The Quarantine Diaries

How are you?

I’m struggling. I feel like I’ve been writing this in my head for the past four days, but things have changed so drastically every single day that what was in my head and my heart a few days ago is already massively outdated.

Personally, I feel miles behind the positivity and optimism that I am seeing on social media. I have nothing but admiration for the people who have already used the pain to create good, whether that be through volunteering or expressing themselves creatively online. I’m not there yet – but I want to be and I’m going to try.

My boyfriend and I were walking around in what is already a post-apocalyptic south London yesterday and thinking about what these next few weeks were going to be like before this all unfolded. We were going to spend this weekend welcoming Harry’s parents home from there trip to Barbados and celebrating Mother’s Day with his mum. Next weekend, we were going to go to Madrid to get some sun and celebrate the end of the project I’ve been working on for the past 9 months. In less than two months, we were meant to fly to America for a two week holiday to Chicago, New York, and Walt Disney World that we’d been saving for for nearly a year. By all accounts, the next few months were meant to be the beginning of what was going to be a really incredible year.

In reality, we have both been working from home for nearly a week. I’m required to work from home for at least four weeks… and whispers are saying it could be 12 or more. Our trip to Madrid is cancelled, and we can only feel fortunate. We were able to get refunded in travel vouchers, whereas so many others have not been so lucky. We have spent the entire afternoon debating whether we should stay in London or flee to Harry’s parents’ home. After 40 tube stations in London were closed this morning, it is abundantly clear that a military enforced lockdown is imminent. I spent last week stressing that our hard earned trip to Disney World would be cancelled. Now, my fantasies of taking Harry to The Happiest Place on Earth are a distant memory. All I can think about now is that I have absolutely no idea when I will see my family in America again. I am not included in the travel ban as I am a U.S. citizen, but flights are dwindling and I have even read reports that Heathrow is in danger of closing. I visited my doctor yesterday, and she told me the next time I am due for an appointment the office might be permanently closed.

My suffering is an absolute blip on the radar of humanity compared to others. One of my friends had to cancel his wedding yesterday. Another one of my friends has been in lockdown in Hong Kong for two months, only getting to leave her flat once a week for groceries. I am lucky to work for a company with paid sick leave that is able to maintain a semblance of our operations during this time. Numerous friends and family members have no source of income for the foreseeable future. I find myself in a constant state of fear. I am afraid for myself, I’m afraid for everyone else. I’m afraid of how long it will go on. I’m afraid of the mental health implications. I’m afraid of how things will continue to get worse, I’m afraid of what things will look like when this is over.

In spite of it all, I can see the good. Family members that I don’t speak to regularly have downloaded WhatsApp to check in on me. Colleagues with a historically stiff upper lip are softening and expressing concern. I’m not the beam of positive light that I’d like to be right now, but I’m taking baby steps. I start Roaccutane treatment for acne tomorrow, and if all the doomsday predictions are correct, that means by the time we are let out of the house my skin will be positively glowing!

I hope wherever you are in the world, you’re doing okay. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and if you feel like you are struggling, just know that you are not alone! I hope that with time we will all adjust to this new normal and become stronger as a result. I am inspired by the positivity and altruism of those around me (not physically around me because… social distancing), but I think we are all going to have good and bad days in this, so try not to beat yourself up if you’ve got the blues or the mean reds.

Sending love to you all…

 

Farewell to the Bridget Jones Years

I am most definitely on the extreme side of the extroversion scale. I once read that the true difference between introverts and extroverts is that extroverts (generally) gain energy from being around others, while introverts tend to feel drained by being around others. This makes perfect sense to me, because I have always felt that being around other human beings fuels me like a Red Bull and an ice cold shower. I purposely pack my calendar full of dinners, brunches, and coffee catchups with friends because spending time with people I admire gives me a deeper sense of connection and belonging. Despite being a proud fan of the coveted ‘Duvet Day,’ I find that I end up hating the way my throat feels after an entire day of not talking to another human being. (Before you accuse me of loving the sound of my own voice – of course I do. I have a podcast.)

