Editor’s note: What activities and practices have gotten us through the pandemic? What have we learned about ourselves during this dismal time? Baltimore Watchdog reporters wrote personal essays and interviewed people on this topic. Here’s what they found.
By Vay Laine
McKenzie Perrow has always been determined. To get her schoolwork done. To launch her next business idea. To build relationships. To keep going.
That determination decreased, however, once the COVID-19 pandemic began. Perrow, like many others facing abrupt changes, became highly unmotivated.
“I was aware of what was happening but not at all prepared,” Perrow said. “I was keeping up with the news as they tracked the virus around the world, but when it finally hit in Maryland, I couldn’t believe it.”
Although there was no big moment of realization, McKenzie said one day during quarantine she realized that she needed an activity to focus on during this time. School was out for the semester and her job was closed, so she, like many others, had more free time than ever before.
She chose to focus on herself and begin a self-care regimen. There were many parts of this regimen: skin care, hair care, taking care of her mental, etc. The one part of her routine that got her through this pandemic was her religious practices — her participation in prayer and studying religious texts, to be exact.
Perrow identifies as a reform Christian. While growing up, religion was always something that was emphasized in her family, but as she got older, she lost touch with it for awhile.
“Some people are core believers from the start — their religion is all they know,” Perrow said. “But I’m not gonna act like I haven’t had my doubts. This journey has kind of been about discovering purpose for me. One purpose of the religion is to know God, which is what I’m trying to get better at.”
In terms of a routine, there isn’t an exact check list Perrow follows when it comes to prayer and studying writings.
“There’s actually no specific routine that I have, only because my life and things I have to do are constantly changing,” Perrow said. “In the beginning, I tried to have a morning routine where I did prayer and devotionals, and also journaled just to have something tangible to reference. Now, I honestly try to do it whenever and wherever I can.”
As she winds down from work at the mall and prepares herself for bed, she lights a candle or two, letting the calming eucalyptus spearmint fragrance fill the dry air. Putting on the baggiest shirt and pants she can find, Perrow plops into her bed. With the room dimly lit by the dancing flames of the candles, McKenzie pulls out her Bible. As a young millennial, she usually reaches for the Bible app, but staring at a cashier screen all day has her brain feeling overwhelmed. As she turns and marks the wispy pages of her white Bible, McKenzie reads thoroughly. After she has finished reading her section, she rests it on top of her nightstand. Then she falls asleep.
Perrow, like many young adults of her generation, has made her religious routine her own. Her practices have not typically included weekly church bible study or Sunday service, but they’ve been exactly what she needed to help her power through such a difficult time.
In another instance, one afternoon, Perrow rushed home from a day of running errands. With class starting in 35 minutes, she had a few minutes of leisure. Instead of watching Netflix, she decided to get some prayer in. Still in her leggings and graphic tee, she closed her eyes, opened her heart and turned her mind to God. After she was through, she scarfed down an avocado-topped bagel and began reading scripture as she waited for her class to begin.
“You don’t really need a set place or vibe,” Perrow said. “As long as you’re connecting and your heart is in the right place that’s all there is to it.”
Like many who partake in prayer, Perrow never just prays for one specific thing.
“For me, it’s always thinking about what to pray for,” she said. “You have to pray for things that you want changed or that you might need guidance with. I’m thinking about things that I need help with, or that I know my family and friends need help with as well. I’m thinking about the state of the world, I’m thinking about current struggles. But don’t get me wrong, I definitely think about the positives too, and am very thankful in prayer.”
Since the pandemic has begun, many individuals like to think about what their lives would entail had COVID-19 not come around. Perrow said she isn’t sure if she would’ve ended up on her religious journey had the virus not hit.
“Before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have had the time to stop and really think about the things in my life, so I wouldn’t have come to the point where I felt like I needed to reconnect religiously,” Perrow said.
“My biggest takeaway has been learning that I’m not in control. I know that if I want to go grab some water right now that’s obviously within my control, but in the past year, I’ve been a little more accepting of my circumstances because I know it’s not completely of my doing, and there’s a higher power at play here, and that power has a plan for me.”
Pre-pandemic, Perrow’s need for control caused her lots of stress. Through prayer, she has learned to take some of that responsibility off of her shoulders and give it to God.
Perrow said prayer could help others as well, but she understands everyone’s views on religion are different.
“As much as I want to put those around me onto prayer and worship, not everyone’s life has been aligned to where they can be so quick to believe the Bible,” Perrow said. “Some people have no context when it comes to religion, but I do believe if they ever did get into it, the prayer and studying of the word would be both a big help and a big relief.”
Perrow has found peace this year, and she hopes that in the near future, conditions improve.
“I pray when it’s hard, but I also pray just because,” Perrow said. “Especially during the pandemic, I am grateful for continuously waking up healthy every day. Nowadays, I’m just praying for the end of the pandemic and better days ahead.”