Like many other university students, in March of 2020 I was uprooted from my nice, independent life and I moved back home. Cue National Lockdown.
As a rule, I keep myself very busy in term-time. I love being socially active, and I pride myself on how many plates I can spin at once. Once lockdown hit, this over-achieving, over-worked, perfectionist life I had built for myself came grinding to a succinct and resounding halt. I was at home, I had nothing to do, and sitting alone with only my thoughts and Tiger King to entertain me became mentally challenging very quickly.
Like everyone else, I tried to cram my days with banana bread, new languages, zoom quizzes and endless social media scrolling. It will come as no surprise to anyone that that didn’t work. All over Instagram were people seemingly coping better than me, or people telling me I shouldn’t be coping as well as I was. It was confusing and demoralising.
Then, a friend recommended me Casper ter Kuile’s book The Power of Ritual. Ter Kuile is a Harvard Divinity School graduate who encourages people to see the everyday as sacred. Ter Kuile presents this one, seemingly small idea: if we decide to see our everyday activities as sacred instead of mundane, we will live happier and more fulfilled lives.
I wasn’t immediately hooked. I still hate food shopping, and I can’t see how anyone would think brushing our teeth is a sacred and profound ritual. But, as I read on, I began to be swayed. Maybe, everyday things like eating a meal together, or going on a walk, or listening to music, could be appreciated more. As Casper expands in his book, these are all things that bind us together; maybe if we placed more importance on them, we could work around the profound loneliness that the Coronavirus has brought. Casper encourages us all to find a ritual we do every single day, and see what effect it has on our wellbeing.
So, I decided to give it a chance. I found myself a ritual.
I had become thoroughly bored of the same walk I had been doing every day in lockdown, so that was a no-no. However, I did want to get a bit active and do something fun that made me smile. And so, as inspired by TikTok dance challenges, I decided to dance every single day and film myself doing it. I would learn a new K-Pop dance every 10 days (they’re feel-good, don’t judge), and post it online. Bear in mind, I have absolutely no dance experience, and was notoriously averse to a Zumba session while at school.
I am now well into my 3rd dance routine, and I can’t overstate how much joy it is bringing me. Day 1 – 4 are normally really challenging and tiring, day 5 -9 are the most fun ever, and by day 10 I’m ready to learn a new one.
I don’t think this new ritual of mine has had any life-altering effects. I still feel stress, I still feel anxiety, and I am still sceptical about the profundity of teeth-brushing. But, in a way I do feel less lonely. By posting my dances on TikTok and Instagram stories, people are reaching out to me and telling me I’m making them smile. I feel kind of connected to the K-Pop fandom by doing something creative within it. I share my dance videos with my family and we laugh together about how bad I was on day 1. By choosing to dedicate myself to this ritual, I have made and strengthened connections with the people I love. Who would have thought?
So, I encourage you all to pick up Casper ter Kuile’s book, or choose a ritual for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big or profound. I think there is something quite special about dedicating just a small slice of your life to something you enjoy, and treating it as sacred.
Oh, and if you want to see me have a daily boogie and generally treat K-Pop dances as a sacred part of life, follow me here!