This is part of a special series, We’re Reemerging. What Does the World Look Like Now?, which considers in real time how we cope while living through a historic time. It’s also in the latest VICE magazine. Subscribe here.
A lot of adults in the United States, myself included, are now confidently counting down the weeks until we’re fully inoculated against COVID-19. As fun as fantasizing about and even planning a glorious summer surrounded by loved ones might feel, experts recently told VICE that staying somewhat present is a good idea. What’s more, doing little activities and setting small goals will likely help the time until you and your friends are vaccinated go by faster and maybe even keep vaccine FOMO at bay.
Apparently, a lot of people’s “small” goal to pass the time until they get jabbed is something appearance-related… you know, glow up, get hot, lose weight, gain muscles, get fillers, etc. Which: whatever, it’s your life! I understand why this is so many people’s go-to right now… but, as my colleague Hannah Smothers recently wrote:
“The desire to squeeze some juice out of an objectively terrible year is strong. Something about it feels like winning: What’s more powerful than emerging from a year of prolonged, acute stress somehow looking better, instead of worse? It would be satisfying, in a narrative sense, to be able to say you experienced some sort of personal growth as the world shut down and burned.
It also feels deeply unrealistic, and like an impossible standard. Never mind that there’s almost no healthy way to drastically change your body composition between now and this summer, there’s something twisted about feeling pressured to showcase physical improvement after a year in which survival was at the front of everyone’s minds.”
So, if “getting hot” is the last thing you want to do right now—because you know on some level that it’s not a healthy move for you, or because you’re simply already hot—but you want to do something that’ll keep you entertained, give you a sense of accomplishment, or just make the time between now and the 4th of July fly by, here are a bunch of things that are neither “get hot” nor “make sourdough” to do until it’s safe to go out into the world again.
Plan your triumphant return to society/new personality.
1. Watch one of the many available TED Talk about being more charismatic.
2. Order appetizers from the new-to-you restaurants you’re most excited to visit in person when it’s safe.
3. If you’re feeling like you’d like to set better boundaries or be a bit more introverted in the future, consider what that looks like in practice. What do you need to remove from your life, say no to, or be more honest about to make that happen?
4. Plan a few outfits: your vaccine looks, obviously, but also think about your 4th of July ‘fit, your going on a date look, etc.
5. And remind yourself of what you own—go through your own closet and reacquaint yourself with the clothes you used to love wearing.
6. If you think you’d like to wear hard pants or even jeans later this year, start wearing them for 5–10 minutes a day to get used to what it feels like. Same goes for shoes with laces.
7. If your body has changed in the past year, use this time to buy some new clothes that you feel great in.
8. Pick a new signature color.
9. Try out a new hairstyle—braids, a high pony, natural curls, etc.—and slowly roll it out on Instagram or FaceTime so your friends have time to adjust.
10. Give yourself a new nickname—or the nickname you’ve always wanted—and spend the next couple of months trying to get it to stick.
Say good-bye to this year.
11. Document what your quarantine space looks like now, before you leave it: Snap photos of your masks piled up at the door, the way you’ve rearranged your furniture, the massive stash of toilet paper you’re still working through, etc.
12. Take a bunch of selfies in all of your go-to WFH outfits.
13. Collect your pandemic ephemera in some way. (More ideas on how to do that here.)
14. Make a list of things you didn’t miss this year, that you thought you might. Then make a list of things you really missed this year, and that you’re most excited to do/see/buy so you can prioritize those for the future.
15. Write a thank you note to someone whose kindness, generosity, or work meant a lot to you over the past year.
Invest in your relationships with friends/family/the people you live with.
16. Get to know your neighbors if you haven’t yet.
18. Make a couple of inside joke memes and send them to your favorite group chats.
19. Learn a new game, like Euchre or train dominoes, together.
20. Text a few friends nice memories as a way to say hi, and to remind them that you enjoy their company and are excited to see them again.
21. Give yourself permission to mute the group chats that are bringing you down, and to not make plans with the friends who you actually haven’t missed and are not excited to see.
Tend to your health.
22. Figure out which healthcare providers you’ll see first, once it’s safe to do so, and make a short list of possible options if you need to find someone new. A few suggestions, for your consideration: a general practitioner, an eye doctor, an OBGYN, a dermatologist (for your weird moles), and a therapist.
23. Make a point to track any bothersome ailments or symptoms you experience regularly. So if you’ve been getting a lot of headaches or having irregular periods or experiencing weird knee pain, enter each instance in some kind of tracker app, calendar, etc. Then, when you are able to see a professional about the problem, you’ll have a better sense of how often it’s happening, the potential triggers, etc.
24. Start flossing. Just remember not to show up to a Zoom call with bloody teeth like I definitely did not do last week ha ha ha.
Help other people/give back.
25. If you aren’t already familiar with the names and jobs of local elected officials in your area, look them up. Make a doc of who everyone is and what they do, follow them on social media, etc. (This article is a good place to start.)
26. While you’re at it, find a city council or school board meeting to virtually attend (and then keep it up once it’s safe to go in person).
28. Remember that mutual aid will still be vital to the health and safety of our communities after the world opens up again; find a group to organize with, and make a plan for now for how you’ll stay engaged throughout this year and beyond.
29. Find a volunteer opportunity to make a habit of now, before your calendar fills up again. I’ve been using the app Deed for this, but you could just as easily ask your friends and co-workers for their recommendations too.
30. If you can afford to, set up a small recurring donation to one cause you really care about.
31. Do something to contribute to vaccine uptake in your area, whether that’s raising awareness of vaccine pop-ups across your city, helping seniors make their appointments online, transporting folks to vax sites, or volunteering on-site.
32. Finish reading those anti-racism books you bought last summer.
If you have the emotional bandwidth to receive a new skill, learn something tiny or complete a small project.
33. Go through your phone’s camera roll, one month at a time, and delete the bad photos, duplicates, pointless screenshots, and things that make you say, “Why did I take a photo of this????”
34. Learn to pronounce three words that always trip you up when you see them written.
35. Win one (1) eBay auction.
36. Develop a taste for something—oysters, seltzer, whatever—that you never had before.
37. Pick a couple of totally new-to-you karaoke songs that can become your new go-tos, and practice your performance.
38. If you live with another person, invite them to an at-home “practice hugging” session. (I just did this with my gf and honestly? I’m glad I did. We approached each other in the living room like we were acquaintances meeting in the park, and we definitely stumbled when it came to where to put our arms.)
39. Make up some fake holidays for the next couple of months, and plan little at-home events to celebrate them.
40. Memorize the NATO alphabet.
41. Tackle one recipe or food preparation method that currently scares you, but that you’d really like to be able to show off to friends when it’s safe to gather again. Starter ideas: brewing a perfect cup of coffee, grilling a steak, or chopping an onion the right way.
42. Or, if you expect to have a lot of overnight guests (ifyouknowwhatimean), learn to prepare one great “pantry/fridge staples” breakfast that’s sure to impress.
43. Complete one annoying chore that you’ve been avoiding for ages: hang art on your walls, find your missing social security card, organize the cabinet under your bathroom sink, etc.
44. Set up some labels and filters in Gmail so that more of your emails are automatically sorted, marked as read, archived, etc. (Life-changing, imo!!!)
45. Master the art of applying fake eyelashes.
46. Learn to draw one thing that you’d really like to be able to draw well: a flower, Bart Simpson, your own butt, etc.
47. Start doing the NYT crossword puzzle. (If you’ve never done it successfully, or even attempted it, start with this guide.)
48. Sell or donate the stuff you didn’t throw away a year ago because you told yourself you could sell or donate it.
49. Make a zine.
50. If you’ll be job hunting in the near future, start preparing for interviews.
52. If you have a pet, teach it a trick.
53. Attempt to recreate a TikTok video that inspires you, like my co-worker Hannah recently did.
54. Look at your home/space through the fresh eyes of someone who hasn’t been in it in a year or two. Is there anything you’ve done that is very functional for living your entire life at home that you’ll want to change or rearrange? Start a list so you can easily tackle everything in the last couple of weeks before you’re fully inoculated.
55. Discover your new favorite album.
56. Watch something that is culturally relevant and beloved, but that you have never actually seen, e.g., The Sopranos, Golden Girls, Twin Peaks, etc.
57. Do a big unfriend/unfollow on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook/etc.
58. Buy new sunscreen and locate your sunglasses. It’s almost time.
Rachel Miller is the author of The Art of Showing Up: How to Be There for Yourself and Your People. Follow her on Twitter.