The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Lessons Learned: Enjoy the Little Things

another flower

I sat down on my couch last weekend, carefully scrolling through the movie selections available on my PlayStation. I skimmed through Netflix and Amazon Prime, not seeing anything that really catches my eye, heading to Hulu next to further my selection process. After all, since we’re stuck at home indefinitely, I have all the time in the world to make the right choice.

Eventually, my eyes are caught by one movie—Zombieland. What better way to enjoy a pandemic, I tell myself, than by watching a movie about a disease ridden, turned-zombie apocalyptic world? I fire it up, sit back and relax, and get ready to enjoy the show.

I won’t go too into the movie—after all, this is just a blog, not a movie review—but over the course of the film, the protagonist Columbus outlines thirty-one rules he’s established in order to survive the apocalypse. That is, until part-way through the film he meets another character, Tallahassee, a hardened man with an obsession for Twinkies and fighting the undead. Through the bonding of the characters, and after de-stressing by trashing an abandoned gift shop, Tallahassee influences Columbus to develop a new rule, Rule 32: Enjoy the Little Things.

**

Obviously, we're lucky enough to not have to deal with an actual zombie apocalypse, but the sentiment of the statement stays the same to me. It’s no secret that we are stuck in an unprecedented, uncertain time. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we don’t really know what the world or the country is going to look like in a month, two weeks, let alone two days. Most, if not all of us, are indefinitely stuck at home abiding the “stay-at-home” social distancing precautions outlined by the government in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. A lot of the world has been forced to a halt—jobs, livelihoods, and social gatherings included—but that shouldn’t take the enjoyment out of everything that we do.

In the past few weeks, I found joy in just doing menial things. Whether it be playing Animal Crossing or binging some TV shows that I usually wouldn’t have the time to watch, or even occasionally leaving my house to grab an iced coffee from the drive-thru (God bless those essential Dunkin’ employees), or picking up takeout and having my favorite waiter bring my food to the car.  I’ve enjoyed going for runs and waving to all my neighbors who are dealing with the same stuff as me, attempting to learn to play something on the piano even though I have no idea how—these are all activities that usually don’t mean much, but nowadays it's the little things that count. And this is all coming from the guy who is supposed to be eating pasta and drinking wine in Italy right now.

I know these activities that I’m doing, or whatever else I could be doing, don’t really make up for the lost semester. But at a time where there’s not much to be excited about, it’s important and helpful to get excited about the little things. While it's hard, instead of loathing about what we could be doing, it’s important to enjoy whatever we are doing. It’s definitely a struggle to keep that mindset—it’s something I know I struggled with when I first got home—but there’s not much else we can do but enjoy what we can.

Last week I was having kind of a tough day, going stir crazy in my house, until I eventually went for an evening walk to relieve some stress. While the weather outside was kind of gross for most of the day—stormy, windy and damp—I was struck by surprise with the sight of a beautiful pink and gold sunset, mirroring a rainbow in the other direction. Though my day to that point was uneventful, discouraging, and dreary, this sight gave me a bit of hope that eventually this entire phase of our lives is going to end and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Maybe this seems a bit cliché. But it really is the little things that’ll help keep us sane during these uncertain times while we hope for a better tomorrow. Eventually, we’ll return to life like normal, be able to leave our houses, and naturally fall back into our daily routines. But for now, take solace in enjoying the little things.