity. We defer all of the responsibilities to the content-maker and become an aloof bystander who has no creative engine of one’s own.
The next place we look is to the arts and the humanities. All of us have heard of the importance of the liberal arts and can attest to it in one form or another. Music, reading and writing evidently have the power to expand our creative range and make us think and feel in different ways. We sometimes think of these as the highest modes of enjoyment in life. But in this time, while I still find the quiet reflection from reading a book to be enjoyable in the moment, it alone is not enough to carry us through this difficult time.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that socializing is a fundamental pillar of our lives. In media, literature, music and all other ventures, we feel a certain satisfaction at the individual level. But no matter how emotionally gripping and vivid the storytelling of a book may be, there is still some feeling that is missing when processing the book in complete isolation. The arts affect how we think and live. People remind us of the personality and vibrance contained in life. Sharing our thoughts and experiences about art takes the medium to another level of experience, one of greater understanding, growth and appreciation. It validates the importance of art.
Carving out time for interactions is itself a significant challenge we face right now. There might seem like there is nothing to talk about, given we are stuck in our homes all day. But this just means we need to be creative about how we have conversations. This applies to our own families. There is no time like now to ask our parents about family history or how to make signature dishes — or cook at all for that matter. Questions that we may normally feel too uncomfortable or scared to ask can be great diversions from the terrors of coronavirus and good things that make us consider how we think about ourselves.
Of course, having conversations with our friends seems like a greater challenge now that we don’t have events or classes to talk about. Still, we can get creative. One of my friends had an idea with two of her other suitemates to make and share presentations on topics each of them are passionate about. I’ve done several problem sets with friends over FaceTime and called friends as we dueled in real-time quiz games.
What’s particularly special about the present is that none of us can be particularly clingy or overbearing. Any social interaction is welcome in a time where we all need each other. I’ve had some meaningful conversations, but not every conversation has to be deep. In fact, sometimes the most simple conversations are the ones we need to re-energize ourselves and care about the arts, science, politics and everything else more deeply. Being with other people can make us who we are again and prime our creative engines.
COVID-19 poses a unique challenge to each of us in making new beginnings. Still, when we have little to draw upon from the white walls in our rooms, we have to resort to creative solutions. It means finding ways to talk to our family and friends, stretching ourselves and finding the desire to do things. The onus is on us to use our creativity to grow.
EDWARD SEOL is a first year in Berkeley College. His column runs on alternate Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .