My 21st birthday was a month after COVID began. Stuck in my room, I spent it watching YouTube videos and going on a walk through the woods; my plans for a big birthday brunch out the window. For years, I had been anticipating the moment where my entire life would culminate to a big group of friends cheering for me as I blew out those fated twenty one candles. I had been patiently waiting for years for my turn to be welcomed into adulthood, and I had so many plans for that day. And in the end, none of them ever happened. I had a cake, and I blew out some candles, and I went to bed.
COVID’s greedy removal of the final 3 semesters of my undergraduate degree taught me something; you must appreciate every moment you have. Had I known I wouldn’t have the final year of my bachelor’s degree, would I have done more? Would I have focused on social life more than academics and work? I am not sure.
My experience has not been nearly as rough as some others. I would say I am lucky that the only thing I lost to the pandemic was the last year and a half of my undergraduate degree. But I can’t pretend that the time trapped inside, away from the promises of my final years of college, hadn’t changed me. Everyone has their own regrets, and not using my time is one of mine.
How many things can you say you have done? I have been asking myself this question over and over again for the last few months. I keep forgetting things, remembering things, almost as if my brain has filed away these experiences just for a quick reminiscence. Yes I have done things, but have they been truly done if I barely can remember doing them?
I have spent my time on this blog page writing much of the same thought; that time is precious, and the movement of time is pervasive. Every moment is one that will not last, and watching them leave without a second glance hinders the uncertain time we have here. I don’t think I thought like this before COVID, but I certainly do now.
So, this summer I made a Bingo chart. I had missed out on my favorite time of year the year before. I was determined to make sure I spent my time wisely and did the things that brought me joy during the fall season. I made a Bingo chart; 25 boxes filled with things I had to get done by the last day of fall. And I made a promise to myself to finish every single one. No cheating. No skipping. But this promise was more than just that. It was a promise to myself to make the most of my favorite season, to make the most of the time I had.
My Bingo had silly things on it; bake homemade apple dumplings, visit a haunted house, watch Nightmare Before Christmas. None of them were anything special or unique, but all of them were things I had missed during our time inside. I gave myself the entire season of fall to get the Bingo done, from September 22nd till December 21st. There must be something to purpose that makes actions visceral; that makes actions stay. I can remember every one of my Bingo activities right down to the flavor of each Starbucks drink. This weekend, I finished my 25 days with a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art, and I checked off the final box, to visit a museum.
I am not sure about the science behind the concept of bucket lists. For me, the time frame is too large to fully comprehend. Sure, I would love to visit Rome before I die, but I doubt that will be in the next decade. It is hard to work toward something like that without getting discouraged by the eons of time between now and when that could possibly happen. But, for me, three months is doable, and finding time to make a pressure cooker dinner or spend a weekend away is much easier when you can see the time ahead.
But I have reached the end of my Bingo now, and I feel a bit lost with myself. Do I make another; create a cycle of perpetual lists for my future and plan everything I want to do for forever? I feel like that misses the point of my exercise; to find time to do something unpredictable and to make it happen no matter what. I could make a new Bingo, one that is for winter or for the holidays, but then would it still be as exciting as the first one? Or would it become a monotony of endless tasks? Would I become a slave to my own time? I have no clue. I worry that this would be the extreme opposite of my time in COVID; pursuing everything so fervently that it is all I can possibly do.
For now, I am happy to think back on my 2021 Fall Bingo with pride, and not look to do another. Maybe I will one day, but I don’t think I will right now. I made sure I did 25 specific things I missed during COVID, and every single one of those things was something I did with excitement. I am very proud to say I did them all. And I think that is enough for now. To have done my best to do everything I could.
And if anything, my time pursuing the words on a piece of paper has only made my lesson stronger; you can make time to do the things you want, to find joy in every aspect of an experience. It just has to be something you set your mind to do.