A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Gratitude within the pandemic

Courtesy Oliviah Shine
Alexis Trinei, who loves being at home during the pandemic, and her cat Lucy.

A self-proclaimed introvert, SRJC student Alexis Trinei loves being at home. “I have the privilege to bake sweet potato brownies at any given hour of the day,” she said. “I get to be with my 15-year-old grump of a cat, Lucy, who continues to be my best friend, despite our continuous, uninterrupted time together. “I allow myself to sit with my thoughts and ambitions, with minimal distractions. I get to be quiet and slow in a world that is loud and fast moving.”

Simple joys — going to the beach, chatting with friends in a crowded restaurant, taking an exercise class, getting dressed and ready for the big day ahead, or just hugging a loved one — seem like distant memories now, making people wonder how many of these little joys they took for granted before the coronavirus pandemic.

But as students enter the third month of a countywide shelter-in-place lockdown that can induce anxiety, uncertainty and fear about the future, they may also find feelings of gratitude in their simpler, quarantined lives at home.

Paisley Logan, an Occidental College sophomore, feels grateful for her family. “We are getting along really well and being able to spend time with them has kept me from losing it completely. Being in a home that I feel safe in makes me so thankful at this time,” she said.

Unfortunately, having a loving household is not the case for everyone, but not taking it for granted can bring relationships closer in this lockdown.

SRJC student Katie Jorczak said, “I’m appreciating little social interactions more such as waving and smiling at people, a lot of them strangers. It’s a small act that brings the community closer, acknowledging that we are all in it.”

SRJC student Katie Jorczak is more appreciative of little social interactions such as waving and smiling at people; she sees them as an acknowledgement we’re all in it together. (Courtesy Oliviah Shine)

Others appreciated having some time away from other people, time to reflect.

“All of the hustle and seeing people all the time was creating a space that made me feel that I always needed to be doing something, so when I got this time alone, at first I felt guilty but then found ways to just be and adjust,” said Chelsea Shapouri, a Sebastopol-based chef and herbalist.

Shanan Manuel, a professional chef from Nevada City, said, “I am grateful for silence! Not having to perform so much or do for others. I am finding my own pace and more motivation than normal without all the ‘have to’s.’”

The lack of daily pressure from outside sources was an answer several people repeated, and it shows that hard-workers sometimes need a break from the busyness of life.

“Since the quarantine began, I’ve found appreciation in the opportunity to self-reflect and develop things I’ve been neglecting,” said SRJC student Cole Dengler. “This includes a newfound interest in yoga, daily walks and not worrying too much about the future but focusing on the present.”

SRJC student Rowan Abbott has also appreciated the mellow break.

“I’m super grateful for the chance to rest,” she said. “I’ve been going nonstop for like four years so my mind and body were super happy to have time to reset.”

Many people said they have found ease and solitude in retreating back to simpler life. Gardening, cooking and spending time in nature were all hobbies that fostered gratitude.

Jens Jarvie, a Sebastopol resident, said, “I am appreciative for the simplicity of not needing to go places all the time. For living closer to the land, listening to the birds, feeling the days more deeply. I have gratitude for the things I get to face when I don’t have constant distractions.”

Nature was a common theme. Jim Jarvie, a Calaveras County resident who lives deep in the woods said, “After spending the day in Modesto yesterday, I sure do appreciate my mountain home and the peace and tranquility that comes with it.”

The environment has also had a break from so much human activity.

Occidental resident Miles Horobin said, “I appreciate the cleaner air! I feel like whenever I go outside, I usually notice how gross all the exhaust smells are. Lately, the springtime air has been so pristine.”

Miles Horobin, Occidental resident, jumping with joy from the clean air. (Courtesy Oliviah Shine)

The idea of returning to much more primitive living, without modern distractions, has been good for society, according to Jaimey Ryan, a Sebastopol resident.

“People are usually just so busy occupying their life with distractions and to-dos,” she said. “This time has allowed for a massive reset, slowing everyone down in their ways of living, which I have come to appreciate so much. The society we live in is constantly on the go, and no one ever takes time to live in the present, which I think this quarantine is teaching many to do.”

But not everyone has the privilege to slow down and enjoy a simpler life right now. From abusive households, to poor health, unemployment, lost income and deteriorating mental health, many Americans are working harder and struggling more to survive, eat, stay housed and healthy.

“These things are so interconnected,” said Nicole A. Errett, a public health expert who co-directs a center on extreme event resilience at the University of Washington. “Pre-existing social vulnerabilities only get worse following a disaster, and this is such a perfect example of that.”

If you don’t have such worries, well, that’s another thing to feel gratitude about.

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