Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Quarantine Diaries

     I've been meaning to write this post for ages, and I've been putting it off the entire time - you might have noticed there's been an absence of posts since I finished my Mexico & Cuba series. That's partly because I've been delaying this one, and partly a lack of inspiration in general. I was putting this one off because I wanted to address the current global situation, but also didn't really know what I wanted to say in regards to it. And I still don't to an extent, so this is going to be one of those free-flow stream-of-thoughts type posts, and we'll see where we all end up with it.

Coffee cup, headphones & leather bound notebook


     By "global situation" and given the title of this post, you've probably worked out by now that I'm referring to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, that has the vast majority of the world sequestered in their homes for now. The UK has been in lockdown for about 7 weeks now I think, and I live in Scotland, which has now had another 3 weeks added to that, without the same relaxations England has. Personally though, I'm on day 56 of isolation. Two months ago I returned from my holiday in Cuba, and 10 days later found myself off work again. On 18th March, we officially closed for business - for how long, we still don't know. I work in tourism which, if you hadn't already guessed, is going to be one of the worst affected industries by this. We closed a week before lockdown, as tours were now posing a health risk to both guides and customers alike. Plus, even then, less people were travelling, and of course now, no one can at all.

     Since I'd been in contact with tourists from many other countries - though that last week was spent doing tours at a greater distance, and avoiding any physical contact - I opted to self-isolate as much as possible for the next two weeks, only going outside to go food shopping and not seeing anyone outside my flatmates. Hence it has been 8 weeks for me now - after the first few weeks, I've been going out more for walks to exercise as well. People also kept asking if I would go down to stay with my parents in the countryside, but I wanted to wait the 2 weeks to make sure I wouldn't inadvertently take the disease to their area if I had picked it up. Lockdown started before I had that option anyways, but it's been two months and I'm confident I do not have it (I may have asymptomatically earlier on, but I wouldn't know for sure).

     I then spent a week or so panicking about finances before the government announced the support available, thankfully. My income is approximately 2/3rds self-employed as a tour guide, and 1/3rd employed as the manager (see this post for details of my working life). I've been furloughed for the latter, and therefore have still been receiving monthly pay, but the support scheme for the former isn't open yet, so although I'm managing for now and it opens later this week, it's been tight and stressful for the last month or so. Add on to that though, that this will likely impact tourism for a long time even after things start to improve, so I don't know if I'll still have a realistic job at the end of all this.

     Hey, remember when I had a shit second half of 2019, and was hoping this year would go better? Bloody hell.

      I'm trying not to let my mind go too far into the future though, and just take this a day at a time. I've said it many times on here, that I'm 'just muddling through life' and don't plan into the future all that much, but I think like most people, I still do at least a little. I had a vague idea of how the next few years, largely the remainder of my 20s, would pan out, even if I didn't have specific plans or timelines yet. Travel in particular, as well as providing me with my job, has been such a huge part of my life for the last few years, and I miss it so much right now - I even hoped to live abroad for a while again. But all those plans and ideas have now been thrown out the window. It was inevitable really. Whether you had a plan for the next 6 months or 6 years, no one's plan involved a fucking global pandemic. We're all the same boat, we're all stuck in stasis for now. It's so incredibly frustrating. Yet as irritated as I get, as much as I desperately want to travel and work and start up my life again and stop wasting all this time, I have to remind myself and accept that there is nothing I can do about this. 

     And of course, I absolutely want the world to do whatever is necessary to survive this. And if that means staying in lockdown longer, and having lots of social distancing in place for the considerable future, and reassessing my future plans entirely, then so be it. These people protesting lockdown and demanding to reopen the economy, those flaunting the rules or even just bending them and interpreting them to suit their own priorities... they can all piss off. The numbers of people I see sunbathing in the park outside my building, or walking two abreast on the pavement so I have to walk in the middle of the damn road to keep 2m away from them... I'm getting increasingly annoyed and resentful of the selfishness this represents. I understand the frustration, I understand the toll this is taking on people in a variety of ways. I know staying at home this much is tough. But there are thousands upon thousands of people fucking dying because of this.

     I think many people only see this as a news story, and until it directly affects them or someone they know, they don't realise the full extent of it. I even noticed this two months ago when things started to change here in the UK. I've been lucky, in that no one close to me has caught it badly, and I still have a job through the furlough scheme for now, when so many others have lost theirs. But with my work being affected so quickly and more seriously than others, I was taking this far more seriously than many of my non-tour guide friends early on. I realised as soon as I got back from my trip that it would only be a matter of time before we had to close. Most of my other friends did realise and got on board with the restrictions in place eventually, but there was definitely a delay in reaction, simply because their lives weren't affected right away. Even now, I see and hear people talking about how surprised they are that this might last for months longer, and this in itself surprises me, as I thought that was fairly obvious by now.

