On any given day last summer, between the hours of 3 and 5 PM, you could find me sitting in the window seat of one of my favourite cafés in my hometown. In the two short hours I got to rest in between shifts at my barista and bartending jobs, I’d sit down with a cup of coffee and my journal, watching strangers bustle through the streets of downtown Picton enjoying their summer vacations. The image of the happy passersby was a stark contrast to the way I felt each day: tired, overwhelmed, and uninspired by my tedious routine. When my second shift of the day eventually finished long after dark, I would finally be able to walk home to my sparsely furnished bedroom and collapse onto my bed exhausted. Before falling asleep, I’d count down one more day until I was able to stop working two jobs, return to Kingston, and resume my life as a university student. 

I started working two jobs each summer when I was fifteen years old. Every year,  I anticipated my return to Kingston, cherishing the opportunity to be back in classes. Upon my yearly arrival to Kingston, I spent hours perfecting the way my room was decorated to ensure my space was something I was proud to call my home. For my first time seeing friends and my first few days of classes, I set aside the time to carefully pick out an outfit I had been saving in the back of my closet for a special occasion and would reach into the bottom of my makeup bag for my favourite Glossier Cloud Paints I had neglected throughout my busy summer. By finally being away from work and thrust back into my life in Kingston, I was reinvigorated by once again having agency over myself and my schedule. No longer bombarded with countless hours of standing on my feet and tending to customers’ needs, I had the time to reinvest in my own self-care, social life, and enjoy the little things in my life that made me feel special.

It is inevitable that my enthusiasm for returning to my Kingston life eventually starts to waver as readings and assignments pile up and celebratory occasions become less frequent. As the school year progresses, I regress to a simple rotation of a few sweatshirts and pairs of leggings that become my designated uniform before I make my way to a lecture or run to the grocery store. The seemingly endless days I spent running back and forth between Watson Hall and Douglas Library were not days I felt necessary to treat as anything extraordinary. The pretty tops I once longed to wear would start to gather dust as I ignored them for days or weeks on end, only to resurface once again when I would finally be able to enjoy an occasional brunch with my housemates.                                                                                                        

With the onset of the lockdowns and social distancing protocols set in place by the COVID-19 pandemic, the monotony of my daily life has increased more than it had been during even the darkest of my midterm blues. Since the beginning of May, my days are spent back and forth between my predictable retail job and my empty apartment. With several of my friends living back in their hometowns, my in-person social interactions have been largely limited to brief, impersonal interactions with Starbucks baristas and grocery store employees. Any plans or possibilities to travel are non-existent. My routine largely revolves around two major things: work and trying to figure out how to spend my free time by myself.

Despite having a less active routine than I had originally anticipated for my first summer in Kingston, I have been able to maintain a number of practices that have allowed me to enjoy my summer for what it is. Though I am almost entirely moving back and forth between work and home, I have found that by gravitating towards small luxuries, I’m able to feel like I’m able to treat myself. Instead of eating a meal holed up in my room, finding a place to sit outside makes me feel like I’m making an occasion of an otherwise normal dinner. Taking the time to do my makeup in the morning allows me time to spend alone in the quiet of my bathroom to get ready for the day while wearing the cute clothes that would otherwise be reserved for drinks with friends allows me to feel my best for the day ahead. 

Throughout our lives, we are destined to spend a significant amount of time alone with ourselves and to similarly experience periods where our daily habits are restricted to a few small activities. During the quarantined summer of 2020, it might seem fruitless to put in the effort to the minor details of one’s routine. However, in a period of time where we feel powerless in controlling how we spend our leisure time, by gravitating towards smaller things in our lives that brighten our days we are able to gratify ourselves. Instead of waiting for the “next good day” to treat ourselves, by taking the action to make lulls in our lives more enjoyable, we’re able to make the most out of them.

HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: Vincent Mahé – https://www.behance.net/vincentmahe

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