100 Days of Quarantine
Every single job I’ve had since graduating from college required some sort of lab setup or equipment that made remote work practically impossible. That changed 5 years ago when I accepted my current job in research. My director allowed (actually recommended) working from home at least 20% of the time. At that point in my life I had just left a demanding and high-stress environment and I felt that being trapped in the office was a source of my problems. All I desperately wanted was to have a personal life and thought that maybe an employer with a good work-life balance would finally enable me to pursue that. Making matters more complicated however was that my father was dying of cancer at the time. In some ways the desired work flexibility was more of a requirement than a perk to me. But soon after I started that job, it all somehow came together. The occasional remote work allowed me to help with my dad, actually have a little fun in my life and once in a while log in some tasks while traveling. The benefit was absolutely worth it and I regretted that I had never seriously considered it in the past.
But alas, things do change. Eventually after some major life events, I found myself back in the office full time. The “being remote” option was relegated to that rare exception when a “not-quite-an-emergency” occured (like a home delivery or inconveniently scheduled doctor’s appointment). I was only at home when I felt I was forced to be. Though to be honest, I genuinely preferred being at work. Talking to co-workers in person resolved issues faster. It was more helpful to give guidance to my interns. People were social. And most of all, having a defined space where I could specifically focus on work helped me to compartmentalize. At the end of the day, I could close the door to that space and completely check out.
And today it has been 100 days since I last closed that door. A hundred long days since my workplace informed us that the building was ramping down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. A hundred confusing days since I had to develop a new work-life balance. A hundred frustrating days of trying to figure out how to be productive and how to check out. A hundred painful days of feeling trapped .. at home.
“Trapped” in a home that I purchased exactly 4 years ago. I really have a hard time believing it’s been that long. And in all the time I’ve been here, I never once took the time to make this place an actual home. I never changed the things I didn’t like when I bought it. I never sought out the comforts that I always dreamt I’d have. I never even put up a damn picture or any form of decor on a single wall. Not one. On the first day of quarantine I optimistically thought about how I would remedy these things. And now that I’ve had a hundred days, I’m not closer to even a basic plan. It’s not that I dislike my home or that I don’t want to improve my living, it’s just that currently nothing truly inspires me to change the material existence around me.
Before this pandemic, I was outside my home every single day of the week interacting with other people. Work, gym, friends, family, night life, whatever. My life was outside these walls. This residence was (and still is) just a place where I rest my head. Being outside and around people gave me energy and the motivation to improve aspects about myself: my health, my relationships, my productivity.
Being home by myself, I can feel my spirit slowly atrophy. I can’t focus on work or I work too long without being productive. My sleep has become wildly erratic and of poor quality. I’ve lost interest in most of my TV shows. I’ve more or less stopped enjoying the casual sip of scotch. It’s been increasingly difficult to exercise. I miss so many people much more than I’m willing to tell them - and the last thing I want to talk to anybody about is my own personal hell. To be fair I do have an incredibly small circle that I exclusively see once or twice a week and a few close friends with whom I video-chat regularly. They are all great and wonderful and I’m lucky to have them in my life. I guess that’s some consolation but day-after-day I’ve been finding it more-and-more insufficient.
I know the world is going through some incredibly difficult times. I often feel guilty for having such intense feelings of dissatisfaction. At the end of the day, I still do have a secure job and food and yes, a physical home. I recognize all of that. I feel for all the people who are suffering at this moment: Black people, the countless unemployed, the soon to be homeless or worse: those sick from COVID-19. There are a lot of people struggling in various ways, many in silence and alone. All I can say is be kind, try to be caring, maybe say hi to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. I don’t know how to fix things, especially not for myself, but I’m really going to make an attempt. My starting point is here and I hope for the better in the next 100 days.
Posted in: Life,