Happiness comes in waves

After months spent trapped in the same four walls as your parents and siblings, fighting over who gets to watch the TV and begging to use the car, you have finally arrived back on campus at the University of Miami. You’ve long-awaited the moment that you could get back here, set up your dorm or apartment, safely reconvene with select friends, settle back into a course schedule, and just enjoy that good ol’ collegiate independence. Congratulations, you’ve made it.

But now it’s been a week or two. The dorm decorating is done. You’ve met everyone you were looking forward to seeing. Courses are underway and you’re launched back into the drill of homework assignments and test prep. You realize there are no concerts coming up and no weekend parties. There are curfews to contend with. It’s nearly impossible to safely be social and meet anyone new. Hell, you can’t even get a beer at the Rat.

You feel stuck. Your heightened expectations for the glory of returning to campus are slowly settling into the dreaded complacency of everyday routine. You ask yourself: What now? What comes next?

I, too, have been struggling with the concept of “plateauing” during Covid-19. This pandemic has taken so much of “normal” life away from us, and made so much of our futures uncertain. How can we have anything to look forward to, anything to count on?

Unfortunately, you have to accept that the future is out of your hands. Fortunately, you have to realize that you are guaranteed the now. My best proposal? At a time when human connection is limited, connect with nature.

I once heard someone say that your lifetime happiness will be exponentially higher if you can just connect your bare feet to bare earth every day. Barefoot on grass, dirt, sand, mud, whatever it may be. So take this time to explore a new hobby… out of doors!

Surfing has become my personal coping mechanism for quarantine blues. Completely new to the sport, I found an old board in my grandma’s basement and decided it would be the perfect pastime to explore in Miami. So I bought a cheap roof rack off of eBay and drove the board down from Connecticut.

Since arriving, I’ve gone three times. I get knocked on the head with the board and basically drown myself on the way out into the surf. I slip and slide all around the board. I’ve stood up a total of 2.5 times (I count the 0.5 as the time I rode in on my knees). But every day after I go surfing, I come home smiling. I enjoy a beautiful drive to the beach, listening to my favorite songs. I spend the day in the sun and the water. I am covered in salt and sand. My skin feels warm. My body feels tired but somehow also energized, excited, strong, capable. I feel the soreness in my arms the next day and I’m reminded of how beautiful the water was in the later afternoon when the sun wasn’t beating down so incessantly, and the waves had calmed just so that I could lay back on my board and just float for a moment in time, just appreciate the beauty and serenity of the world around me.

This, I think, is that unspeakable connection to nature that I once heard about. The one we’re all supposed to step our bare feet upon. It is a joy that fills you. It is happiness in its simplest form: man and nature, in harmony.

Throughout this time of limited human connection (and shoddy Zoom connection), take the time to connect with nature. Find a new hobby. Practice a sport. Or just go on a daily sunset walk and appreciate those cotton candy skies. Time in quarantine need not be spent alone when you can be in the company of nature, so take advantage.

Riley Cunningham is a senior majoring in history.

Featured photo by Tony Hisgett, flickr.