Inspiration Lab member Emma Johnson is the vice president of customer support at Untappd. A voracious reader and movie lover, she originally moved to Wilmington for its film and TV industry. She transitioned into the marketing and customer service worlds, keeping her zest for life along the way. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Emma’s approach to quarantine. She hasn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic tamper her fun spirit — and now you can learn how to brighten life in isolation too.
I’ve always loved setting New Year’s resolutions. It helps me reflect and set a course for what I want my future to look like. That’s why I was so excited when The Inspiration Lab created the Banner Year Blueprint program — and I’ve been a loyal participant since it launched! I love the accountability that comes with setting goals and sharing them with others. It’s also so inspiring to hear the things other women are striving toward. I always walk away from every session with new and creative ideas about how I can be better. But most of all, it’s an amazing experience to hear other women share their personal stories, proudest successes, and difficult moments of learning.
I am, admittedly, a bit of a try-hard with my goal setting. A few years ago I experimented with the idea of setting 12 different monthly goals. One month I crushed my goal of reading for 15 minutes every day and the next month I couldn’t stay committed to meditating for 15 minutes a day and only made it a week even though it was the exact same time commitment! Attempting those monthly goals was a roller coaster — feeling a sense of pride and motivation when I did well and feeling disappointment when I wasn’t accomplishing the things I told myself I’d achieve. The experience taught me I personally need more than a month to see a tangible impact on my life and helped me refine and refocus my goal-setting strategy with an eye on sustainable, long-term changes. The workbooks at Banner Year Blueprint provided even more structure, and I felt unstoppable, like I could do it all!
After struggling through one of the most personally difficult years of my life in 2019, I was ready to start fresh and make 2020 my year. I had big ideas, big plans, and even bigger plans.
And then the pandemic hit.
Suddenly, the ideas I had so ambitiously sketched out and planned were no longer possible. With the uncertainty that COVID-19 brought, I was afraid to make any concrete plans. Why bother to set goals that weren’t achievable for reasons beyond my control? Instead of living up to my potential, the future felt overwhelming and heavy, a disappointment waiting to happen.
It quickly became clear that if I was going to survive being stuck at home for months without losing my mind, I would need to give myself some grace, get creative, and focus on fun. I shelved my big, life-changing goals (for now) and instead created a Quarantine Bucket List. I’ve shared this with a few people and it seems to have resonated, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite items from the list with you all!
Build a Fort
When was the last time you really used your imagination? Not for work, home improvement projects, or to entertain your own kids, but for your own personal enjoyment. Pre-pandemic, it was so easy to enjoy myself — going out to dinner, grabbing drinks with a friend, traveling. A change of scenery was all I needed to get reenergized.
Now I work from home. I’d never spent so much time in my house, and I was bored of it. When I was little, my siblings and I would have “sleepovers” in each other’s bedrooms. We’d set up tents and sleeping bags and watch movies and play games. It made the same bedroom I slept in every night feel more fun and special.
So, I decided to channel my inner child and grabbed pillows, blankets, Christmas lights, and anything else I could think of out of my closet and constructed a fort. It was not as simple as I remembered from childhood — achieving structural integrity from pillows and sheets is hard!
It was so fun to reconnect to my childhood, though, and I used my brain in a brand new way to figure out how to make my fort comfortable and functional. I even moved my TV so I could watch Nextflix and listen to music.
Celebrate a Fake Holiday
I love the holidays. My family lives across the country in Washington state, so I usually only see them once a year for Christmas, which makes the season extra special.
Since that trip probably won’t happen this year, I figured I shouldn’t deprive myself of everything I love about the holidays! I decided I’d double my enjoyment and celebrate my favorite holiday twice this year.
I’ve always wanted to cook a turkey, so I decided I’d celebrate Thanksgiving. Even though I had no idea what to do, it was low stakes. I didn’t have a table of Thanksgiving guests to impress! But I still cooked an entire spread, 13-pound turkey and all. (It is a little hard to find a whole turkey in the middle of summer, be forewarned. You will have A LOT of leftovers.)