With all of that being said, it will probably come as a surprise that I have lived entirely by myself for the past two years, have loved every goddamn minute of it, and genuinely believe that every extrovert should live on their own at some point if given the opportunity. By the time I moved into my tiny one bed flat in Battersea, I had lived in boarding school dorms, college dorms, a Chicago apartment with the Rachel to my Monica, and a flatshare in North London with a couple who turned into lifelong friends. I feel like I have earned the right to say that I’ve seen it all. I’ve woken up at 2AM to the smoke alarms after my college flatmate and I fell asleep with a pizza in the oven. I’ve begged my high school roommates to keep guard while I snuck a boy into my dorm. I’ve even had to ask a randomly allocated college dorm mate to please stop blogging about my private phone conversations with my mom (God, college is a weird place).

When I packed up my bedroom in my North London flatshare and ventured south of the river, I was so ready to start my solo journey that it didn’t faze me when friends and coworkers asked, ‘But won’t you get lonely? Don’t you want people to talk to in the evenings? Won’t you get bored?’ In fact, I only felt apprehension twice when moving into my own place: once when I saw my credit card bill after buying all of the essentials you need to live on your own (living solo is obscenely expensive) and once when I watched the episode of Sex and the City where Miranda has to give herself the Heimlich Maneuver using the corner of her countertop because she starts to choke and has no one to help her. Besides these two crises, once I lugged all of my stuff into my tiny Victorian conversion flat I never really looked back. I knew that living entirely by myself was an opportunity I never had before, and an opportunity that might not come again, so I grabbed it.

I think a common misconception about extroverts is that we always want to be around people. While I do agree with the idea that extroverts obtain energy from socializing, we are still human beings. I get stressed and tired and moody and hungover just as much (read: probably more) than any other person, and in these moments there is nothing I love more than to cancel all of my plans and completely isolate myself from society. You see, this is exactly why living alone is so beneficial for hyper extroverts like me. I love nothing more than to socialize all day and every day, but I only like to do so when I am bringing my best self. Living alone has allowed me to choose exactly when I want to be my normal, extremely extroverted self, and when I just want the world to sod off. When I’ve had a long, crappy day at work, I can come home and fester in solitude without having to subject anyone else to my less than desirable mood. Living solo has given me the ability to fully ‘switch off’ and bring a better version of myself to work in the morning.

I’ve started to refer to this period of my life as the Bridget Jones Years because to me that’s exactly what it has been. It has been a massive period of growth where I have somehow simultaneously managed to learn how to take care of myself, but also come home from a night out at 4AM, accidentally spending £30 on a drunk takeaway that I won’t even be awake to collect. I’ve learned how to manage the 70 bills a month associated with renting in London, broken boilers, and passive aggressive neighbors. I’ve left dirty dishes in the sink after a long day because the only person who can be annoyed with me tomorrow is me, and I’m generally fairly forgiving. My flat has been my sanctuary for home cooked meals on a Tuesday night, for crying on the phone to my mom on a Sunday afternoon, and for not having to explain to anyone who the overnight guest was on a Saturday morning.

I don’t ever remember anyone telling me that the ages of 23-25 are particularly formative, but to me I think they might have been the most pivotal in my life thus far. As I sit in what remains of my Bridget Jones flat in Battersea, I find myself reflecting on the past two years with the sort of clarity that only comes with hindsight. I’m sure it won’t be long until I am feeling nostalgic for this period of my life, but I am fortunate enough to have found someone whom I prefer to be with far more than I enjoy being alone. I haven’t thought of a clever name for the period I am entering, and I find the term ‘cohabiting’ incredibly cringe worthy. All I know is that I’m as excited, if not more, for this journey than I was for the last… and at least now I will have someone to give me the Heimlich.

 

The Canterbury Tales

This week, Meg talks about the five best bits of her recent day trip to Canterbury and what she has been enjoying this week including a new podcast about The Office, BBC’s new Interior Design Masters, and the fact that Jennifer Aniston broke Instagram. Be sure to tune in for details on a new social media contest!