Obligation and Motivation during a Pandemic

Cara Caulton, Staff Writer

Time has officially lost all meaning to me. Just six weeks ago, I was waking up at 7:00 a.m. every weekday. Just six weeks ago, I thought I would be attending school until June 23rd. I had test dates marked in my planner, events I was looking forward to, and assignments to keep track of. We all carried assumptions about how the rest of the school year would go, whether we realized it at the time or not. And now, with these assumptions thrown to the wind, we are more aware of their absence than ever. We are left floundering in a strange sort of limbo, waiting for permission to resume our lives. 

There is a lot to be said about how quarantine has been affecting students. I have no doubt we are all having a lot of the same experiences, as well as many different ones. But the aspect I have been thinking about recently is how quarantine has taught me and others about our abilities- and our limitations. Specifically, our ability to self-motivate. For the first five weeks of quarantine, none of us here in the Issaquah School District were held accountable for our academic work. I went into this with confidence; I knew I could motivate myself to complete optional work, and manage my time on my own terms. Or at least, I thought I knew that. For the first couple weeks, my work ethic held up. But by the time “spring break” hit, I could feel my schedule and motivation falling apart. During break, like many other IHS students, I spent a solid week doing absolutely nothing. And although I surrendered to this fact, it still left me feeling disappointed in myself. More importantly, it got me thinking.

We all like to believe that when it comes down to it, we can motivate ourselves to get things done and accomplish goals. But we have also grown up in traditional learning environments, with teachers and parents holding us to expectations. These expectations are clear and easy to understand; They are test scores, letter grades, and written evaluations. When stripped of that outside judgement, we are left with only our own expectations. I went into this thinking my expectations were enough, but the reality is that they are not. It can be hard to recognize our own limitations, but quarantine has forced many of us to do just that. When we are given no structure, no due dates, and no schedules, what do we spend our time on? And are we proud of that? 

I do not write this with the intent to shame anybody for not completing their schoolwork, or sleeping in until noon, or spending 12 hours a day playing Animal Crossing, or anything like that. These times are tough, and this is a symptom of that. With the situation changing all the time, and schoolwork being formally assigned now, we are all having to adjust in different ways. I am glad that this quarantine has given me the opportunity to look honestly at myself and my limitations, and (hopefully) learn from them. When faced with a challenge, that is all any of us can do.