Isolation chronicles: Day 131

Birthday cupcake, courtesy of my colleagues | Photo by Tseen
Birthday cupcake, courtesy of my colleagues | Photo by Tseen

Right now, writing this, I’m on Day 131 of COVID life. The last time I wrote about it, I was only 10 days in. Revisit that first post if you want to get an idea of the isolation context that I’m in.

Here in Melbourne, Australia, we are in Lockdown 2.0 and experiencing the highest numbers of COVID cases since all this started.

With over 120 days of accumulated isolation time, then, what has changed in my immediate orbit since my previous post?

Back in March, I had said I was sick of:

  • Netflix and other on-demand streaming channels.
    Now: I shall never say another bad word about streaming, or free-to-view, or any other entertainment channels again. We have leaned on them mightily and they have not failed us. Even when it’s really, really bad (looking at you, Warrior Nun), it gives me common culture to discuss / rant about with buddies and connection of all flavours are welcome in a time of physical distancing.
  • Being home.
    Now: I think I’ve undergone some kind of psychological boundary-setting because I get anxious about not being at home, especially with the number of racist incidents against Asian Australians being reported, and the increasing spread of the virus around my state. I don’t actually feel that restricted because my desire to be anywhere else right now is fairly low. I’m grateful to be in isolation with people I like, have a job I can do from home, and in a house that is proving big enough. On this last point, we’re discovering multiple purposes for areas that we had not really noted before: that old armchair outside has become a regular weekend spot for reading in the sun or having phone conversations away from everyone else; the impromptu school-desk set up for my son is now also his gaming zone; our bedroom has become my daughter’s go-to when she has a school meeting.
  • Knowing what’s going on.
    Now: Same. I still heavily filter what news I read and how much I follow up on via social channels. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking my partner for a summary at the end of the day, and he knows I don’t want All the Knowledge. He does still tell me too many Trump stories (oh, there are so many)…but then ‘any’ is too many.

Back then, I had said I was missing: 

  • Being at work.
    Now: Yeah nah. See earlier comment about being fine at home and why. My work is now at home and I’m discovering good things about online modes of engagement all the time. Those who know me will know that I am a mole-person who can do very well without having to be outside, or in wide open spaces. So, isolating at home for me is not as much of a chore as it is for others.
  • Just getting what I want from the shops.
    Now: We order in groceries regularly and, now that they have also adapted to COVID life, the service is usually prompt and we usually get what we order.
  • Looking forward to things.
    Now: This is still a thing. Even though we’re all settling in for the long-haul now, things still feel like they’re in stasis. I’m not even looking forward to returning to ‘normal’ because I don’t really think that’s going to happen for a long while, if ever. Pandemic context aside, life is OK. I’m privileged to be able to say that, and the rhythm of my days is consistent. I had my birthday in isolation, and my lovely workmates sent me a glorious box of baked goods that included the cupcake featured above.

In addition to revisiting these elements from the previous post, I have a few other realisations after four months at home:

We don’t need that much.
We aren’t eating out. I haven’t had a proper barista coffee since lockdown back in March. We haven’t browsed our favourite second-hand shop (where we normally buy a random assortment of things) and we haven’t bought any clothing for ourselves (except for a couple of shirts for my son as part of his birthday present). This goes along with the ‘only getting what I want from the shops’ comments. Even though we regularly have deliveries now, the fact that we have to think ahead to order means that we’re much more considered and strategic about what we’re getting. And if we don’t have it, we just do without.

Collaborations are still happening – if not happening more – across the internets.
Right now, I am now working with a broader range of colleagues from around the world than I previously had been. From inviting long-time Twitter buddies Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco, Mexico) and Jen Polk (@FromPhDToLife, Canada) to be part of Whisperfest with me (more details soon); to writing a book with Jonathan (my Research Whisperer co-conspirator) and one of our longest-serving Research Whisperer allies Phil Ward (@frootle, UK); to co-presenting a session with a new buddy Erika Smith (@erikasmith; Canada); to co-authoring with my local team buddy Jamie Burford, and colleagues interstate and further afield in the UK and USA.

Would these have happened without COVID life and the ‘new normal’ online? Possibly half of them would have. I’d say that the readiness to reach out and include those who aren’t in our immediate vicinity, however, has really come to the fore.

Toasted sandwiches are still desirable.
That is all.

I still don’t miss my commute.
Apparently, some people are missing their commute. When I shared the article on Twitter, a bunch of colleagues responded, mostly to agree that they didn’t miss their commutes either, but a fair number noted that the ‘buffering time’ between home and work that a commute offered was now gone. In addition, people had used their commute time as quality alone time with books (hardcopy and audio), podcasts, etc., and they are finding that now it’s difficult to find time for these activities.

I did miss reading as I did a LOT of that during my commute. Weekends have become perfect for that, however, as we aren’t going anywhere and that old armchair in the backyard gets some warming sun on it, even during the Melbourne winter.

walrus cam

My constant companion who sits on top of my desk-top webcam | Photo by Tseen

5 comments

  1. As an aside: I think we all need to share our “constant companion’/desk team/cheerleaders! It’s important to have a steady crew agreeable and smiling with/at you…however mute they may be!

    Liked by 1 person

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