     So I've been stuck in my flat this whole time, going out only for shopping and walks. Although, I haven't been out walking as much as many others because it often causes me more stress than it alleviates. I find myself having to continuously dodge the hordes of other people out doing the same thing. Honestly, I've walked through town so many times and been astounded by the numbers of people out, so it hardly looks like lockdown at all. However, since I can't venture out of Edinburgh for now, I am trying to find new corners to explore, areas where I don't go often or haven't been to at all. And preferably ones that not so many others are going to! I may do some blogs about these going forward, but I'm not going to promise anything, since I've been struggling with blog inspiration and motivation lately. We'll see.

    At home, I try to keep busy. My wake-sleep schedule has altered dramatically, without the need to get up in the mornings. I've always been a night owl, but I'm now at the point where I wake between noon and 2pm, and go to sleep between 3-4am. But I figure that's just my body's preferred natural rhythm, and it's fine if I'm still making use of my waking hours - I'll be doing stuff late at night that others would be doing mid-afternoon. I've done yoga every single day - I've been using Yoga with Adriene for three years already, she wasn't a new discovery for me! I've been practicing Spanish and trying meditation. As well as all my holiday posts, I've been trying to work on some other writing projects too - partly because I've been struggling for inspiration on here. I play piano from time to time, and I've been reading a lot more than I have for a long time - I was on the ball enough to buy several new books from a local shop the day I stopped working, before lockdown began! I'm trying to find ways to be productive.

     But for all the days when I fill my time with these activities, and feel good and satisfied for it, there are also many days where I don't. Days where I feel bored and fed up and unmotivated and uninspired. When I while away the hours watching Netflix and YouTube, and playing Animal Crossing, and endlessly scrolling through social media, and honestly, just staring into space sometimes. Days when I get so incredibly frustrated, at myself and the government and this entire shitty situation. Days when I feel low and lonely and depressed. Because obviously, of course I do. We all do. It is a goddamn pandemic.

     I think too many of us feel like we should be using this time to do all the things we say we never have time for. To learn new skills, to finish projects, to improve ourselves somehow. And it's true, that we rarely have blocks of time in our busy adult lives with the freedom to do these things. But we're not on some fun little holiday right now. We're in the middle of a global pandemic, a huge, historical crisis, and it's a damn nightmare. People are scared for their health, and that of their family and friends. Everyone's mental health is suffering on all accounts. We're facing our second 'once in a generation' financial recession - which for millennials is yet another disaster to add to our lifetimes. Honestly, we've lived through so much shit, it's hardly surprising half of us are numb to it all. So it's ok to not use this time productively. It's ok to have days where you want to huddle in a blanket and forget about the outside world. It's ok to feel whatever you feel about it, because this is shitty and awful and terrifying. And I think we all need to hear that, and remember that, and go easy on ourselves. Do whatever it is you need to do to take care of yourself (within the rules of social distancing obviously), and ignore what everyone else is doing with their quarantine time.

      I found myself feeling down the other day upon seeing how many Zoom calls and Skype sessions and pub quizzes the whole world seems to be doing - to the point where many are getting fatigued by it. And I though "I'm not... what's wrong with me and my social circles?". I have not used Zoom once, ever. And then I had to remind myself that I have never had wide friendship circles to do group calls and quizzes with. I have always had a small group of close friends, the majority of whom I see one-on-one or in groups of three. If I had a different call every day and three quizzes a week with a dozen participants, I'd hate everyone by now. I've even limited the time I spend with the people I live with for the same reason. I'm a natural introvert, and I need my alone time, and I've never been one to text or call people a lot - I'm much more of an in-person friend - so I should not be comparing my social life to everyone else's. Social media and modern technology is great for helping people stay in touch and not get too lonely during quarantine - but it can also cause problems with loneliness for others.

      We're all having a shared experience right now, but also it will affect everyone very differently. If you can use this time well and you're feeling ok for the most part, then good for you. I know I feel better on the days when I've been busy and productive. But if you're not, then it's fine. We are living through a historic event that none of us were mentally or emotionally prepared for. So handle it however you need to. Take care of yourself first and foremost, and don't compare how you're coping with this to other people. You do not need to emerge from this a better version of yourself. Hell, if I emerge from this anywhere close to how I was before it started (which was not a great place anyways) I'll consider that a win right now. I kind of have to, to stay even vaguely sane.

     So there you go. I could probably ramble on more about my fears and worries and frustrations even more, but I think this post has gone on long enough. I didn't know what it was going to end up looking like, but I've tried to be as honest and upfront about how I'm feeling as possible, because I don't think pretending otherwise will help me or anyone else right now. So if you've made it this far, the only thing I hope you take from this is that it's ok to feel how you feel, and you are not alone in feeling that way. We're all having good days and bad, even if it doesn't seem like anyone is talking about the latter or post it on social media. Times are shit right now, so all we can do is hold on and wait for them to get better.

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