Self-Isolation Diaries – Week 1

Greetings, Internet! It seems that staying home is the name of the game, so here I stay.

I do not believe I have COVID-19, nor do I think I’ve been exposed to it directly, however I am technically “high risk” on account of my quadriplegia. I sometimes forget that I am a quadriplegic, but then I hear about how pneumonia basically spells death for high-level SCIs, and I think, “Ah, yes, COVID-19, a respiratory virus, could probably kill me.” And let’s face it, the hospitals in NYC are about to hit and go over capacity, so there’d be no point in me going to one anyway. There’s enough ableism in the world that I’m convinced that if it came down to saving me or saving an able-bodied person, I’m probably a goner. Cheerful, no?

And even if I wasn’t “high risk,” social isolation is a necessity right now (unless you need to leave your house for food). The virus can spread through people who are asymptomatic, which means that you can get a lot of people sick even if you don’t think you’re sick. So, to all the people trying to slow the rate of infection in this totally underprepared country by practicing social isolation/distancing, thank you very much. The members of the “at risk” group are grateful. On a personal note, if you are reckless and somehow get me sick, and I die, just know that my ghost will haunt you in the manner of a Japanese horror movie of my choosing.

I’m no stranger to self-isolation. I’ve spent five months inpatient, the first six to eight weeks of which involved wearing a neck brace and being told not to leave the hospital. And while I prepared for generals last year, I routinely spent five days straight in my apartment, week after week, only leaving to throw out the garbage. I never made a record of my isolation, though, which is why I decided to try it out this time around. I thought about my Xanga (remember those?) from way back in middle school, when I documented essentially everything that happened in posts that went on for paragraphs and paragraphs. This won’t be quite as detailed, but I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing, how I’ve been feeling, and what music I’ve been listening to as NYC becomes a ghost town. Maybe you can tell me what you’ve been up to, as well, so we can get some kind of self-imposed isolation community going.

For those who don’t care about the minutiae of my day (i.e. most of you), you can skip to the “currently feeling” and “currently looping” bullet points at the bottom. I still don’t know how to structure these. Should they just be rambling paragraphs I post everyday? Or just every week? Help me out, people of the Internet, what is the most reader-friendly format?

Day One (3/13/20)

  • Did a Google Hangout with my college blockmates. I think the last time we did something like that was at least a year ago, so cheers to social distancing for bringing us back together. Unlike previous hangouts, this one was scheduled and occurred on the same day. Such spontaneous planning was unheard of, even in college. The power of social distancing.
  • Read an article that is basically giving me an excuse to FaceTime my friends. Loneliness is real, and it’s bad for your health in the long run. I used to call my friends in middle school pretty much everyday, and many of these days were school days (literally after I had just seen them). Not to sound like an old fogey, but whatever happened to phone calls?
  • Did a virtual hangout with a friend from the blockmate chat while in my standing frame. After telling her about my past experience with staying in a building for long periods of time, she noted, “You’ve basically been training to be a prisoner.”
  • Sent emails, including a reply to my advisor who sent me a relevant article for my bibliography. Should probably schedule a catch-up meeting with my advisor. Will see how that goes.
  • Currently feeling: Most weekends for me require staying in to do work anyway, so this doesn’t seem like a major life change. At least, not yet. I would, however, go into a typical weekend thinking, “Well, I’ll leave my apartment at some point.” I feel a bit trapped already knowing that I shouldn’t leave. But again, I need to stay. I’m treating this as life-saving homework.
  • Currently looping: Bad Wolves’ cover of “Zombie


Day Two (3/14/20)

