The Wilderness Within Our Homes

This piece was aired at 14 East’s virtual live storytelling event on the theme of wilderness in May. 

In the midst of the chaos, it’s often difficult to think that any good could result from the life-consuming-grasp of COVID-19.  With the many distractions of “normal” life no longer an option for us, many are forced to face the inner demons they’ve successfully avoided for years. Although this confrontation can be daunting, it can also open the door to an immensely healing time of introspection and self-discovery. 

During this time, instead of adapting to your forced conditions by finding new, quarantine-friendly distractions, confront the emotions you’ve refused to address or consciously acknowledge. The beautiful world outside of the walls of our homes has always been available to us. The omission of limiting distractions welcomes the discovery of a deeper appreciation for a sort of live-in-the-moment mentality — a mentality that has the power to lead us to healing introspection that may have not occurred if it weren’t for the adversity involved with the pandemic. The wilderness and beauty of the outdoors may be found indoors if we are to accept our conditions and take this time to discover new passions or to further enrich present passions. 

Chicago resident Emma Breen has approached her self-discovery during quarantine through her exploration into an unventured passion she was previously intrigued with, but never took the time to sit down and enjoy in her present life — playing the guitar. 

“At the beginning of quarantine, I felt like I naturally slipped into filling my time with my phone,” Breen said. “My screen time was up dramatically between TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. This didn’t feel good physically or mentally. So, I needed to find other things to pour my energy into. Instead of watching endless amounts of TV, I got into a couple of books that ended up changing me for the better. And instead of spending all evening with headphones in my ears, tuned in to all the noise from my social media platforms … I made my own noise instead!” 

“There has to be a balance between appreciating the chaos and culture of the world around you and appreciating your own identity. Quarantine has ultimately forced us to be like, ‘Woah, wait. What do I find joy in again? I can’t avoid hanging out with myself anymore.’ And I know I’m not alone in feeling like getting lost in social media, TV, or video games can get to a point of feeling mentally toxic.” 

Local Chicago artist Nicole Heiden — whose stage name is Avo Cado  — has discovered a deeper meaning and purpose behind a passion she has embraced for years prior to the pandemic. Avo Cado has been creating dynamic digital art that depicts her present, lived experiences in the form of artistic expression. Since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been able to view her art through a dynamic, new lens. The unpredictable, limiting and challenging conditions of stay-at-home orders have bled into her process and have led to the creation of pieces that may have never been conceptualized if it weren’t for the pandemic. Avo Cado shared that she is “not sure if confinement has led to a deeper focus — it has given me more freedom to create on my own terms and on my own time when I feel passionate … I feel like the whole point of art, for me at least, is to express what I want/have been screaming into the void. There have been a few void moments for me throughout this social distancing, and so I made art to try to express what I was screaming.”

Whether you’re discovering a new passion or enriching a current one, there is immense power in self-discovery and exploration during a time where many of us are stuck with ourselves now more than ever before. As chaos and sadness consume the world, as a result of a new, unventured virus, it’s easy to fall victim to the dreadful emotions that follow. The embrace and discovery of passions has the power to impact the world in a way that exceeds the acceptance of grief. There Is undeniable power in experiencing grief and adversity — however, what we decide to learn from experienced adversity is what has the potential to impact your psyche and happiness in a way that can feel life-changing and essentially, euphoric. Don’t hesitate. Explore your own mind and uncover or enrich passions within yourself. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “ITSOK” to 741741. 

To learn more about counseling services at DePaul University visit the student affairs website. To make an appointment you can call the Lincoln Park office at 773-325-7779 or the Loop Campus office at 312-362-6923. 

You can also call the Illinois Warm Line at 866-359-7953 for peer and family mental health support from Monday through Friday during the work day. For more information about Chicago mental health resources, you can visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago’s website. Or Contact NAMI’s Chicago’s Hotline for support (312)563-0445.