Since it was a balmy springtime day instead of a chilly day at the end of November, I was even able to have a couple of friends over to sit outside on the porch and enjoy a socially distant Thanksgiving dinner.
You could pop champagne, put on a sequined dress, and stay up until midnight. Get your Christmas decorations out of the attic, decorate a houseplant, and wrap presents. Time has very little meaning during quarantine. Who says you have to wait until December to put up decorations?!
Cook a Meal with Family and Friends via Zoom
I think we’ve all experienced “Zoom fatigue,” especially those of us who began working from home for the first time during these past few months. Sitting in front of a computer all day is a great way to virtually connect with people face to face (or screen to screen), especially my family. But it was also exhausting after spending all day on my computer for work. I was spending 10 hours a day at my desk in order to stay connected to my friends and family.
I wanted to make my Zoom calls a little more fun, so we decided we’d all cook together while we zoomed.
I hopped on a call with my mom and sisters, and my kitchen-savvy aunt even called in from the UK! We made bagels over the course of a couple of hours. The time flew by, and I didn’t feel like a blob sitting in front of my screen. (Plus, if you haven’t made bread during quarantine, have you really quarantined at all?)
Here’s the bagel recipe I used. It was even easier than I thought it would be!
Create Your Own Sports I am certainly not feeling the cancellation of sports as much as others, but I have upheld a tradition of attending a Kentucky Derby-themed party every year.
Since spectator sports are canceled for the foreseeable future, my friends and I decided we’d have our own derby, but we’d race marbles instead of horses. We created a betting pool and everyone threw in a few dollars to bet on their favorite marble. We even submitted horse names for the marbles and we picked our favorites. Some of my favorites were America’s Next Top Marble, The Marbleous Mrs. Maisel, and Bob Marbly.
I collected all my Amazon boxes for a few weeks, and then with cardboard, duct tape, and a few other random items from my shed, I built a marble racing course on my back porch. We dropped the marbles at the “starting gate” and the one that rolled fastest to the end of the course was the winner!
We set up cell phones and laptops and streamed the races. I think I lost about $18 in the end, but it was such a fun experience I never would have taken the time to do if it wasn’t for quarantine!
You could use golf balls, Hot Wheels... anything that rolls will do! Feel the thrill that comes along with watching your favorite sports.
I’ve decided I’m going to keep up with my fun goals while the world slowly returns to a new normal. Up next on my list are these...
Take a Staycation
You know when people come and visit you and you realize you haven’t seen any of the tourist attractions in the town you’ve lived in for years? It’s easy to get caught up in daily life and forget that we live in an amazing beach town. Since the travel plans I had this year were canceled, I decided I might as well explore my own backyard.
You could rent kayaks and paddleboards and take a picnic out to a quiet island, or hop on your bike and explore the trails around town.
See a Drive-In Movie
I want the fun of the movies without the risk. I love the nostalgia of watching a movie from the comfort of my own car combined with the comfort of knowing I’m abiding by social-distancing rules. Plus, snacks are way cheaper when you bring them with you instead of buying them at the theater.
Have a Virtual Game Night
Jackbox Games is amazing and has a ton of fun options. If you’ve read this far, you probably realize I’m a little competitive and also love a low-stakes bet. I’ve always wanted to learn poker, so I’m trying to figure out the logistics of a virtual poker night. I’m sure it’ll be another exercise in using my brain creatively with the constraints set by the pandemic!
Participate in an internet fad. Make bread, Dalgona coffee or learn a TikTok dance!
Think about your favorite crafty projects you did when you were a kid… and then do them! Do a paint-by-number piece or bedazzle something.
Rearrange your furniture to freshen up your space. We’re spending more time at home than ever, so change it up. (I understand this one may not be fun for everyone.)
I may not have worked on the next draft of my novel, attended a conference, traveled the world, or achieved any of my big, long-term goals over the last five or six months. On the other hand, I have managed to find a surprising amount of fun during this incredibly different moment in time. Instead of dwelling on the things I can’t have, I’m figuring out how to make the best of things for now, and that’s a skill that will help me survive anything — even a pandemic.
I welcome any inspiration and would love to hear some of the creative things you’ve found yourself doing during quarantine! Comment below.