Living the COVID life

Image from the Goethe-Institut Chicago | www.facebook.com/pg/goetheinstitut.chicago
Image from the Goethe-Institut Chicago | http://www.facebook.com/pg/goetheinstitut.chicago

I’ve always enjoyed memes but I never thought I’d come to depend on them to recalibrate my moods.

I’m a person who loves working from home, using communication technologies, and social media. I also tend towards introversion.

You would think that shifting to the current context would be easy and even desirable, with so many of my colleagues and organisations in the sector moving to online-only ‘campuses’ and teaching/ research from home. I thought so, too, for about three days or so…

But let me start at the beginning:

My COVID life started ten days ago when our family decided to self-isolate, which meant keeping the kids home from school, me working from home, and minimising going out. We had several reasons, including a tri-generational household in which my mother lives with us. She is 85 years old and has several other health conditions. She is not frail, but neither is she incredibly robust. She is her age. We did not want to be cavalier with her health, or that of others.

Which brings me to our strongest other motivators to isolate voluntarily: we believe that social distancing and – indeed – isolation are effective ways to flatten the curve, and we wanted to protect those in our community who may be more vulnerable.

We are privileged enough to be able to do this. My work can be done from home. My partner is the primary carer in our family. We have a cosy house but there is enough space for us to have rooms to ourselves if we need to. We did not stockpile but we were doing the recommended thing of buying a few extra items each grocery trip in the month or so leading up to when we decided to isolate. We are in a position to be able to absorb the extra costs of home delivery of grocery items, and also the higher costs of accessing things from smaller providers. So, all in all, we will be OK at home.

For my work, most of it will be fine to deliver using Zoom, with some work in creating more scaffolding resources and reshaping the workshops. It’ll be a challenge on some fronts because I convene a few full day and 2-day events, and they’re not going to be possible via video conferencing. I will have think creatively about these but I am low on brain-space right now, and that’s the thing I’ve found most challenging while living this COVID life.

Even though I have quite an ideal work-from-home (WFH) situation, complete with two kids (Grades 8 and 5) who are fairly self-sufficient and happy to be proactive about their learning and also amuse themselves, the transitioning workload and persistent static of anxiety is wearing. The speed at which all of this has been happening feels both glacial (it seems to have gone on so long already) yet much too fast (when the decision comes down to everything moving online, it’s a very small window of prep). There is the added load of emotional and social labour that must now be done at a remove, at a time when situations are causing frustration, uncertainty, and fear in the cohorts we support (as well as in colleagues and friends around us).

I know I can’t be all things to all people, and I do allow for down time and stepping back from the engagement, especially now that social media channels have gained more prominence and relevance as avenues of sustaining community dynamics. It helps a lot that I work with a nourishing, understanding team – all of whom are also swamped and trying to get through their copious lists of things to do.

Things I never thought I’d get sick of that I’m starting to get sick of:

  • Netflix and other on-demand streaming channels. Seriously, I never thought I’d get sick of such content on tap. One of my fantasies was having heaps of time to go through the shows I really wanted to watch, even the ones with eight series already made and counting. Now, I have lots of things on my to-watch list but the idea of spending the time on the couch and watching them is not as attractive as it once was (I can’t quite believe I’m typing that – I always thought I was one with the #couchlyf).
  • Being home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a complete homebody and have always loved staying home but, even for me, this prolonged stint is going to prove a challenge.
  • Knowing what’s going on. It’s a symptom of being overloaded with pandemic info and global/ local government responses, I know, but I did not think that I’d be sick of knowing what was going on. Staying home and being isolated does make it feel like knowing all the things doesn’t matter as much. I am planning news-free days to address the tiredness and glazed-over feeling I get when listening to or watching the news.

I have not, however, gotten sick of toasted sandwiches for lunch…

Things I never thought I’d miss but that I’m starting to miss:

  • Being at work. I get caught up in my significant commute and the idea of being at work becomes entangled with the frustration and stress of the approx. 3 hours of public transport I take each day I go to campus. This has clouded the experience of actually being at work, on a beautiful big campus with wide open spaces, and gorgeous trees and wildlife. I am starting to miss the buzziness of the Ag (the hub of our main campus’ university culinary and social life), even though I was the kind of person who would stride away from it if I was at the campus all day.
  • Just getting what I want from the shops. Not that I am doing without things in any big way right now but just the idea of not being able to go and get what I want is something that is proving to be a repeated revelation. It’s good for us in many ways, to force us to reflect on what we consume and where it comes from, as well as what we don’t really need but would get just because we can.
  • Looking forward to things. I don’t mean for this one to sound desperately sad, but I’m coming to the realisation (it seems to take a while) that this isolation and distancing is not short term. It will probably go on for many months yet, and while we can schedule computer mediated get-togethers and events in our own homes, these are nowhere near the same as walking around an art gallery, museum, or cultural precinct; trying new restaurants and cafes or haunting various shops to find presents for friends and loved ones; taking part in conferences or seminars and having those unplanned, delightful intellectual and social wallows… I have a significant birthday this year – yes, the big 5-0 – and, back in late January, I was even talking about having a party. Note that I am not someone who normally plans a party for herself. But it doesn’t matter now.

I have deliberately not linked to anything from this post. I just wanted to share where I was at in the midst of all this. I know many are facing much tougher times, without support or close networks. If you can, find ways to share, support, and connect with our scholarly community and beyond. We could all do with being more compassionate, kind, and patient. They’re not jazzy, shiny qualities, but they will definitely make our world a better place right now.

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