When the initial shock of a pandemic uprooting my time on campus wore off, my next instinct was to look for hidden opportunities to come out of quarantine. I fully expected that within two months I could be cooking gourmet meals, working out everyday, and achieving other lofty goals. And while I certainly attempted to incorporate self-improvement into my social distancing experience, my dinners of microwavable grain bowls and Annie’s box Mac and Cheese offer a glimpse into my eluding success.
Another significant challenge I’ve experienced over the past several months has been keeping in touch with people outside my immediate family. Maintaining the strength of my relationships over distance and time has always been difficult for me and was one of my primary concerns when I realized the extent of our isolation.
Over the summer, a solution to both my disappointing track record and my need for more regular human interaction presented itself to me through a text from a high school friend. A fellow French student, who also happens to enjoy testing the limits of their brain’s linguistic capabilities by studying multiple languages at once, had been using Duolingo regularly throughout the semester. He could plainly see that I had not. By abruptly pointing out that I was lagging behind for someone supposedly dedicated to language learning, he inspired me to begin a daily practice with some friendly competition. The exchange motivated me to resume language study outside of the classroom, not just through the app, but through other means as well.
Recently, another friend reached out with a similar and more defined proposition. When she first suggested being “workout accountability buddies,” I wasn’t quite sure how, or if, it would work. Nevertheless, I agreed, knowing nothing else had sustained my motivation enough to achieve long term fitness goals. The result could not have been further from my expectation. Simply texting one another after completing our daily exercises, offering up encouragement or warnings about particularly difficult sets, has changed my entire perspective on working out from home. I no longer see the challenges or hassles that come with setting aside time and space to exercise on a regular basis. Instead I look forward to being able to do so, knowing I’m not doing it alone in ways that transcend physicality. Feeling a level of responsibility, not only for my own health but also for the health of a friend, inspires me to keep pushing through days I previously would have skipped.
The greatest thing about having an accountability partner is that it’s applicable to so much more than just exercising or language learning. Find someone with a mutual interest in anything from learning to bake like a GBBO contestant to reading a book to activism. Make time this semester to achieve goals outside of your academic schedule. Not only will you be challenging yourself, you will do so while simultaneously strengthening bonds and relationships. In a time when so many of us continue to be isolated from others, aiming for further enrichment alongside one another might just be the extra motivation we all need.
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