With everything 2020's thrown at us so far, I wanted to bring positivity back to my blog. I can't do Japanese food reviews for the time being, and I haven't taken pics of new/interesting places (they were all shut).
This post has been tough to complete, I admit - to the point I started thinking of it as a creative exercise. Outside of work projects, everything I've wanted to type out or put on paper has been to get something negative out of my system. The last few months have been tough (understatement of the hideous year), and complaining feels easier.
There's got to be something I can write that isn't all doom and gloom. So I've challenged myself to write a fun blog post for a change.
And I promise you this isn't one of those 'you've gotta stay productive and keep growing as a person!' posts either. I'm not trying to brag. This year isn't a race, it's a slog. Getting out of bed in the morning (or afternoon) counts as an achievement, and staying in bed all day is still enviable.
With all that said, here's a recap of positive things I've been doing in lockdown. I've called it 'part 1?' because who the hell knows if/when we'll have to barricade ourselves indoors again.
Weaving things together that aren't stories, for once
I became a writer after lecturers on my college design course pointed out that I'm rubbish at design. I've never seen myself as 'artsy', in that sense. I'm way more comfortable with words, so I rarely draw, or paint, or sculpt and build things. You're unlikely to catch me holding sticky-backed plastic and glittery pipe cleaners.
And yet, for some bizarre reason (not really, it was just boredom!), over the past few months I've given basic arts and crafts another go. When I say basic, I mean 'if it comes with an instruction booklet then I'm not buying it' basic.
I started with some of those 'therapeutic' colouring books. It's only a bit of shading inside the lines, in theory, but if you ask me the simpler ones are way more calming. The more complicated the design gets, the more time you'll spend fretting over if you have enough blue pencils.
One other new thing I've tried is cross-stitch. I normally see sewing as a chore ('hey, there's a hole in my sock, better fix that'), not as a hobby. But I got into cross-stitch via a small starter kit for kids. I took 'suitable for ages 6+' to mean 'suitable for a total newb like me'.
The designs looked sweet and simple (instructions took up 1/3 of the back of the box), with thick yarn in bold colours. A heart, a cat and a dog, flowers, and a mysterious floating blue whale! If nothing else, I thought they'd brighten up the room.
Aren't they cute? I surprised myself with how well they turned out, and how quickly I finished some of them. Some days, I sat single-mindedly looping bits of yarn through plastic like there was no tomorrow - the same way I devour books in one sitting.
It's weirdly addictive. I might keep it up.
Walking miles and miles in my own shoes (nobody else wears my size)
Changes to my daily routine mean I walk around a lot less. (A 'duh' moment for some, yeah, but your mileage may literally vary.) I don't have to travel to work, when everything closed for lockdown there wasn't anywhere else to go, and health anxiety made me reluctant to leave the house anyway.
I didn't realise how many steps I took on an average day in Osaka. I'd just be wandering around, taking in new sights. No wonder I ate as much as I did without turning into a balloon. The 'Health' app on iPhones records daily step counts by default, as long as you're holding or carrying the device. It collects that data even if you've never opened the app.
It took more mental effort than physical to get back into it, but I try to go out for walks regularly (when the weather isn't crap) and cover a decent distance. 1,000 steps is 'good' for now, given that there's not much to go out for, and I walk further if I'm in a 'good' mood.
Dare I say it, I even enjoy walking again. That's something I never thought I'd admit.
Younger me hated having to walk anywhere. In my small hometown, everything felt further away. The idea of walking for 20 whole minutes felt like torture. Since I first moved to a city, I've covered way more distance on foot. There's more to see on the way, along smoother pavements. And if I get tired, there's bound to be a bus stop nearby...
Filling in the blanks: empty answer sheets, lonely hours, and knowledge gaps
I've grown up loving a bloody good general knowledge round. Quiz nights, gameshows, logic puzzles, you name it (or give me the clue, and I'll name it).
As in-person meetups were quickly replaced with video chats, guess what kept on happening to fill those awkward silences? That's right, 2 points! Quizzes have had a huge online revival, an easy way to pass time and keep people entertained. And I'm having SO MUCH fun with them - even when I don't win (I know!).
At the height of lockdown, I took part in at least 4 quizzes every week. Now it's 1 or 2, but that might change again. They involve more than just showing up and answering questions - for some, I have to make my own rounds.
Extra brain power needed? (read: excuse to drink more coffee?) Check.
Kills time during the rest of the week? Check.
Learning facts and figures in the process? Check.
Back when I begrudgingly subscribed to Microsoft Office so I could open and proofread one .pptx file from a client, I figured it'd end up as a waste of money. I had no idea I'd use Powerpoint as much as I do now, so I'm finally feeling the value. (And I'm grateful for the slide design suggestions!)
It's win-wiin. Luckily, most of my quiz groups don't insist on tiebreakers.
A ripping pink yarn, a step in the right direction, and a learning curve
The biggest question of all: will posting this motivate me enough to try other stuff and write part 2? If you enjoyed reading and want to see more, let me know.