Finding myself during 400 days of quarantine

Tomoko Hida

Since last May, I’ve been attending HM remotely from Japan. To put this into perspective: I have two friends in Japan, and my most frequented destinations are my grandparents’ house and the grocery store five minutes away. In the past year, I continued my struggle with mental health and weight gain, and I had moments where I felt worse about myself than I ever had before. I realize now that I’ve been able to heal completely from those downhill moments because of my year in isolation. I believe that everyone can benefit from a year during which no one outside of their family sees them, particularly because it gives you the time and energy to heal from whatever you may be going through. 

This past year in isolation, I was rarely distracted from my mental health as I spent so much time with myself. I was hyper-aware of when I felt anxious, stressed, or sad, and had ample time to exercise what my therapist had advised me to do in those situations. While I often spent time out with friends in New York during sophomore year, junior year proved to be a less forgiving year, leaving me to spend the few minutes of free time I had a day with my parents at home. But because both my parents primarily work in Tokyo and I’m unable to see them while in New York, even those short spans of time with them were precious moments of healing. 

Living in isolation also shifted my perspective on commitments I had been dedicating my free time to in New York. Violin lessons took around an hour and a half every weekend and an additional four to five hours of practice during the week. Before quarantine, there is no doubt that practicing violin was a point of stress in my life. But once I stopped playing the violin for a few months, I ended up gravitating towards it when I was feeling particularly sad. Though it is cliché, it’s true: music allows you to express how you feel when you can’t quite find the words to do so. I remember feeling overwhelmed by my sadness when I would unbuckle the clasps on my violin case, my movements slow and heavy. Once I played an excerpt of Howl’s Moving Castle’s Merry-Go-Round Theme, however, I remember feeling physically lighter. Isolation was important because I would not have otherwise been able to let go of my routine lessons and repertoire that prevented me from having a positive relationship with violin playing, something that I had once thoroughly loved. 

My confidence, passions, and ambitions changed drastically over my year in isolation. Partially because I was crafting the ideal version of myself on my Instagram feed but partially because I was really living out that same life I was curating in pictures; I was happier than I had ever been for a while. Of course, this changed with weight gain and some waves of sadness but the overall self-love I swore by stayed with me. Because I was in isolation, I never worried if people would judge me or my outfits. I felt like I was an influencer, posting whenever and whatever I wanted at some point, not caring about what people may think because I simply could not see them. It felt to me that the only people who existed in my life then were my closest friends, my family, and my teachers who I saw on Zoom. 

Meetings with teachers were the highlight of remote learning. If anything, I’d say those were the only sense of normality during all of remote HM. During meetings, I received meaningful guidance on projects or papers I was working on in and outside of school, and I was able to have thorough conversations about topics I’m most passionate about. Rants about finding myself and relating myself to feminists and films were all too common. Academic confidence was indeed an achievement of my junior year. I spent the free time I had made over the weekends honing in on what exactly I was passionate about, and pursued research paper topics and internships that invoked a profound interest within me. Within the confines of the internet, and with my newfound confidence, I worked my magic to reach out to a woman who had an inspiring career in developing accessible and comprehensive Sexual Assault Kits. 

Ultimately, a year in isolation led me to better my mental health and pursue my passions that I would never have expected. In the end, I found myself. Of course, I expect to find myself again and again as I live my life but I can confidently say that who I am now is the version of myself that I am most happy to be at this moment.