Story by Amber Chen
Illustration by Alicia Zhang
This article is part of Tiger‘s March center spread. Read the rest of the spread here.
I went into quarantine with a very specific idea of what I wanted to accomplish, how I was going to accomplish it, and the person I’d be afterwards. I envisioned a 6:45 a.m. wake up. Then a cappuccino with a small spoonful of sugar. Straight to the piano by 7:45 a.m. Theory and warm-up until 9 a.m. Then, classical repertoire until 12 p.m. Then jazz studies until 4 p.m. Then the mad Tiger grind!
I was incredibly drawn to this routine and obsessed with the outcome it was sure to create. At that time, I had no solid group of friends that could distract me from my goals. But to my surprise, this routine did not happen at all. Instead, what happened was this condensed, cliche, teen-movie coming-of-age ordeal.
Less than a month into quarantine, I found myself deepening my relationships with some really nice people, people I had looked up to for such a long time. I found myself veering away from the highly structured routine I had initially set myself up to do.
Admittedly, it wasn’t easy to lean into improvisation, especially with the mindset that I had to be highly productive that dominated early quarantine. When my routine began to unravel at first, I found myself in a state of deep personal dissatisfaction. I’d go through phases of ignoring people for long stretches of time and trying to force myself back into the regimen, before resigning and impulsively lunging headfirst into the speed of the changes.
But as time went on, I discovered that I valued the novelty of new experiences more than the attainment of high achievements, and my initial personal dissatisfaction began to dissolve. A lot of it came down to putting my life into perspective as well; I fully embraced the “you only live once” mentality.
It was going along with the spontaneity of my new friends that gave me this coming-of-age experience. I got comfortable in my body, learned how to do a mad winged liner, snuck out of the house, and indulged in other unmentionables.
I can sense that others would find this era of teenage adventures nothing out of the ordinary. But for me — as someone who, previous to quarantine, struggled to form basic friendships — it was totally unforeseen. It was liberating. It was so fun.