By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Was the long, fourth of July weekend a blessing or a curse?
Some were bored with nothing to do on Monday, while others who traveled for the first time since COVID-19 didn’t think the three-day weekend was long enough.
Is this a post-pandemic disorder where we find ourselves unable to adapt to the new normal?
Although I had plenty to do over the four-day holiday weekend (our office is closed every Friday), it was hard to adapt to the reopening. Last week, I attended three events within a week. What made it uncomfortable was that only a few people wore masks. The few who were wearing masks including me ended up not wearing it at all.
People, have you forgotten that the delta variant is here and in almost every state? Do you realize that covid is not yet over? If I said so at the event, my friends would respond, “What did you say?” as if they couldn’t hear a thing or I was crazy.
Two events I attended said “vaccinated guests only.” Yet, no one was there to enforce the rule. But how do we know if everyone complies? Is the honor system the best way to do things?
I wrote in my blog to put “hugs on hold.” Pointless! Every friend wanted to hug and I didn’t want to reject them. What I wrote was simply impractical. Forget about elbow bumps?
“I thought we were way over for this (elbow hug)?” a friend said when I extended my elbow. Never mind that my friend had worked in healthcare before.
“Oh, shut up,” I rebutted. We have been isolated for so long, we need to get all the hugs we can get. Everyone in the room was so happy to see a room full of people. There was so much fun, joy, and smiles on our faces as if we were so fed up with covid restrictions with masks and social distancing. True… under that mask, all our emotions seem to be dead.
Quickly, I adapted. If I didn’t want hugs, I had my elbow up before anyone stood close to me. It worked. But I wonder if I am doing the right thing socially. Have I upset anyone? Hug or no hug, I enjoy seeing people, talking and laughing in the spirit of being together. We each had much to catch up on. And so much has changed in our lives—sometimes, it is not easy to know what to ask or share. But do share the most special or important thing that had happened to you during the pandemic. That question reminds us to reflect on what we have accomplished for the past 16 months. If we haven’t done much, it’s OK. Be grateful that you are well now and it’s time to move toward meaningful ventures.
One story that touched me most was a couple who had moved to the San Juan Islands. The move was drastic and tough. But the impact was unexpectedly great. The couple homeschooled their little grandson who has special needs. He adjusts well in a school with only four students, including him. He is now happy and has found his place.
The pandemic has stolen one precious year of our lives. It makes us ponder what and how we should live our lives to the fullest.
Not everyone has the opportunity to do so. Not everyone is creative enough to know how to use their time wisely. And if you are an immigrant with a language barrier, the options may be limited.
Finding a purpose
A friend of mine was restless during the long weekend.
“Monday, the stock market is closed. I need to find something to do. A three-day holiday is too long. What am I going to do?”
The sheltering at home has turned many retirees to the stock market. It has become a career for many, and a pastime for some.
Yes, I know of people who spend their daytime trading stocks. It is exciting and fun for those who have found nothing better to do. It is also a way to make extra money. However, it also destroys and drains someone’s savings fast if they don’t know what they are doing. Even for those who are skilled, they have already paid a fair amount of tuition to learn the trade. Trading stocks is no different from high-stakes gambling. I wouldn’t recommend it as a hobby.
However, seniors who have retired have told me that this is often the thing they do. They can’t think of anything else to do. If they don’t play mahjong, stocks are their thing. The other thing is watching too many Asian soap operas.
How to have an interesting day
Knowing how to entertain yourself is a skill and an asset. It is a life-long education, requiring time, self-awareness, and patience to nurture. An essential skill, it’s rewarding to have. What the pandemic has taught me is self-knowledge.
If you want to have a fun day, you have to plan it especially during covid. The night before, I plan tomorrow’s activities. Yes, I have a to-do list—everything I want to do is put on a schedule. For instance, I wouldn’t write—I walk at 10 a.m. What I put down is, “walk… morning.” I already know which park I choose to roam. If I want to eat seaweed that day, I remind myself on paper, buy seaweed. That means I have to go to the grocery store and pick out what I like to eat. That’s a good activity for me. If I want to talk to a friend, I write, “Call so and so.” Every day, I have a program for myself.
It’s never too late for retirees to search for meaningful hobbies in this day and age, and never too late to rediscover your interests.
If you are young and reading this, please start developing interesting hobbies. If you love to sing, join a choir. Organize a karaoke group. I have seen people sing together on Zoom. The performers said it was amazing to be able to sing together during covid.
If you can organize, organize clubs for books, movies, fishing, hiking, writing, painting, cooking, eating, knitting… There are all kinds of clubs you can start.
Plan for trips. This is the time to do so. Don’t stay cooped up at home. Take the ferry. Go to San Juan Islands to see orcas swimming in the ocean.
Plant a garden. Plant trees in your yard. Offer to plant trees for your friends.
Bake. If you don’t know how to bake, it’s fun to learn.
Learn a language. Don’t laugh at me. I did learn a few Italian phrases last year from YouTube. Now I probably have forgotten them. But if I travel to Italy, I can relearn the language quickly. If you have something to teach, make a YouTube video. You can make new friends or even find sponsors if you get lots of viewers.
If you want to write a book, now is the time. If you can’t find a publisher, you can always self-publish through Amazon.
If you can’t think of anything to do, it’s okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Get out and walk in a park. It’s my favorite thing to do during the pandemic. Seattle is a park city. There are so many great parks and few visitors. We pay taxes so we should make use of our money.
Anything is possible with the reopening, you just have to make up your mind to find your niche. Talk to friends and see what they do during their spare time. It can open your world and get you connected to people you have not seen for a while.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.