The TikTok trend of people showing what they looked like before the COVID-19 pandemic versus what they look like now lives rent-free on my For You page. It’s a daily reality check that reminds me that we’ve been enduring this thing for nearly two years.

It is also a reminder that, until two weeks ago, it had been almost a year since my first infection with COVID-19 in April 2021. I say first because I unfortunately caught it again, despite everything I was supposed to do like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask in public and keeping my inner circle.

Despite the stress and symptoms caused by the infection, I used the enforced downtime to my advantage.

To better understand my rather positive and thoughtful reaction to my latest feud with COVID-19, I’ll provide some context. I had a bad headache on February 1st, but I didn’t think about it because I was working at 8 am, I had classes until 6 pm and I was extremely dehydrated.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning, I woke up with a sore throat and stuffy nose. I didn’t go to my class in person for fear that these symptoms were more than exhaustion. Then the blizzard hit. I didn’t leave my dorm until Saturday, when on-campus testing reopened.

Five hours later, I received the email telling me that I had tested positive for COVID-19.

This whole explanation is to say that my time away from the public felt, on the one hand, lonely and confusing but, on the other hand, almost necessary. It seems strange to say that. I don’t want it to sound like I’m glad I caught the virus. I know that my privilege and my resources have given me an advantage in coping with the mild illness I have experienced, and I wholeheartedly acknowledge this.

But, thanks to this privilege, I was able to rest. I was able to literally exist, lying in bed, sometimes mindlessly watching Netflix or listening to music. Of course, I also took all the courses offered on Zoom.

While spending almost 10 days like this probably seems unproductive or pointless to some, I would argue that it was necessary reflection time for me. I realized how tired I was. I realized how far I had been back and forth without guessing anything.

I definitely could have been more focused on my school work during my quarantine and could have tried to move on. But what’s the fun in that? And, more importantly, isn’t advancing even a thing?

We can catch up and do the things on tomorrow’s to-do list. Shoot, we might even have a few days in advance. But the reality is, no matter what, life will always catch up with us. That might be a little cynical, but that’s what my time with the virus has really taught me.

This pandemic sucks. There is no doubt about it, but we have to take at least one positive element out of it if we can. Otherwise, we would be completely miserable. I know that searching for light amid the fog of COVID-19 seems almost impossible. But I promise it’s there. Rewatch the superb halftime show. Bake cookies. Open the curtains to let in some sunlight.

The pandemic has taken a lot from us, but we can’t let it take our minds.

Elizabeth Valadez (her) is a freshman majoring in English and Political Science. She is a member of Chi Alpha.