Greetings from Quarantine: The Social Animal

I started working from home partially on Wednesday afternoon, March 11th, with my first full day from home the nextday. So in essence, it’s been about 10 days since this lockdown really started for me. It was optional at first, our office put a plan in place for our office, especially for those of us that commuted in from outside the big city. But pretty quickly, as we saw the number of community-spread infections start to rise, everybody stopped going to the office.

Today, I want to kind of break down what that means for me, and the best ways I’ve found to get around the dispiriting sensation that it’s caused. I didn’t think it would be this… unsettling.

Image Credit: Nashua Telegraph (source article here)

I’m a natural introvert, but even for me, the immediate withdrawal from human contact was unsettling; I work for a fairly compact company, and if a few aren’t in for the day, it can feel pretty empty. The last day I spent in the office, less than half of the normal staff were in, and for clear reasons: they didn’t want to get sick, and they have people are home they need to protect from getting sick. But it was so weird, being there that last day, realizing that I wasn’t going to be sitting at my desk for the foreseeable future. For all the same reasons.

And don’t get me wrong, I love being home. I can spend time with my wife throughout the day, share a joke here and there while I’m working, pet the cat and stretch easily enough. I have everything I need within arm’s reach. But my daily routine is uprooted. Working from home isn’t new for me, but resetting back to that environment and mindset is… unsettling.

It’s the new normal, so we need to deal with this. For everyone, first of all, let’s stop calling it “social distancing”. Human beings are social creatures, and we have all kinds of ways of doing so now that don’t involve physical contact; the fact that you’re reading this (probably from my Facebook account) only proved that point. We shouldn’t be restricting our “being social”, but keeping from physically contacting one another in order to stop the spread of COVID-19… so “physical distancing” makes a lot more sense.

And when you do interact with someone in a physical proximity, keep a safe distance, of course. Just today, we shared supplies with a friend (from about 6 feet away), and I didn’t know how comforting it would be to see a nearby friend in person, even if hugs weren’t possible. Being in the vicinity of a friend, showing they’re OK, is a wonderful sensation.

In the meantime, connecting through phone lines, chat rooms, social media, YouTube, Skype, whatever you can access and whomever you can access will be the key to staying… human. This is a perfect time to reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in a while, or anyone you’ve meant to contact and see what they’re up to. Old college friends, childhood friends, former co-workers you always liked, anybody that’s been on your mind. That’s in additional to older relatives that would be most at risk with a disease like this; any parents or anybody with compromised immune systems, or someone with conditions that may make such a respiratory disease worse (like asthma), you should totally be reaching out to them online if you can.

Please stay in contact. Even if you don’t chat with someone often, getting a message during this trying time can make a world of difference to someone otherwise locked up at home and away from people they care about. I need to be better about it myself, but typing it here–even if you know–can hopefully help.

Stand Tall, friends. The best way to get through is together (even if physically separately).