By Khadijah Khogeer

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced us into a nationwide lockdown in March, we came face to face with the reality that we would be spending the majority of our time at home. 

The shutdown gave us more time to try out new things or pick up old hobbies, even though we still have work and school. But mostly, quarantine was a huge slap in the face of all the things we’ve had on our bucket lists but haven’t gotten to do. 

The amount of creative hobbies society has managed to conjure up to stay busy has been astronomical. In retrospect, though, many of these activities make no sense at all.  

From aesthetically pleasing dalgona coffee, to baking bread from scratch, to doing the Chloe Ting two-week shred challenge, there’s no shortage of fun new hobbies to try out. Even I hopped on the baking bandwagon, making everything from sourdough bread to vegan brownies — and I’m not even vegan. 

But at some point between baking and doing the Chloe Ting workouts, I felt overwhelmed with the pressure to be productive and the feeling that my world’s been turned upside down by the pandemic.

I discovered paint-by-numbers online and ordered myself a canvas to add to my never-ending list of quarantine projects, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Each number on the painting corresponds with a color and there’s an infinite number of drawings to paint, from animals to landscapes.

At first, I was skeptical of how just filling in a premade painting could be fun. Even though I’ve seen many friends and social media influencers doing their own DIY art projects, I never thought of myself as artistically talented. 

But painting ended up being the only quarantine hobby I stuck with and still continue to do. It was just what I needed during this time: a new learning experience that is convenient and entertaining to do at home while social distancing. 

The numbers on the canvas are like steps, so you can do one number a day or finish the entire painting in one sitting. What makes it relaxing is that there is no deadline — you make your own rules at your own pace. 

I noticed that I felt calmer and de-stressed after painting. It helps me clear my thoughts, even if I just do it for 30 minutes a day.

With life slowly getting back to a new normal, I’m still doing paint-by-numbers.

Zoom meetings, bi-weekly COVID-19 testing and social distancing rules are all things I’m still adjusting to. The more time I spend on Zoom, the more I crave time away from my laptop screen as soon as class ends. College life still feels different overall, so painting has become one of my coping mechanisms. 

I don’t expect to be a world-class painter, but it’s a great escape from the COVID-19 madness. It’s easy: just pick up a brush, put on your favorite playlist and enjoy the down time.