3 Tips to Stay Positive During the Pandemic

By Kurt Karul

If you’re like me, you’re probably tired of constantly hearing other people ramble on about how these are “unprecedented times,” or how sorry they are for us kids who are losing out on what is traditionally supposed to be the best time of our lives.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make me feel any better—in fact it makes me feel a whole lot worse. It’s always better to be optimistic and positive, especially when facing adversity, something UCC taught me well.

After seeing many students’ anger at UCC’s back-to-school plan and their fear that they would never see half their grade again, I decided to write this article to help you boys prepare for the journey ahead with some positivity and genuine advice.

  1. Accept the situation for what it is
    This sucks. It really does. But at some point, we all have to pick ourselves up and say, “Well, it is what it is,” and move on. During the Blues Degree program after March Break this year, Mr. (Christian) Heffernan and Mark Shapiro spoke to the Y12s about resilience. I don’t remember the exact wording, but Mr. Heffernan said something along these lines:

“Nothing in life is unfair—I hate that word, ‘unfair.’ Nothing is unfair. You play with the hand
you’re dealt.”

Hearing this felt like a punch in the gut. I was losing out on my final year of high school and possibly my first year of university, and all anyone could do was tell me was to suck it up? It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. This was the hand I was dealt, and I had no choice but to play it.

From that day on, this outlook afforded me a sort of mental peace—the ability to say: “This is the way things are now and I’m just going to have to adapt.” Please understand how important this is. The moment you come to terms with everything going on right now, you will be so much happier.

Don’t worry about what’s happening to A-Day or to Stewards; don’t worry about anything that you can’t control. Fix what you can and don’t worry about what you can’t, which leads into my next piece of advice.

  1. Occupy yourself
    Y12 was extremely busy. Any free time I had went to sleeping or to talking with friends to take the edge off. During the quarantine, I decided that I would use my free time to exercise—something I never had time to do during the school year. I found a program that worked for me, with intense HIIT training 6 times a week for half an hour and another half-hour of stretching and recovery on the off day.

I pushed through the workouts for a very specific reason. At this point in time, I was terrified that I would spend my first year of university at home, alone. I feared that I wouldn’t get a first-year experience after working so hard to get there.

During my daily half-hour workout, I was too focused on the physical pain to think about university. Every day, for half an hour, I had mental peace, and was too occupied to worry about what I couldn’t control. For me, that was infinitely more important than any “gains” or muscle growth.

I urge you to fill your time with something that makes you happy. It doesn’t have to be exercise, it can be literally anything, as long as it gives you mental peace. It could be music, painting or even baking. Just find something that works for you.

  1. Appreciate life
    It sounds cliché, but stop and smell the roses every now and then. UCC can make this hard, but you always need to see the bigger picture. My biggest regret in life is that I spent my final “normal” week of high school worrying about two IAs rather than enjoying that time with my friends. I will literally never live that down.

Sure, how could I have known what was going to happen? But I should have known better. From now on, I know that I will do better. But to any younger students reading this, how will you do better? How will you prioritize the things in your life so that you live happily and with no regrets?

Although next year’s extracurriculars are being heavily limited, involve yourself in what you can. Try to throw yourself into something that can distract you from schoolwork and the pandemic, even if it’s only for a few hours every week.

It doesn’t even have to be a designated school-run activity. Some of my best UCC memories took place at UD dinner, whether it was having a thought-provoking philosophical debate or crying of laugher after absolutely lighting kids up at friendly table-wide roast sessions (shoutout to the pit band for that last one).

All in all, enjoy life for what it is and take care of yourself, while taking care of others along the way. Don’t worry about stuff that doesn’t matter and really make an effort to take advantage of every opportunity you have.

I’d like to conclude with a short story that I think will make a lot of you guys feel better. One of my best friends’ father is Bosnian and attended university in Sarajevo. In the final year of his studies, he had a 4.0 GPA and was on track to graduate with high honours. His professor decided that the final exam would be a pass or fail oral quiz where he would be asked a single question to test his understanding. His professor threw a curveball and he failed.

He was probably outraged—and rightfully so. He deserved to graduate, but this was the hand life had dealt him and he had no choice but to play it. To finish his degree, he studied another year in Belgrade in neighbouring Serbia where he dodged mandatory conscription into the Bosnian army, which was fighting the deadly Bosnian war at the time. In Belgrade, he met his future wife and fled to Canada with her to start a new life.

Initially, being held back a year under unfair circumstances must have seemed like the end of the world, but it genuinely might have saved his life—he just didn’t know it yet. The reality we’re living through right now might seem like the end of the world to a lot of you, but who knows? If you play your cards right, maybe this pandemic will be the best thing that happened to you, you just don’t know it yet.

Please take care of yourselves and above all, try to stay positive; try to find mental peace. It’s not what we wanted, but it’s what we have. Keep your friends close and support those around you. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. If all else fails, my inbox is always open at kurt.karul@mail.mcgill.ca, I mean it.

Stay safe gentlemen,
Kurt