Making Quarantine Work For You (Advice from a former awkward pre-teen)

I’m well past the point in life where I should be afforded an opportunity such as these weeks of quarantine are offering. The amazing space to hone or even reinvent myself without the presence of my peers. No extended family members giving unsolicited advice or criticism. No worry about other carpool moms noticing – or worse, gossiping – about changes I’m making. No wondering how to avoid friends’ opinions or their pressure to give in.

The last time I had this gift of time was back in my grade school days. I was kinda chubby back in the 6th grade. And there isn’t anything wrong with that, except that I was very unhappy that way. It didn’t help that I had a fresh home perm two days before picture day and wore a retainer to top it off. I had been in school with the same kids for years. A few of them went back to my preschool days. When you have that kind of history with your peers it can be next to impossible to reinvent yourself. If you can even get past what the “cool kids” might say, it’s just not possible to make much of a change literally overnight – or even over just a few days on Spring Break.

But I got my chance that magical summer between 6th grade elementary school and 7th grade junior high! I knew I’d finally be in with kids who were strangers, new blood, from other elementary schools. And I took full advantage of it.

That summer, I lost 40 pounds through good nutrition and regular exercise. I had that perm cut out of my hair, no longer needed the retainer, and changed my wardrobe from Little Kid to Budding Preppy. It wasn’t an immediate change. There were weeks and even months of work – not all of it hard or unenjoyable! But when I started junior high almost unrecognizable, it paid off exponentially.

I felt amazing and confident. I learned I could decide who and what I want to be and what kind of life I want to lead. I learned I was capable of the work to reach those goals. And I learned that the feelings of pride and accomplishment are second to none. I got to experience the peace and contentment that come from a life curated to my own preference.

My school photos, Left to Right: 6th grade, 7th grade, 9th grade, 12th grade

It’s been many years since that summer. Making noticeable changes in your life as an adult takes a good bit of courage. I know this because I spent the last 3 years taking breaks from alcohol to change a habit that was controlling me more than I liked. It’s not easy to go against a societal norm in a circle of friends you’ve been imbibing with regularly for years. Especially when “taking a break from drinking” comes with such stigma. Talk about worry of what family, friends, and the carpool ladies will have to say!

But now, all of that interaction is paused. We’re at home, much like summer break from 6th grade, without our classmates to notice. We’re without peers and colleagues’ judgement, without commentary from Aunt Esther and the rest of the family criticism peanut gallery. We can come out of this season better if we use the time to decide who we want to be and what kind of life we want to have – and then start making it happen! We have time to change our look or lifestyle, and get plenty of practice with it. We can build new habits and get plenty of reps in now to be strong, comfortable, and confident in them while the people in our lives aren’t there to influence our progress.

This is a once in a lifetime second opportunity to have this kind of space for designing and developing our lives and selves. And you can bet I’ll take advantage of it!

Look out world, here comes Big Kern 3.0.

Me, today.
But in 6 months… ?????

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