Coming out of my cage

… am I doing just fine?


After a long year and change, and a weary ordeal trying to secure my appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccine in New York City, and finally getting my doses…

I’m finally fully vaccinated against COVID-19*
*many variants of it, at least

To be honest, I thought I wouldn’t be eligible to even enter the rat race for vaccine appointments until about now, but I like to think that New York’s Governor Cuomo couldn’t take California’s Governor Newsom announcing earlier 30+ and 16+ eligibility dates, which was why several Mondays ago he announced that 30+ could get vaccinated the following day and 16+ the week after. I had to wait until the 16+ date, but it was still a month ahead of when I thought I’d be able to even think about getting vaccinated.

And because I was mentally unprepared to even have a vaccine appointment, I quickly became really overwhelmed trying to plan for a post-vaccine life. Could I see my family? Could I meet friends in the city? Could I attend a wedding a month later?? After 13 months of not having to plan more than a few days in advance and calculating almost zero risk with other humans, I felt myself shutting down a bit once my appointments were booked.

But here we are, maxed on the vax. So here’s what my personal experience was like.

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One Year of Working From Home

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.

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My Pandemic Routine & Comfort Levels

Happy autumnal equinox!

seasonal fall GIF

Today marks the first day of (astronomical) fall for the northern hemisphere and we are feeling it in the northeast US. Now that the smoke from the west coast wildfires has mostly cleared, the air is cooler, crisper. We are able to start keeping our windows open during the workday, like we did at the beginning of quarantine.

But it also means that our daylight hours are getting shorter, which we have not really had to experience since before quarantine. We have been taking stock of where New York City stands with coronavirus and trying to determine what level of comfort we have with things like seeing friends, going to reopened gyms, and more.

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Happy autumnal equinox 🍁 Changing things up a little for equinox this year with a selfie I just took in the sunniest corner of my apartment instead of a nature photo for 2 reasons: 1) I wanted to share what it looks like when I go outside with a mask. Right now, this happens once a week, so I haven't seen the need to buy cute, reusable masks yet, since I venture outside so rarely. Wearing a mask is still one of the number one things we should be doing to curb the spread of coronavirus. 2) My extreme resistance to posting selfies stems from a deep fear of my own vanity. I don't even consider selfies vain but I know mine feel rooted in it. I'm really vain and I work actively to suppress that part of myself, among others. I am coming around to the idea that maybe I should try to reduce my vanity rather than just stifle it, since my social media makes clear I'm not actually less vain… I originally was going to make it my monthly challenge this month, to take a selfie every day, but I chickened out when the month suddenly started. But one thought I've had all year is that I should not be so apologetic for who I am, even for the parts of me that I want to change. So here's my face, partially at least. If you're still here, how are you getting ready for the colder months? We haven't spent much of quarantine with fewer daylight hours than nighttime hours, and with both schools reopening and indoor dining resuming next week , I'm really nervous. I also don't know how to mentally prepare not to see my family for peak festive, family gathering season, from Mid-Autumn Festival through to Lunar New Year…

A post shared by Starr ⭐ (@sipofstarrshine) on

Schools are set to reopen and indoor dining is set to resume next week in New York. If the city isn’t bracing for another wave of cases, we certainly are here in my household. In fact, we are trying to prepare by making sure we have supplies that we may need, since we were only just able to get through the first wave.

Here’s where we stand right now and what we’re thinking about as the cold months set in:

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Work From Home Strategies (6 months late)

I kind of hate working from home.

There are a variety of reasons why working from home has never been ideal for me: I’m an extrovert who thrives better in social environments, the external (if imagined) accountability of people around me keeps me too guilty to slack off, my home environment is full of tempting distractions like tidying and organization.

In simplest terms, being at home puts me in a home mindset, and personally, going to a physically different location for work helps immensely with putting me in a working headspace. Ever since I started working full time, I keep work and home very separate, very rarely touching work after leaving the office.

So the last 6 months have been, admittedly, a huge challenge. If you’re like me, they may have been a challenge for you, too. I have long understood that trying to be work-productive in the space I strictly reserve for my home-headspace is really difficult. But I’ve had to do the best that I can, given what I understand about myself. It’s been 6 months, so here’s hoping that we have learned a little bit about how we work from home, even if it’s just what doesn’t work well for us.

My personal strategy boils down to 3 main things:

  1. Getting in the work mindset
  2. Staying in the work mindset
  3. Leaving the work mindset

It seems straightforward but it’s hard, especially because I really don’t want to be in the work mindset at all when I’m in the comfort and safety of my home. I don’t hate my job at all but I don’t want it in my home. The hardest step of my strategy is step 2: saying in the work mindset. (I sometimes struggle to get properly or quickly settled into my work mindset even when I go into an office so the struggles I have at home are not new, and I shut myself off from work so strictly ordinarily that it comes more easily for me to do so at home.)

man in white sweater sitting on chair using Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Photo by Charles Etoroma

Note: Alice Goldfuss has written a really great guide to working from home during this pandemic, and she wrote it at a more helpful time at the beginning of the shutdown. Honestly, I recommend reading that before reading on here, but if you want to know more about what works for me, personally:

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It’s been half a year

Today is day 183 since I began sheltering in place in my apartment due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

This means that I have been quarantined for over half of one calendar year.

Every now and then, I find myself laughing out loud because, the first week my office closed, I asked if we should expect to be back in the office the following week or would we not be able to return until April?

(I also am laughing out loud more often because I’m not sure I can regulate my emotions anymore? It is very likely I have become feral and am unable to be tamed for society again…)

Despite what appears to be a large chunk of time passing… it still feels unreal to me some days. Each individual day drags on, but the weeks and months pass in the blink of an eye. I can remember how my own stance on COVID-19 and how dangerous it was changed during the course of a single workday, when I packed my desk with the intention of not returning to the office a few days in advance of it closing. But the months since… are a blur.

There are a lot of things I wish went different for me personally during quarantine, but this pandemic has been much, much bigger than me. And one of the more productive things I’ve been able to do is to try to help others where I can. When I am having trouble taking control over what’s happening in my life, it helps to try to at least contribute some positive change somewhere in the world.

Spread Positivity - spreading yellow spread with a happy face, putting a yellow coin with a happy face into a can that says "Donate", a text exchange responding to 3 frowning faces with 1 smiling face, a spray bottle spraying yellow happy faces
Image created by Alissa Azureen for the United Nations COVID-19 Response

Here are a few ways I have been trying to help:

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