May 6, 2020

YAO | From Quarantine to Quaran-ten

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Extenuating circumstances have caused self-improvement summer to start early this year, and who am I to fight fate? I have decided that this year is the one where I will make a change. Where I align my inner energy sources. Where I do the soul searching that recipe blogs always talk about before actually listing the recipe. (Seriously, why do they always do that? I came for the banana bread, not the three-page life story.) I thought I would take you along with the simple steps I’m taking to ameliorate myself, starting with exercise.

From the extensive research I have compiled on the subject through peer-reviewed sources like wikiHow and Yahoo Answers, I have recently developed a tried-and-true exercise routine for optimal concentration. Somewhere between day one and day 20 of quarantine, I got it in my head that exercise is a great way to get my blood flowing again before I fuse to my chair. I blame this ridiculous notion on the delirium that comes from staring at a screen for hours on end. Typically, my ridiculous notions fade before any real damage can be done, but this one stuck with me. So, here we are.

I wasn’t going to share my routine, but as I feel like others can benefit from what I’ve learned, I decided to post it here:

  1. I get up –– this is often the hardest part.
  2. I stretch a little; can’t get injured!
  3. I run downstairs … to the pantry.
  4. And then I eat my weight in chocolate.

I’m kidding. This wasn’t my actual routine. Running inside is uncouth. I typically walk downstairs. Or, I’ll get a rug and slide down like a slug. This new habit has been working wonders for me so far,  and it’s something I definitely want to continue. You know what they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Balance is important to me, which is why I also wanted to take up a calming activity. Over spring break, I decided to perfect the art of wall-watching. It took a full week of diligence, but I finally cracked six straight hours of staring into the abyss of off-white paint before I succumbed to hallucinations. This was a struggle, not solely because of the mental fortitude required, but because of the backlash I received from my extensive fanbase. Sure, when Angelina Jolie does essentially the same thing it’s called “meditation,” and “good for the soul,” but when I do it I’m “procrastinating” and “withering away my life.” But it’s fine. I’m here to fight the double standard so you don’t have to.

I was satisfied with the six hours then, and I’m honestly ashamed of my hubris. Why did I stop at six hours when I could have tried for 12 or even 25 hours per day? If capitalism has taught me anything, it’s that more is better, and my new goal is to adhere to that adage. If I put in 175 hours per week of good, solid, wall-watching from now until August, I’ll be bricking it. Over-wall-ified, if you will.

My last objective will take the least amount of work to accomplish. It involves the brain — the brain cells, to be exact. Specifically, how to get more of them. I spoke to my good friend, who is what you would call a nerd, and he gave me some tips. He accredits his academic success to showing up on time to the right classroom on the right day and then getting every question on every exam correct. According to him, this is a foolproof way to increase both your brain cells and your GPA. Finals season is looming, so I’ll be sure to try out some of his methods. Unlike last semester, where I slept through every exam, it is virtually impossible for me to screw up that part of the process now. Then all I have to do is ace the actual tests. Easy.

In all seriousness, this was my final freshman-year column — aren’t you glad I didn’t waste these 800-ish words writing something completely arbitrary? Don’t answer that. Yes, I could have written a welcome letter to the class of 2024 — a letter so momentous that the students will say I was their sole inspiration during quarantine. I could have written a scathing take about the pitfalls of online schooling. I could have made you cry with a list of nostalgic memories from my whopping seven months in Ithaca. I could have made a poignant point with my article, but I hope I made you smile a little instead.


Katherine Yao is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Her column, Hello Katie, runs every other Wednesday this semester.