I’m so lucky, and privileged, to have even been able to work from home for the past 365 days. I understand that I am only able to do so because other people are not, that I am only able to have groceries and dinners and office supplies delivered to me during a year I rarely left my building thanks to the work of people who are not paid enough. I hope that you will join me in supporting the people and businesses that have sustained us throughout this year and who brought us joy in the time before… and the soon to come time after.
A year ago today, I set myself up to work from my dining room table after taking my laptop AND charger home from work, at the behest of my husband. The day prior, I was just getting settled in the office after a theme park visit (!) and a cruise (!!), but he was very worried about the news about the virus while I was much more nonchalant about it, so I humored him and packed my bag as though I was planning to do work over the weekend, which I hate and never do. That day, I remember tracking which office buildings near ours had confirmed positive cases: the building next to ours, a building owned by the same company, a building ours was connected to. The head of Port Authority was confirmed to be positive for the novel coronavirus after conducting visits to nearly every major airport, train station, and bus terminal. I went home early to avoid rush hour, but the trains were still full, and we couldn’t avoid feeling both in want of masks in such close proximity to other riders and consciousness of the stares other people of Asian descent got for wearing them. I asked leadership if we should expect to be back in the office after a week or maybe a month.
My office would ask employees to work from home one day after I began doing so. Later that evening, after “commuting” from the side of my dining table designated for work to the side of the table designated for eating, we would learn that Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks tested positive, the first celebrities who did at that time, and that the NBA was cancelling their season after Rudy Gobert tested positive. A day later, Broadway announced shows would be cancelled, and the majority of New York City offices were closed.
So here we are, one year later. I have a desk now, something I used to vehemently refuse getting because I had no need for one because I hate working from home. I got a lamp for that desk, because despite how much more daylight my living room affords me compared to my office, the 4pm winter sunsets were too hard to work through. I almost started to clean my desk to share it but this feels a lot more honest. It’s usually cluttered. There is a questionable number of notebooks on it and an even more questionable little pile of mail. I have a smoothie because I’ve been eating poorly so my brain equates a green smoothie with canceling that out. There is usually a glass of water and a mug of tea.This is where I spend most of my day, for most of my days. I still hate working from home but I’m managing it.
Fortunately, I have not experienced anything close to the tumultuousness of my first month in quarantine, when my husband got sick and my grandfather passed, which has made the 11 months that followed seem easier in comparison. The main battles of those months were mental and they’ve changed me, for better or worse I’m not sure. I wonder who I’ll be when I finally summon the courage to step outside again. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll like her.
It’s infuriating that we’re still doing this a year later. My mind still grapples with the fact that people are needlessly dying or have been suffering the long-term effects of COVID for over a year now, that people don’t even think about the long-term effects of recovering from COVID or being a long-hauler and still struggling with symptoms. I’ve allowed myself to feel optimistic for the warmer months ahead, when more people will be eligible for vaccination and we can gather safely outdoors again, for high-risk populations to reduce that risk. We aren’t close to being done with this pandemic but… close is in our sights now. It feels scary to hope and to plan, and it feels scary to think about what we’re even hoping and planning for and if those things will be around or bring us joy, but… we can begin to hope and to plan and
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.”— Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
As we come up on many people’s anniversaries of experiencing the pandemic shutdown, please take care of yourselves. Just the fact that we are back at March again and, for many of us, have experienced the same or a worse quality of life than last year takes a huge mental toll.
I hope this playlist of the songs that randomly popped into and/or got stuck in my head can help by making you smile.