I’ll be honest, I was not among the first to buy in to the concept of social distancing. I continually used updates from the WHO and CDC to justify why I didn’t need to stay home—I stopped commuting to work a few days before the social distancing recommendations were made, but I didn’t see anything wrong with gathering in small groups of friends. As an extrovert, those gatherings are the foundation of my social and emotional well-being, so I wasn’t quick to stock up on groceries and toilet paper and hole up in my house.
However, it only took a few days after the social distancing recommendations came down in mid-March for me to be fully on board. Since then, it’s been an interesting shift from spending 18 hours away from home each day to spending 18 hours in the same 150 square feet of my apartment.
Looking back over the past month, I’ve discovered some surprising things about myself.
I spent most of my childhood preparing for this.
Between living in rural New Mexico to living on the outskirts of a small town in northern Arizona, I’ve always lived just far enough away from a grocery store that you learned to make do if you forgot something like, say, butter. It wasn’t economical to run out to the grocery store for one forgotten item, so you figured it out.
I also grew up not having access to things like live TV or friends close by, so I learned to entertain myself with books and hobbies.
My book hoarding tendencies suddenly make sense.
I’m a complete and total bookworm. I cannot visit the library, a bookstore, or even the grocery store without perusing the book selection and grabbing a title (or five) that I want to read. The day that the bookstores and libraries closed, I felt like a piece of my heart was ripped out of me.
Given the fact that on that same day, I had five library books checked out and unread, along with three stacks of other books with 10–15 selections in each stack, you would think that I would have plenty to tide me over for a 30–60 day quarantine.
But none of the books in my queue feel right to read right now. So I’ve taken walks specifically to find a little free library in hopes of coming across that book that feels like a good selection for me.
I miss sports like I never thought I would.
Being both an avid baseball fan and a rabid lacrosse fan, this time of year is my favorite, with MLB winding up (pun intended) and NLL moving into the playoffs. I’ve got sports to watch every single day and I love it.
Since I’ve never been able to watch a game that I already know the outcome of, I’ve instead resorted to watching friends do things like rowing a marathon via Zoom. Seriously, I spent three hours watching this last week. Aside from not having a seat host bring me a beer, it was an adequate replacement. I never thought that outside of watching The Biggest Loser, I would enjoy watching other people exercise.
My hobbies are primarily eating and drinking with friends.
I am a complete and total foodie, and there is something about the restaurant experience that DoorDash will never replace. Even if I take the time to plate up my own food and make it look nice, it’s everything about dining out that makes it an experience that we are willing to pay for.
It’s the sounds of the kitchen and the smells of the food. It’s the lighting over the table and the act of perusing the menu. It’s the attentive server that recommends the best dish that you will declare is the best thing you’ve ever had. It’s laughing with friends while sharing stories.
It is these moments that I cannot wait until this quarantine is lifted to get back to.
My extrovertedness has been broken by constant screen time.
The first week of safer-at-home orders, I spent hours on virtual happy hours, FaceTime, Marco Polo, you name it. I worked really hard to stay connected with my friends and family. But after about a week of doing that, something broke.
Spending all day on my computer, half of which was on video conference, the idea of logging in for another thing was draining to me. As such, I’ve stopped saying yes to the optional virtual gatherings and instead have unplugged over the weekends and hung out with a book or a puzzle instead.
I no longer idly scroll on social media.
I quit Facebook entirely for a week. That felt great. I didn’t read news updates, and I didn’t read ignorant debates among the people in my feed. That was the happiest week of the past month.
I didn’t realize how much emotional drain these channels are. Now, I go in to social media with intention. Post what’s needed, check in to the groups I belong to, and pop out. My screen time reports show that my social media usage is almost non-existent. I love it.
I have no interest in using this time to reinvent myself or finish a project.
A friend of mine had posted an question on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. She asked how we were using this “extra time” we didn’t expect to be given. I laughed when I saw the post and commented back, “What extra time?” She took my little bit of snark with grace and thanked me for the reminder that not everyone is in reset mode right now.
It’s interesting to see the different dynamic between those who are not working right now vs. those who have simply shifted to working from home. I was working from home part time, and I relished my work from home days as project days and my commute to an office days as production days.
It seems that those lines have been blurred and I now work every day. The “commuting time” I thought I would shift to reading, writing or exercise has instead become sleeping time. My days exhaust me. The idea of doing anything that requires any level of effort or creativity (cooking, cleaning, designing the next product I’m creating) is completely disinteresting to me. And that has come as quite a surprise.
When it’s time to go back to an integrated society, I’ll no doubt be ready for it. I look forward to getting dressed up again (yeah, I’m totally working in my sweats, and often what I slept in the night before), and getting out of the house for more than a grocery run or some fresh air. I’ll be buying tickets to my favorite bands for their first live shows and I’ll don my favorite team garb for the first game.
But first, I’m going to hug everyone that will allow me. Because of all the things I miss, hugs are at the top of the list.