  • Happy Pi(e) Day!
  • Did an hour on my Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycle. Was planning to watch the latest “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” episode, but instead talked with my parents, both of whom want to move to Taiwan, because Taiwan has its act together and knows how to manage a pandemic.
  • My sister, brother-in-law, and niece stopped by (they traveled by ferry and then walked from the east side, avoiding subways and buses and any crowds). We ordered takeout and my brother-in-law went to pick it up. Restaurant looked empty, but the pickup time was 4:30pm, so it could’ve been empty for a number of reasons. On the walk to my apartment, they saw that Eataly was packed. I guess some people don’t watch the news?? At any rate, I read an article that made me feel better about ordering takeout.
  • Rewatched John Mulaney’s “Kid Gorgeous.” That man is adorable.
  • Currently feeling: Any day spent with my cute and brilliant niece is a good day. Also wondering if it was safe to have visitors. My sister was helping to stock up my pantry (don’t ask how I’m Italian and have zero dried pasta in my apartment), so her visit was very necessary.
  • Currently looping: Sara Bareilles’ “Someone Who Loves Me


Day Three (3/15/20)

  • Happy Ides of March!
  • Read an article about the importance of staying in during this time. For those who don’t feel like reading the whole thing, at least read this: “Who should follow our suggested social isolation measures? EVERYONE. If you do not need to go out for a mission-critical purpose, do not. Again, you WILL be saving the lives of at-risk members of your own family, as well as people you will never have the pleasure of meeting.” (Basically, the virus is here, people are going to get it, but we need to stagger the number of people who get infected so that our healthcare system doesn’t end up getting overwhelmed and having to make decisions about who gets to live. Flatten the curve and all that).
  • Every time I coughed, I wondered whether I was sick, or whether the air in my apartment was just super dry. Then I would blow my nose and realize it was probably allergies. Hypochondria is real, everyone.
  • Ordered more granola bars. One bar = one lunch.
  • Watched the latest episode of “Outlander” while eating breakfast.
  • Watched the “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” episode I meant to watch yesterday, while eating an apple. My jaw still hurts from that wisdom teeth extraction, so I do not know why I chose to eat an apple.
  • Watched another episode of “The Mandalorian” while eating dinner. It’s good so far, it’s just that each episode is so self-contained that there’s no motivation to binge in the manner that I normally binge shows (for reference, I watched the entire first season of “Jessica Jones” in under 36 hours).
  • Currently feeling: Like I should be working on my dissertation more than I am. I try to read some articles relevant to my dissertation, but then I get sidetracked by articles about how to prevent coronavirus spread, and is it as safe to order takeout as I thought it was yesterday, and holy moly, I should order from the local chocolate shop (or at least buy a gift card) because it’s my favorite and I refuse to let it suffer more than it already is.
  • Currently looping: Caroline Campbell’s “Magic Flute Fantasy


Day Four (3/16/20)

  • Did the FES Cycle. Watched “Last Week Tonight.”
  • Mom visited to make sure I’m okay. She drove here, so, that still counts as social distancing, right?
  • Placed an order at The Chocolate Room, which included a bunch of chocolatey treats and a gift card. I’m not sure how else to help small businesses (especially ones near and dear to my heart). Odds are that I’ll do some hauls for my Instagram page with a hashtag like #supportsmallbusinessesduringcorona, but like, better sounding than that. Then again, I feel like there should already be one?
  • Jaw still hurts from wisdom teeth extraction, which was about 1.5 weeks ago. The oral surgeon said my bottom wisdom teeth were “deeply, deeply impacted,” so I guess the jaw pain should be expected for at least another week. But still, ow.
  • I think I need to schedule a meeting with my advisor. How many primary sources do I need for my dissertation? I think I’ve gone through five outlines and I’m not quite sure what I’m doing.
  • Currently feeling: I don’t hear nearly as much honking outside my building as I normally do, and I used to rely on that honking to help me sleep at night (yet another reason why I despise the ‘burbs). Thankfully, the jaw pain has tired me out enough that by the end of the day, I just pass out.
  • Currently looping: Lindsey Stirling’s “Underground


Day Five (3/17/20)

  • Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
  • Ordered hella croissants from Patisserie Chanson, because they’re local and I need their pastries in my life. Plans are to freeze the croissants, then reheat them in a very hot oven. Overkill? Perhaps.
  • Ordered over a pound of tea from Two for the Pot, because that’s where I get 90% of my tea (the other 10% being Fortnum and Mason’s Countess Grey tea). Shop local if you can, people!
  • Possible shelter-in-place order in NYC? Oh boy. Starting to count how many meals I can make out of what’s currently in my apartment. Worst-case scenario, I make a meal out of hot chocolate, digestives, and that jar of applesauce in my fridge.
  • Currently feeling: You know how you start a race thinking you have all the energy in the world, and then about five minutes in you start to ponder the extent of your endurance level? I remember when I did 5Ks back in high school, I’d start the first kilometer and think, “Wow, this is easy! I totally put in the training for this.” Except then I’d hit the next couple of kilometers, and that’s where most of the hills were. I don’t think we’ve hit the hills yet.
  • Currently looping: Billie Eilish’s “you should see me in a crown” (I am really late to this album)


Day Six (3/18/20)

  • Did the FES cycle. Push to Walk is, inevitably, closed. I miss my trainers. I miss the staff. I miss planks. I’m pretending that this is like when I was at school and couldn’t get to PTW even if I tried, but it’s hard to pretend while campus is closed (like seriously, they closed the libraries until about early April).
  • For my fellow wheelchair users:
  • Currently feeling: The hypochondria is real. I felt a cough building in the back of my throat for a few days, and then started dry coughing. Now, the air in my apartment is super dry, so there’s a good chance that’s what caused the dry cough/general throat irritation. I’ll be less of a hypochondriac in about a week, because I just need to make sure I didn’t catch anything when I foolishly took the bus last week and wandered around midtown. Side note: I’ve technically been working from home since August, but I’m still not very good at it. I miss being able to go to a co-working space and feeling peer-pressured into working.
  • Currently looping: Not so much looping, but I absolutely gave Ben Gibbard’s livestream a listen: Wait for around the 32-minute mark for a cover of Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” and he closes out the livestream with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” My high school heart is so full of joy. Gibbard will be doing livestreams everyday for the next couple of weeks, so here’s hoping for “Marching Bands of Manhattan” (and like ten other songs). I’ll be listening every night most likely. I’m loving that so many musicians are doing livestreams. Honestly, I want to break out the ukulele and do a cover of my own. I might do that, provided that I don’t bother my neighbors. How does one use iMovie?


Day Seven (3/19/20)

  • Kind of loving how late night hosts are trying to carry on with their shows from home.
  • My Chocolate Room order arrived yesterday, but I’m letting the box sit in my apartment for a couple of days before opening. Because I overpanic. There are really fancy marshmallows sitting in the box, along with some cookies, and I want to open it oh so badly.
  • Part of me wonders if the rest of people who are self-isolated are currently learning what it’s like to be a doctoral student. And then I think, “I’m so sorry, self-isolated people. You did not ask for the hermit life.”
  • Currently feeling: My sister and I were so excited when I moved to NYC, because 2020 was going to be the year that we finally went to a bar to watch March Madness. Now, there is no bar. There is no March Madness. And really, apart from Tom Brady breaking up with New England (ha, but also sad), and a bunch of basketball players getting COVID-19 tests before everyone else, there is no sports news. There is no baseball. Gary Cohen’s voice was one of those things I could count on in the spring and summer to bring me joy, but alas, I will have to make due with his call of Bartolo Colón’s home run. Gosh, I miss sports.
  • Currently looping: Regina Spektor’s “On the Radio,” because I tried to play it on my ukulele. Video below. If I make faces, it’s because I know I got the chord/strumming pattern/anything wrong, and I’m incapable of hiding my wincing. In my defense, I am very out of practice, and hadn’t picked up the instrument itself since around 2014. I’ve never posted musical videos here before, and generally don’t record myself being musical with the intent to share. But I figure, hey, people who read this are generally friendly, so, this should be a safe space.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

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