Pandemic productivity or panicked production? Why it’s okay if you didn’t start a small business in quarantine

Graphic by Kash Patel

We all have those people on our social media feeds. You know, the annoyingly organized and well-adjusted people who go for morning runs, have a perfect GPA and eat three meals a day, all of which contain vegetables. Even in a global pandemic, they fill the uncertain and empty days with new ventures, continuing to be beacons of positivity who we simultaneously hate, yet aspire to be. 

I personally follow a variety of multi-talented superstars who, among other things, started businesses, held webinars and Zoom advocacy conferences, or started their YouTube channels about something they were passionate about. 

I was impressed, but some part of me was supremely jealous of these people’s seemingly endless reserves of energy. While I struggled to get out of bed before 2 p.m., they were off creating their own destiny and living life to the fullest. 

Like many others of my generation, I suffer from the crippling weight of never feeling good enough for anything. I blame social media. I’m sure I would be perfectly satisfied with myself if I wasn’t bombarded by a million other people turning my same dreary situations into gleaming opportunities.

Nevertheless, the quarantine really made me stop to think about the absurdity of the situation: the world was literally falling apart, and I was worried about not being “productive”, whatever that meant. 

For context, when the pandemic broke out, I had been taking five classes, working two jobs and applying for co-op positions, and I was utterly exhausted. The last time I had just been able to relax was Christmas break, so the announcement that school was closed for the rest of the semester made me feel like Atlas after some poor sap agreed to hold the sky for him. 

My professors had mostly completed the syllabus, so all I had to do was finish the last few assignments and take-home exams, which left me with one whole week of freedom before my co-op work term started. Even though school was out, I still could not catch a break.

This experience made me realize how on-the-go I was, and, by extension, how obsessed society is with productivity. College students, already overloaded with assignments and daily stresses about life, are still falling over themselves to “make use of this free time” and “add to our resumes,” even during a global crisis. 

Let’s be clear, in no way is this an attack on anyone so inclined-I admire you! I wish the pressure to be productive and efficient was not so soul-crushing. Why are we never allowed to just be still? Why does a capitalist society want to monopolise our free time?

To anyone in a similar position as me, I want you to know that it’s okay if you did not start a business, or a blog or a YouTube channel in quarantine. 

If you made it this far and are still in school, you have achieved more than many. If you got out of bed and ate a proper meal today, you’re doing great. If all you learned from quarantine was how to appreciate your loved ones and focus on self-care, then that is wonderful. 

We should all take our newfound free time and get to know ourselves, learn how to be kind to ourselves and allow ourselves the power of saying, “No, I am not in a frame of mind to do this.”

The whole year feels like a tragedy for many, but I firmly believe that this happened for a reason. We’ve been forced to stop, and reconsider how we were doing things and how ineffective our old ways were. 

I hope that we can come out of this year more in touch with ourselves, with better mental health and more appreciation for our many blessings. Stop worrying about how productive you are and take pride in becoming more in tune with your mental and spiritual self. With these in place, success will surely follow.

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