Staying home during the pandemic is paramount to stop the spread of COVID-19. But, for those of us lucky enough to be safe and healthy, the days can still feel very monotonous. Everything can feel a bit blah and sad.
Trying something new has been a fantastic way for me to inject fresh energy and excitement into life right now.
I’m not trying to sound glib during a serious time. Everyone is struggling, and some people are literally battling for their lives. But for those who have the time and means, it’s important to find a way to bring energy and happiness into our days. It’s important for our mental health. And we cannot help others if we aren’t feeling good ourselves.
My favorite new thing may sound small: I take walks every day with my daughters, Emilie and Carlie.
Now, some people may do this every day. But I’m usually on the go all the time — co-hosting “Morning Joe,” going to events, flying off to panels, etc. My daughters have their own busy lives as well. The pandemic, however, has given us the chance to have that time together: To stretch our legs, to breathe fresh air, to really talk and connect.
The takeaway? Your “something new” doesn’t have to be monumental, like learning a foreign language or renovating your entire kitchen. It can be simply an interesting hobby that brings you some calm and joy.
For example, my friend, former U.S. attorney Joyce White Vance brought home chickens, of all things. Her son Ollie, 17, floated the idea in March after his school closed. They bought a chicken coop, 2-week-old chicks and six eggs from a farm in northern Alabama.
The whole family got excited watching the eggs in an incubator on top of Joyce’s desk, and after 21 days, four sweet chicks hatched.
“Of course, from the moment they came home, the chicks became the center of our universe,” Joyce told Know Your Value. “Each one has brought the family,” she added.
“We had no idea they'd have such distinct personalities,” Joyce continued. “Like the intrepid Poe, a tiny black chicken who was the last to hatch, after we'd decided there wouldn't be any more hatchlings, but he's been the first to do everything from jumping out of the coddler—a big bin we kept in our screen porch until the chicks were big enough to go into the coop—to the first out the door of the coop every morning.”
And my friend Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, consultant, former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and widow of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, has begun gardening (something I’ve started, too!).
She was spurred by a disconcerting situation at the beginning of the pandemic. Maya went to the grocery store to stock up on food, and the cashier told her they were rationing frozen veggies so she couldn’t buy more than four bags.
Shocked, she left the store and immediately ordered garden supplies. Since then, Maya has grown cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, Serrano peppers and various herbs. Even setbacks, like her squash being decimated by insects, have been a part of a happy journey.
"It's been rewarding and nurturing,” she said. “I felt a continuous sense of accomplishment as I put together my elevated garden beds, started seedlings, and watched them grow to maturity.” She’s also learned a lot about herself and nature.
“The lesson about the importance of pruning to maintain a healthy and prosperous plant can be applied not only to gardening but to life,” said Maya.
Maya told me that she’s proud to eat food from her garden, which makes her feel like she’s honoring herself and the planet. She also shares the food with her neighbors.
What I’ve learned is that your “something new’ may produce zucchini or chicken eggs—or nothing but a moment of calm and joy. It’s all good.
You do not have to save the world. You do not have to choose a hobby that produces an output for others. Just find a few moments to try something new for yourself, no matter how simple.
I recognize some people may be overloaded with work, childcare or taking care of a parent. Others may feel isolated with too much time on their hands, which can feel just as draining. But we must prioritize ourselves.
I’m asking the Know Your Value community to do just that. Try that hobby you always wondered about. Invite that new energy into your life—and it’ll help you stay calm and measured during this difficult time.
Know Your Value wants to hear about the new hobbies and rituals you’re trying during the pandemic. Send your stories and photos to email@example.com.