In February 2020 (and wow, doesn’t that seem like a lifetime ago?), I lost my job in retail public relations (Covid-19 was already ravishing retail overseas), my grandfather was passing away, and I was packing to go overseas on a one-way ticket.
I had a bit of extra money saved, and I was ready to get profoundly lost. I wanted to walk around cities aimlessly, like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love
, and jump on city busses and be unable to understand where to get off.
Mostly, I was feeling inwardly lost, sad, insecure, and unsure of my future. And, as some of you may relate, I was bent on trying to escape my current reality for a different one because that always works (cue sarcasm).
With a backpack full of clothes, I waved goodbye to my partner in Colorado (who naturally was very confused as to why I would leave when a pandemic was looming) and boarded a flight to Seville, Spain, where I lived in my early 20s.
Alas, I thought, I’d relive my early 20s for a few days. I’d walk down the same paths I used to walk with her, the first woman I’d ever fall in love with at 23 years old.
I was convinced I’d finally break the nagging feeling that my recovery had stalled. And that the gym was taking up a lot more of my time than I cared to admit to my blog readers and social media followers. And definitely not to my partner, who was consistently eyeing my exercising.
I’d escaped. And though escaping never lasts, maybe it’d last for enough time to get my head straight, I thought, as my head leaned back on the airline seat.
As you may have guessed, it didn’t.
Needless to say, I had six days in Europe before the Covid-19 travel ban was announced. In fact, in a scene of pure comedy, I awoke at 3:00 a.m. in Marrakech to frantic texts from my partner and family and bounded out of bed, throwing clothes into my bag and darting to an already crowded airport for what would be 48 hours of hellish, expensive travel.
I came home to quarantine broke. Still lost. Unemployed. And 100% jetlagged.
In the beginning, quarantine felt like a bad dream that just kept on. I woke up and scrolled social and news. I went to bed scrolling social and news. I filed for unemployment and it was a nightmare. I went on walks with my partner and we talked of nothing else but the state of the world.
At night, my partner and roommates would sit around playing Bananagrams. We were quiet, contemplative, and mostly anxious. We talked about Covid-19 until there was nothing left to say except knowing eye glances and head nods.
With the gyms shut down, and everything around us on hold, I had no job. No real hobbies. And I felt that same painful question I experienced in the beginning of recovery: What did I like to do if it wasn’t working out or being in an eating disorder?
I had no idea what to do with all this time I’d been handed.
Every morning for the first couple weeks, I’d wake up and sit in bed and stare out the window (when I wasn’t scrolling my phone), and I'd ask myself, “Well, what to do today?”
After a week or so, I was wallowing. I had no exercise and was feeling the anxiety of that, though I tried to ignore it. I was bored and feeling privileged to be bored, and felt bad about that. I walked around the house sighing, loudly, and my partner would ask if I wanted to go outside...or go on a walk. I felt like a dog following its owner.
I was not enjoying the person I was actively being, and if there’s one thing that recovery has taught me, it’s that I really only have the power to change that.
So one morning, a very unmemorable one, I got up, brushed my teeth, and I decided that it had to change. I couldn’t do this for months.
I walked into the kitchen where my partner was pouring our coffee, and I asked what he’d done with that nut milk bag he’d received as a gift a few months prior.
He smiled and pointed to the cabinet. “You wanna learn how?”
I nodded. “But don’t get your hopes up,” I warned.
We went to Costco and bought a large bag of walnuts and almonds. That afternoon, I learned how to soak them.
The next morning, I pulled up recipes, dusted off the old blender, and taught myself how to blend and squeeze walnut milk into a mason jar.
I’ve been doing it ever since. And not only have I made liters of nut milk, but it kick started something for me. Nut milk, of all things, reminded me that I am capable of doing new things and picking up new hobbies.
It showed me that there’s a lot out there that I may not know how to do...but can learn.
I started practicing yoga. I read a book about it. Then I read some books for fun. And read books from when I was an English major in college. I created a garden from seed. In one of my most proud moments, I started recovery groups four times a week from my Instagram platform and connected with followers.
I played piano again and ordered new sheet music. I began to think more about what I enjoy doing and less about that work out I was missing.
Quarantine shifted something inside me these past four months. And while hobbies might feel a little frivolous and easy to neglect—especially in times of crisis—I’ve found that trying out new activities and delving into passions has been a crucial way to strengthen my recovery and reconnect with my identity outside of my eating disorder.
Hobbies inherently require learning new skills, therefore they’re a valuable way to build self-confidence and self-esteem as we navigate who we really want to be in this world.
I don’t know what will happen over the next year. Or where my career will go. But I do know that I have a confidence that I haven’t had before all of this. I have broken the chain of exercise that still held me trapped, and I’m free to create whatever it is I want to create from this point forward.
And I know it won’t stop.
As we move through this strange year, what activities and hobbies have you started while in quarantine?
I wish for all of you this little gift, to try something new and allow it to lead you.
Lindsey Hall is an eating disorder recovery speaker and writer. Learn more about her journey toward recovery here