Marriage & Family Psychology Student, Brooke Bryski, Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes region, France/Pasadena, CA USA

“Seemingly overnight, we were all told to stop living our lives the way we were used to, and there was nothing that we could do about this. This is highlighting to me that all I can really control is my inner world, my perspective and how I choose to handle things…I think that COVID-19 demonstrated our humanity, our fragility, and our strength. This is a powerful moment in history that we are witnessing. How will we change after this? Will it be for the better? These are the questions that we must ask ourselves.”

Brooke Bryski

Brooke Bryski is currently in what she describes as a “transitional” stage of her life. She recently moved to Pasadena, CA from the Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes region of France, following her relocation to France after graduating college to pursue what she thought was her dream career, as an English professor at a university. After a year of living and working in France, Brooke was offered a long-term contract at the university that she was working at…

She ultimately made the difficult decision to turn down the job offer, and return back to the United States. She loved her time in France and has always had an affinity for French culture, the people, and the language. However, she realized that she was not feeling fulfilled in what she previously thought would be her “dream job.”

She loves English literature— and always will, but she realized that the non-profit work that she did while she was in college had given her a stronger sense of purpose. She loves helping people, and decided to pursue a career as a Marriage and Family Therapist here in the United States moving forward.

Brooke has taken advantage of the opportunity to slow down during her quarantine in Los Angeles, letting go of the need to constantly feel in control of external factors and instead look inward.

“This is highlighting to me that all I can really control is my inner world, my perspective and how I choose to handle things.” Brooke stated. Read more about Brooke’s COVID Chronicle including the existential revelations this situation has given her the opportunity to experience, below.

Who are you quarantining with and where are you living?

“I am quarantining with my three roommates (and friends!) and my roommate’s beautiful cat, Frankie in the house that I rent with my roommates in Pasadena, California.”

“Los Angeles County is taking this pandemic very seriously. All beaches, hiking trails, and parks [were] closed. Only necessary businesses [were] open, and masks are required when outside of our homes. Overall I have been very pleased with the way that Los Angeles County has been handling the pandemic. We started taking precautions early, and I appreciate that.”

What’s the biggest challenge you think you’ve faced during this quarantine situation?

“When all of this was first getting started, I felt a deep sense of anxiety for our world. I am typically very devoted to reading the news and doing so has been part of my daily ritual for years. However, spending time each day immersed in the tragic statistics and stories during all of this was not good for my mental health at all. I felt an unshakeable sense of disillusionment, dread, and dismay.

Now, I have had to make the decision to take a big step back when it comes to keeping up with global affairs during this time. I skim the headlines three times a week or so, and then I stop. While I understand the importance of knowing what is going on in the world, I also understand that I need to take care of myself and foster some sense of inner peace during these troubled times.”

Quarantine Buddies

What has been your daily routine so far during the pandemic?

“My psychology classes have not started yet, so what I do day-to-day is really up to me! I have developed a routine to keep me grounded and to make me feel like I am using this time for self-development and self-care. I wake up around 8 a.m. and make some coffee or tea. Then, I check in with myself by journaling, listing what I am grateful for, and reading a passage from my favorite book, The Daily Stoic. Then, I meditate for 10 minutes. Afterwards, my roommate and I do yoga in our living room, then I go on a long walk while listening to a podcast.

This routine takes up most of my morning. In the afternoons I will usually read whatever novel I am working my way through that week (right now I am reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah) and complete a lesson or two on my MasterClass account.

Right now I am working my way through Joyce Carol Oates’ class about the ‘Art of the Short Story.’ My evenings are spent hanging out with my amazing roommates. I am so grateful to live with people that I really love. We love to listen to records, cook meals together, watch movies, and paint. Then I go to sleep, wake up and do this all over again!”

Catching up on reading

What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?

“Those who know me well know that I have been addicted to keeping busy and productive for most of my adult life, so being essentially forced to slow down was shocking to me at first. I was nervous to have so much time to myself. What is life about if it is not about checking off tasks on to-do lists? Without many things to do, how will I avoid worrying about my past or my future?

As it turns out, I am doing just fine. I can nurture some hobbies that I felt guilty for indulging in before, like reading, writing book reviews, doing yoga, watching classic movies, and discovering new music. I have also really enjoyed having some free time to just be. Sometimes I sit in my backyard and just exist. I feel the sunshine on my face, the wind on my skin, and I think about how nice it is to just enjoy being alive.

Learning new skills

As humans, we try to seek so much of our identities from outside sources. I was guilty of this for so long. I thought my identity lied in what I accomplished and in how others perceived me. I still find myself having these thoughts, but quarantine has allowed me the opportunity to notice them, sit with them, and question them.

Privilege check!! I understand that my ability to try and find a greater meaning and some positivity in all of this is due to my privilege as a person who is able to survive right now without receiving a paycheck and as a person who lives in a safe home with people I love. My thoughts and prayers are with everybody who is struggling financially or mentally during this time, as well as those who are living in abusive environments and unable to leave.”

Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any important plans you had laid out for the near future?

“I was planning to travel back to Europe this summer, and that is cancelled. I am very fortunate that my plans to start school this month are still in place, but my courses will likely be offered online instead of in person.”

Is there anything you feel that this experience has taught you that you’d like to share as inspiration for everyone going through this together?

“This experience has possibly changed my life philosophy forever. I always tried to live with the awareness that I should be grateful for all that I have, because life could change tomorrow. However, this entire situation has forced me to confront that reality head-on. I have no qualms with saying that I have had many existential thought loops throughout the past six weeks. I have struggled with an anxious need to control throughout my entire life. I strived to control so much, most of which I realize now I really had no ability to control in the first place.

Seemingly overnight, we were all told to stop living our lives the way we were used to, and there was nothing that we could do about this. This is highlighting to me that all I can really control is my inner world, my perspective and how I choose to handle things.

When we are finally allowed back into the world, what choices will I make? How will I choose to spend my precious time on this earth? Will I choose to spend it complaining, judging others and myself, or trying to control things that are outside of my control? Honestly, I probably sometimes will. I am a human being and I am not perfect. However, I know that I can strive to not succumb to these negative habits nearly as often as I did before. I can cultivate some awareness of my patterns and try to break those that do not serve me.

I also think that this situation highlights our interconnectedness. This virus impacted the entire world. It honestly blows my mind that certain cities were able to house their homeless populations almost immediately once all of this started, yet they never thought to do this before. I think that COVID-19 demonstrated our humanity, our fragility, and our strength. This is a powerful moment in history that we are witnessing. How will we change after this? Will it be for the better? These are the questions that we must ask ourselves.”

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