When I read stories about people who utilized the last couple months to finally learn a new language, or get into strength training, I feel kind of ashamed with myself. I thought about all the tasks I set out to do, the board games I intended to play, the water I told myself I would drink. Instead of walking out of quarantine (although if we’re being honest here, I plan on staying indoors as much as humanly possible until actual experts with science backgrounds tell us it’s safe to be strolling about town) a whole new person, I’m…mostly the same.
But that’s not to say I didn’t learn new things or take advantage of this time to grow as an adult. Here are some of the things I learned during quarantine that I’m proud of (even if it’s just a realization that I can’t do something). You live and you learn, right?
1. How to use my Instant Pot.
I bought my parents the Instant Pot for Hanukkah like two years ago and they recently admitted to me that they never took it out of the box, nor will they ever use it. So, I was like, okay! Give it to me then, and regifted my own gift to myself. I could have regifted it to somebody else, but by this point, everyone who wants the Instant Pot has one, and I figured maybe I could use it to learn quick new recipes that would come in handy whenever (or if ever) I go back into a nine-to-five office job.
What I got out of it? Well, I don’t love the Instant Pot as much as the internet does, and I don’t see myself making yogurt. But! I finally got the hang of it after a few frustrating attempts and also being scared it was going to blow up and kill me (it did not).
2. How to make Butter Chicken.
Once I learned how to use the Instant Pot, I made Urvashi Pitre’s Butter Chicken, and it changed my life. It’s actually not a difficult recipe at ALL, but it did teach me that I can totally make Indian food at home.
3. It’s harder to get back into drawing than I thought.
I bought myself a sketch pad and pencils, hoping that I’d ease back into drawing. When I was younger, I loved to draw. And in high school, I took AP art and learned more techniques and styles. But after I graduated, I abandoned the hobby completely, up until a couple of months ago when I decided I would “self-soothe” by sketching my favorite Mickey Mouse coffee mug. Except, I couldn’t do it. I tried for hours and I couldn’t master shading or making sure each side of the mug wasn’t lopsided. I guess with some things, you really can’t just pick it back up where you left it. Has this inspired me to take art classes? Not really, but this discovery has made me go a lot easier on myself when I do bust out the pad and pencils.
4. Pretty much every single street in my neighborhood.
Even though we moved to our little neighborhood in Los Angeles (it borders the San Gabriel Valley) almost a year ago, I hadn’t really learned the streets, and if I had to go anywhere new, I just plugged the address into my phone. Since I had more free time, my puppy was getting older and needed more exercise, and I had no gym to go to for my own workout purposes, I purposely got us “lost” (I had my phone in my fanny-pack with her treats, all was good) so that we could explore all the different streets and areas in my neighborhood.
5. I re-learned how to be interviewed.
In the beginning of quarantine, I got laid off and immediately started applying for jobs. With applications (hopefully) come interviews, and I’ve had a few. The first was pretty rocky, but after re-learning how to sell my skills and package my prior experiences, I feel way less shaky about the whole process.
6. You can get shelf-stable milk from Costco.
You can probably get shelf-stable milk from your regular grocery store, too, but Costco’s huge pack of Horizon milk cartons made dairy shopping so much easier. Since I don’t use dairy very often (I’m allergic to it) except for occasionally in recipes or Kraft mac ‘n cheese, I’d end up throwing out liters of milk, which is really wasteful. With these little one-serving cartons, you can put a few in the fridge and keep the rest in your pantry/shelf (that way, you also save space!), and they last for months.
7. Apparently, even though I’m truly an introvert, if you take away my options, I start to miss being around other people.
When I saw my family for the first time in months the other weekend, I nearly cried.
8. That me and my husband’s relationship survived even though we’ve been in the same 1,200 square-foot house, 24/7, for the last month.
My husband and I have never been around each other during the day unless we have time off, or it’s the weekend (and neither of us is working). Since he broke his hand and had to go on a month-long medical leave of absence, we’ve been sharing our home all day long for the first time ever. Aside from a few spats, we haven’t talked about divorce yet. Love in the time of quarantine? Not so bad.
9. Kindles are really cool.
I was always Team Book. Always. I still prefer real books, but since the libraries closed down, it’s made staying on top of my reading list a lot more difficult, especially since I love reading brand new books (and those are really expensive to purchase online). So I caved and bought a Kindle. I’ve been reading digital copies (for free!) from the local library, so I feel like the investment was totally worth it.
10. The value of tracking all your purchases every week/month.
Tracking all your purchases is hard at first (and you might feel ashamed of your spending habits like I was), but the rude awakening and time spent color-coding and organizing pays off (literally) because you become so much more aware of your attitude about money.
11. How to run (a very tiny, tiny, fledgling) consulting business.
I formed an LLC in January after I learned about the California AB5 law that would make it harder for freelancers to conduct business without either forming a business of their own or getting hired full-time. A few people connected me with business owners who needed help on the content side of things, so I started consulting and doing the writing myself. Now, I’m strategizing, writing, and I’m paying other writers to help out with the workload. I’m learning about eventually implementing a payroll system (to myself and potentially other employees), keeping track of incoming and outgoing invoices, and more. Another aspect I’m learning? Time management. Still haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m getting there.
Gina Vaynshteyn is an editor and writer who lives in LA. You can find more of her words on Refinery29, Apartment Therapy, HelloGiggles, Distractify, and others. If you wanna, you can follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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