During undergraduate, I would stick around campus during the summer months. I’d take summer courses, work my part-time programming jobs, and ride my bike in the Illinois cornfields. Sometimes my friends would still be around, sometimes they’d be back home. In my free time, I’d watch movies I had pirated from the internet, play video games, read books. Once I performed one of those “only in college” life experiments where I spent a month time-shifted to sleep during the day and work during the nights.

In memory, those months stand as a quiet interlude without responsibilities; frankly, kind of boring. They end up as a tranquil place in my mind. A pause between the “real life” of the spring and fall.

Now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself back in one of my undergraduate summers. My life feels typical; wake up, exercise, spend the day on work, read books and watch TV in the evenings. A lot of cooking. Go to sleep, wake up, do it all again.

There’s a happiness in it. I’ve finally had time not just to read but to get my brain to that peaceful state where it can read - where you shut out everything else in your world and just focus in on the world in the page in front of you. Without a commute I have more energy and my intermittent sleeping issues have been cured. I’ve been working through an Electrodynamics textbook, have read a bunch of history books, started (and finished) a few video games. I’ve even lost weight.

This won’t be how life always is. I’m looking forward to the days when I can leave the house and travel again, especially to see friends and family across the country. When that’s possible, I hope to slot this stupid year away in my memory as a happy pause; time spent exploring a usually inaccessible inner world away from the usual hustle and bustle of everyday life.