Journaling Through COVID

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Journaling Through COVID

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It was probably late March this year when I realized the pandemic was much bigger than anyone could have predicted. On the 16th, when my school district and the whole of the country went into emergency lockdown for three weeks, it just felt surreal, as if there was no way any of this was actually happening. Still as cases started rising day by day, I’d watch the graph as it went up and down, counting the COVID cases as they happened. I’d track the global progress in dealing with the pandemic, taking in every new piece of information about it, my mind buzzing and eventually pounding with everything happening around me. To say the least, it wasn’t long before I quickly became overwhelmed with the weight of everything around me, beginning April. It was around that time when I found my journal, a small navy colored book, probably costing about a dollar, yet worth so much more.
Before the pandemic began, I rarely used a journal or any physical book to organize my thoughts; I’d just sometimes use the notes app on my phone. But, as the pandemic snowballed into what it is now, and I felt my relationship with the world around me changing, I quickly realized I needed an outlet specifically designed to help me process my thoughts. A new news story in this crazy year would pop up. I wrote something down. I graduated high school in a cramped car packed with my family in a traffic line of people I couldn’t really recognize, instead of a crowded stadium with everyone I’ve known since I was eleven. I wrote something down. I celebrated my 18th birthday in a socially-distanced way, instead of going out with my friends. I wrote something down. Starting college, two states away from my school, beginning what’s supposed to be one of the best experiences, alone. I wrote something down. And, yet, feeling guilty, writing all of this, knowing and understanding that I am still incredibly fortunate and lucky to be surrounded by those who love me, and I them. I write something down. Whether I realized it or not at the time, journaling really became a therapy to calm my already anxious mind from overthinking, as it slowed me down enough to process the surrounding changes.
My journal was one of the few things, one of the few spaces in this new lifestyle, that I felt I had complete control over. No matter what was going on outside, and as much as I’m trying to learn more about everything that comes up this year, taking it in while still also taking care of my mental health, I suddenly found this space where I could just think, say, and write what I feel. More than just a place to process my thoughts, which is what I usually take from writing, my journal just became an extension of myself, a comfort that I didn’t know I needed, as I was able to take things one step at a time. In a world of judgement and chaos, I could return to a place where there was order, and I could say what I wanted, how I really felt about so many things changing at once, all out of my grasp. I’m safe there. And, when I wasn’t writing what I was feeling or thinking at that moment, but still needed an escape, I'd use this journal, alongside my sketchbook, adding in aimless doodles or spending time actually sketching. In the same way one reads books to learn a new truth or escape reality, I did so too for just long enough to gain control of my feelings before diving back into a world too big to understand. It was, and still is, the middle ground connecting my quarantine space with the world around me.
But, perhaps one of the biggest advantages of documenting this journey is that now I have this time capsule of what I was feeling, what I’m still feeling about this entire crisis and how I’ve been dealing with it. It’s a piece of me that will always reflect my own perspective amongst everyone else’s voices and stories throughout all of this chaos, and I get to hold onto it forever. So going forwards, journaling is something that I hope I can always return to, especially in times of stress or anxiety, for the value and journey of reflecting on self-identity is one that will always remain priceless.

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This is my journal!

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This item was submitted on December 18, 2020 by Pari Mungalpara using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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