Every night this summer, Maryam Khan and her younger siblings would curl up in a corner of their Houston house to confide in one another about how they were feeling about the pandemic.
Now without family nearby, she said she’s grateful she can turn to her journal for solace.
“We don’t have control over a lot of things that are happening, so I need journaling to help with that,” said Khan, an international relations and global studies sophomore. “I need some consistency and way of expressing that in my life.”
Online classes, the never-ending news cycle and COVID-19 have made it difficult to stay positive for some. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, UT students reflect on what they’re grateful for.
Thankful for: Journaling
Khan spends 10 minutes every night writing in her bullet journal, a journal with a dotted grid for personal organization. She uses her journal for self-reflection, goal accountability and tracking health habits, such as water intake and workout routines.
Khan said recently she has added more motivational pages to her journal, such as affirmations and inspirational quotes. She also writes positive messages on sticky notes for her friends and family to show her love.
“If one of my friends has a big test, I’ll write something like, ‘You’re smart; I know you can ace this test. Just relax and believe in yourself,’” Khan said.
Khan said she started journaling last year but writing has helped her maintain a healthy mindset now more than ever.
“It’s so easy to feed into the negative and give up,” Khan said. “Journaling helps me appreciate the things I can control and reminds me to be grateful for the relationships I have.”
Thankful for: Friends
Marketing sophomore Caroline Aguilar said her routines with friends and her job have helped her stay positive.
Aguilar said she didn’t expect to make new friends this semester because of social distancing, but through virtual meetings with her business fraternity, Phi Chi Theta, her circle has grown.
“They’re truly the people I go to for everything,” Aguilar said. “It’s the people around you that make the weird times feel more normal.”
Aguilar said she is especially grateful for her job at Altar’d State because having a set schedule provides stability in her life.
“For so many days, it was hard for me to understand the state of our world,” Aguilar said. “But after I reach out to a friend or go through a shift at work and do something normal, I know everything is going to be OK.”
Thankful for: Health and service
Public health sophomore Ruth Simpson has expressed her gratitude through service.
Simpson volunteers at UT Health Austin as a COVID-19 contact tracer, fundraises to supply hospital workers with medical equipment through ProjectProtect and volunteers with Texas THON to raise funds for Dell Children’s Medical Center.
“This time has opened my eyes to where my priorities lie,” Simpson said. “I don’t want to look back at this historic time when I’m older and be like, ‘Oh, I did nothing,’ while (doctors and nurses) are on the front lines risking their lives for others.”
Simpson said she is grateful every day for her and her family’s health because she knows how easily it can be stripped away.
“I see sick people every day, and I know people who have lost family members because of the virus,” Simpson said. “The fact that my parents are alive and healthy is literally a gift. During hard times, it teaches you to appreciate even the smallest things.”