The Best and Worst of One Year of Quarantine

One year ago today, I was on my way back from picking up a used Toyota Corolla, fiddling with the radio, and I heard the news that the governor had declared a 2-week shelter in place.

Twenty minutes later I was standing in line at a local grocery store with a bandana on my face, a healthy supply of toilet paper, and the feeling that this would all blow over soon.

One year later, I sat down to think about the best and worst things about the past year in trying to continue living normally during a global health crisis.

The 3 Worst Things

1. “Totally Under Control”

Nearly from the start, the lack of leadership or reaction with any footing in reality set this country’s entire response into a tailspin that it wouldn’t recover from. Even an entire year later, we still have tons of people around here that refuse to wear a mask in a store, take distancing seriously, or still think that it’s some big hoax, or at best, not a big deal.

All unsurprising. People just don’t care. If it’s not a massive global climate event that knocks out humanity, it will be a virus, because the majority of people simply can’t be inconvenienced.

If you can’t be bothered to wear a mask or follow even the loosest of health standards, go fuck yourself. Sincerely, everyone who gives a shit. Oh, and 530k dead people.

2. Schoolwork

The first couple weeks were sort of like a little vacation. I think the only thing my daughter had to work on was reading an hour and logging it.

Then the shelter in place order went from a week to after Easter to the end of the year, and we had to download mobile apps, pop on Zoom meetings and figure out how to get first grade math assignments submitted through, sorry to say, truly horrendous user interfaces.

At least we only had like 3 months of actual school to get through, and it was only first grade. Lexi was good and ready for second, by that time.

The start of second grade was different. They were in school 2 out of 5 days of the week, and were issued iPads, so there was a good plan from the start.

Even so, was still a lucid nightmare to work on and submit work on those at-home days. I can’t even imagine what people with really young kids did. Or trying to help your kid work on something substantially harder than second grade math and reading.

The teachers weren’t thrilled, either. God, they deserve so much more money.

3. Friends?

Honestly, I’m almost painfully introverted. If I go out somewhere for an evening it takes me a good 2-3 days to recharge from all that social interaction. But I do still like to hang out with friends, pop out for an after-work drink, and go on vacations and short trips.

But there was none of that for most of 2020. I haven’t been around anyone in so long it’s actually starting to make me wish I could hit up a good picnic or street fair or something. Just, like, anything.

I’ve got a room near Ocean City booked for mid-June, when I should already have my vaccination, with luck, and actually seeing a different state will be a treat.

The 3 Best Things

1. New Work/Life Balance

The week before we all found ourselves working from home, we had established new Microsoft 365 accounts and moved a lot of important files to the cloud. We even set up Teams chat rooms and were fully prepared for remote work. That was the best thing we could have done.

I had my little 11″ MacBook Air all loaded up with Adobe software and was ready to start getting things done from home. That computer, while tiny and 6 years old, was surprisingly adept at handling design tasks.

I used to leave the house at 7:30am, get to work about an hour later, and work until 5:30-6:00pm. Then it was an hour drive home where I would often have some food waiting for me on the stovetop or in the fridge, already missing dinner much of the time.

I got to see my daughter for about 2 hours a day, back then, before she’d turn in for the night. The weekends were our time to hang out and talk about the week.

What an amazing difference. It’s to the point now where I can no longer imagine going back to working on an office full-time.

  • I can’t picture myself putting on khakis and a button-down shirt or polo (business casual? fuck that, forevermore).
  • I can’t go back to paying $400/mo to have my daughter sit in a room after school until 5:30pm, where she gets rushed home to eat and do homework and go to bed an hour after she’s all done.
  • And I can’t imagine sitting in a car for more than 2 hours every day when I could be doing literally anything else.

I drove out to work a couple times last year to get stuff from the office when it was clear we weren’t going back to normal anytime soon, and fuck me what a long drive. You don’t think about it (much) when it’s every day, but when it’s clear you never had to in the first place just to get work done. Damn.

Plus, I can get chores done during the day in between assignments and it’s a goddamn revelation.

2. Cost Savings

Now, I know this isn’t true for everyone, like the millions of people who were and are out of work because they had jobs that required them to be on-site, and I’m grateful, again, that I could continue working from home unfettered.

That said, the first month that I worked from home, the amount of money I saved was astounding… gas, coffee (commute drinks), more home-cooked dinners and less eating out, and especially childcare. I must have saved about $500 that first month, and more after that with decreases in auto insurance.

It was actually pretty good timing, as I had just needed to buy a new car and again had a monthly payment. Still, pretty shocking.

3. Normalizing Healthy Behavior

It’s immediately opposite of the #1 Worst Thing of people ignoring mask ordinances or spreading disinformation. But maybe one of the best things to happen from all this, and I think the majority of people do have some appreciation for is, is being more conscious of where your hands have been, standing too close to other people, and being generally more aware of sickness.

Remember people getting sick at work and just toughing it out to get through the day? All those bosses who wouldn’t let their employees go home unless they were dying, and spreading whatever shit they had all over the rest of the workplace?

Now it’s like if you hear someone sniffle across the aisle in the store you dart to the other side.

It’s not like this everywhere of course, but it seems like most people I see are wearing masks (even over their noses!) and trying to stay distanced from others in line. This should totally keep happening, even after herd immunity vaccine saturation.

I want spacing. I want people to put on a mask if they aren’t feeling well. I want sanitizer everywhere and people wiping down carts and baskets and everything else.

Can you imagine going to a birthday party where some 6-year-old just blew all over the cake and then say “yeah I’ll have a big hunk of that.” Let’s all never fucking do that again, please.

By Jake

Reader, writer, designer, creative director. He does web work, print work, and dream work. Heavy advocate of self-care. Updates his blog much less often that he should.

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