I have used a weekly planner since I was in high school. It was very useful for keeping track of assignments, projects, events, and appointments that often filled up my schedule. But that changed when I was no longer in school for about 4 years, in which I mainly used the planner to keep track of my days. Even after I returned to school, as a graduate student, it was mainly to record what I did or what I have to anticipate.
Right now, it is being used to count the days of how long I have kept myself in quarantine… and it is distressing to see how long I have broken my routine since the outbreak happened: March 2nd was the first reported case of COVID-19 in New York City. I had to commute to the city for class the next day. I was already panicking throughout the day, scared to potentially catch the virus. But I had to make it through the day, covering my face with my scarf, in hopes that I could feel safe.
March 5th was the last time I physically attended class. Again, I was panicking yet trying to stay calm. By now, I was fully aware of the anti-Asian sentiments surrounding the outbreak, so I had to stay vigilant if I was going to make it through the day. The most alarming thought I had at the time: If I don’t want to get harassed, I won’t wear a mask. But I would have to risk my own health by not wearing a mask?
March 9th was when I emailed my professors about being absent for the week. It took me the whole weekend to decide if I should commute down to the city; by then the virus became more widespread. I still lived at home with a parent who is above the age of 60, who would be at higher risk, so I was concerned about how I might be bringing home the virus if I continued my routine. That week, the university announced the transition to distance learning.
March 11th was the day I got a haircut–a pixie cut, similar to Joan Chen as Josie Packard from Twin Peaks–since I was no longer going to classes on campus. I had intended to cut my hair at the end of the semester, but I thought that I might as well do it now. That was also when we learned that the virus reached Rockland County, so now it felt dangerous to roam around the suburbs, despite it feeling like the most remote area outside of the city. It felt like it couldn’t reach us… but it eventually did.
March 13th was the last time I did errand runs by myself. I traveled to three different stores to find toilet paper and other supplies (see my previous post on that adventure). People were already hoarding items and panic buying, and I tried to be smart about where to find stuff that most people would not think to go to, as a first choice. More or less I succeeded, but the collective environmental stress was starting to come over me.
March 16th was the first day of my quarantine. I did not show any symptoms, but I was positive that maybe I had them, from the times I went out since news of the outbreak in New York was released to the public. I remained indoors, just in case, in accordance to the state-wide ordinance for social distancing. I continued classes online, but barely feeling engaged because I am in the comforts of my own home, where I hold space from having to interact with the outside world.
March 30th, today, marks two weeks since I stayed at home… (Exceptions: I had to go out twice, once a week, to do necessary errands: laundry at the laundromat, grocery shopping, and mail back unused commuter tickets at the post office.)
My new routine mainly consists of playing The Sims 4. While it helps me to stay away from social media overload, it pulls me into an escapist trap. I almost do not want to remind myself of this new reality where I cannot go anywhere because I want to protect myself for health reasons. But it is also because there is nowhere to go, since many businesses are limiting their practices to necessity-based functions. There is no space for how things used to be, where we can all engage with each other or our surroundings.
We live in a very isolated existence, thanks to this pandemic.
A few things have not changed. I still talk to friends through text and social media, which have been our main modes of communication, prior to this societal change (since we all live separate lives in separate areas that prevent any time to physically hang out). I still carry on a homebody lifestyle, with books, movies, and writing (but now it is mostly gaming). I still live in the same house since I was a toddler, but now it is occupied with just me and my mother.
But this is a maximized lifestyle I am living. I hope for the day that it returns to being a minimal lifestyle, where I will be allowed to go out and not worry about my safety and well-being, where I can breathe in fresh air and feel the sun on my now-pale skin. I want to be able to walk into stores and cafes, browse merchandise or order coffee. I want to walk on concrete or grass, minding my own business, with the sounds of human interactions around me. I want to sit in a movie theater with popcorn that I started developing an inclination for again…
I’m still testing out ways to have a healthy routine that does not require me to keep playing Sims 4, but now I find myself going back to that game, right after I write this post…