A mild spring breeze brushed my face as I glided down the street with the wheels under me rolling over the slick asphalt. My foot touched the ground, which would have propelled me forward if not for the board crashing into my heel. I tumbled to the ground, bruised, but not seriously hurt — an unfortunate but not unexpected outcome. Skateboarding was just one of the various activities I took up during quarantine to satisfy my boredom.

When the shelter-in-place order started, I, like many others, didn’t know what to expect. At first I was excited to be out of school, treating the lockdown like an extended vacation. But as time progressed, I realized my daily life was much closer to something straight out of a sci-fi apocalypse novel. Normalcy was at the end of a long tunnel, and from where I was then, it was pitch black.

Prior to the pandemic, I would go to my robotics team’s lab every afternoon, spending hours among the whir of power tools and the laughter of good friends. With all robotics meetings canceled, I had the opportunity to explore other interests. At the beginning of quarantine, I stumbled across a YouTube tutorial on designing a mechanical keyboard with computer-aided design. Mechanical keyboards have been my favorite hobby for the past two years, and CAD was a skill that I always wanted to learn, although I lacked the time and drive to actually do it. Seeing a step-by-step guide made me realize that I could design a keyboard myself. For the next month, I spent hours every day familiarizing myself with CAD and brainstorming design ideas until I had a basic keyboard designed — essentially a fancy metal rectangular box.

With the lack of in-person social activity, I turned to online communities. I reconnected with old friends, one of whom also shared a passion for custom keyboards. Seeking to improve my designs, I perused forums and joined countless Discord servers, soaking up as much information as I could every day to build up my personal knowledge bank. To anyone other than enthusiasts, this would seem like borderline fanaticism. But to me, it was just a learning frenzy.

I realized my daily life was much closer to something straight out of a sci-fi apocalypse novel.

With activities to keep me occupied inside, I needed something to get me outside every day. So, I picked up skateboarding — the transportation choice of many teens. Being an avid snowboarder, I’d assumed that it would be similar. After all, it was just the same two feet on a board, right? Well, it turned out they were nothing alike, but I still slowly learned. I love skateboarding for its simplicity. No handlebars and no seat. Just me, the board, and the street.

This past year led me down new paths I never knew existed. I found the motivation to pursue my interests after I figured out how to turn the curse of all the extra time into a blessing. I experienced firsthand how much faster I learn things if I truly enjoy them. And while sometimes I wish that I could be back in the robotics lab, I’m glad that I was able to find new hobbies and interests that propel my thirst for learning.