Pandemic Pastimes: A Look Into How People Are Spending Their Freetime

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By Kendall Lucchesi, Staff Writer

When life came to a grinding halt eight months ago, a sudden surplus of time came with it. From baking to running to roller skating, teenagers across the country have been forced to find creative ways to pass the stagnant days by.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot more time outdoors,” Remarks Emily Lawerence, 16.  “It’s comforting to spend time alone. It helps me learn more about myself in ways I cannot when I’m constantly with others.” 

Before the pandemic hit, every aspect of Emily’s life revolved around softball. Not only was she the starting third baseman for the Kingston Royals, a premier softball team, but she also was captain of the New Paltz High School Girls JV Softball team, so she rarely had time to prioritize or focus on herself. When the remainder of her season was canceled due to the pandemic, Emily found herself drowning in the new free time she had, so she turned to hiking.

“I cannot describe it,” Emily explains. “There’s just something so peaceful about seeing the town you think you know so well below you. It changes the perspective of everything.”

On an ideal day, Emily scrambles up to Bonticou Crag Peak with her painting supplies on her back. Once seated in her usual spot along the rocks, she glances up at the orange and yellow trees posed across the horizon and begins working on her next masterpiece.   While she paints, others are finding ways to express their creativity through a different, slightly more delicious, form: Baking.

EJ Blaisdell, 16, says that, “I spend the majority of my time either finding recipes to bake, or baking said recipes. At this point, I’m a professional bread baker.” 

If someone would have told EJ a year ago that she would be spending copious amounts of free time baking, she would have never believed it. EJ had everything lined up to spend her junior year abroad in France when the pandemic struck, leaving her international hopes dashed. The time that was once spent in French lessons and Rotary Club meetings is now used in the kitchen, procuring new, delectable creations for her friends and family.

“All of my hobbies were focused on immersing myself in all things French before I left,’ EJ explains. “I never had any time to focus or expand on anything else.”  Baking has been an outlet for all the built-up stress, anger, and uncertainty within EJ’s life. It’s a constant in a world filled with the unknown, especially in a time of a pandemic.

Although baking and hiking are suitable outlets for built-up tension within isolation, some people would rather turn to exercise. Regular, consistent, exercise has proved to have a profound impact on not only physical health but mental health for Nyah Cunniff, 16. 

“I’ve found myself running a lot more recently,” she remarks. “It feels good to move my body especially because I’m sitting in front of a computer for the majority of my day.”  Nyah, a student at New Paltz High School and a member of both the Girls Varsity Soccer Team and the Nordic Ski team, has made a positive effort to maintain her fitness level over the last seven months. Studies show that running not only improves heart health, but it can also alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.  “It’s been hard finding the motivation on certain days,” Nyah elaborates, “but then I just try to remember how accomplished I feel after my run.” 

No matter how people choose to cope, it’s helpful to find a suitable way that works for them. Finding a new hobby or activity is crucial especially in a time like this, and it’s important to find something positive from all the negative.  “I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t have been able to invest this much time into getting outside if we had not been in a pandemic,” Emily states. “I’m glad I was able to explore new opportunities in my life.” 

Featured Photo: Danielle Evans, The Washington Post