What 38 days in quarantine has taught me by Brigitte Truong

As I sit at my kitchen island with a cold cup of coffee to my right and Nina Simone’s buttery voice giving me a warm hug from behind, I realize my current surroundings strongly reflect my COVID 19 quarantine experience thus far; sometimes cold but oftentimes, warm.  I’m not mad about this.

I remember the Thursday when shit really hit the fan and by that I mean when things got real.  Not 2+2=4 kind of real.  I’m talking, opening the fridge, reaching for the cucumber only to realize it’s been moulding and leaking for at least a day because you’re so neglectful, kind of real.  For a couple of months, we had all heard about the Coronavirus being a “thing” in Asia but admittedly, I didn’t think much about the impact it would have on me or anyone I knew in Canada.  I didn’t think it would affect us at all, actually.  My dad had come by in January with face masks and two tubs of hand sanitizer.  My reaction?  “Dad, can you be any more paranoid?!”  I’m sorry, dad. I was naive.

It’s been 38 full days of me quarantining in my 560sq ft condo by myself.  Today, I feel great.  I woke up early, had a session on a rented spin bike, ate some toast, and felt motivated enough to start my to-do list at 9:30 am.  But last week? Ha! Last week was a different story.  I spent two simultaneous days breaking and melting down that felt traumatic but also kind of therapeutic at the same time.  I don’t think I’m the only one who would categorize this experience as an emotional rollercoaster.  However, despite the angst and worry, I don’t think I’ve ever felt like the timing has ever been more right.

For many of us, overworking was normal.  Anxiety was just a part of life.  And the hustle was crucial to survival.  I was one of the biggest proponents of the hustle culture but with 38 days of downtime, I’ve come to realize that the hustle is taxing and not the true meaning of life.  Having spent approximately 912 hours with myself and my thoughts, here’s what I’ve taken away from self-isolation so far:

  1. Spending extended time alone brings out the REAL you.

Think about the last time you spend a full two day weekend alone.  I mean, really alone; no pop by’s from a friend, no reason to pop out for a takeout coffee, no interaction with the concierge.  Alone, alone. We’re forced to get creative with our time and if we can’t, we’re simply stuck with our thoughts, and they’re not always nice fuzzy thoughts.  When the hustle culture becomes a way of life for us, being stuck with our thoughts is foreign territory and discomfort can set it.  How we choose to deal with that discomfort is ultimately up too us.  We can either choose to confront those thoughts about ourselves or not and act out in different ways like we’ve been so used to doing in the past.  I’ve decided to sit with all the thoughts as uncomfortable as it can be.  I’ve decided to work through a lot of shit I’ve been denying and truthfully, I’m learning to fall in love with who I am (flaws and all) for the first time as an adult.

2.  Affection and connection are more important than sex. 

I would’ve said differently during the first week of quarantine but at the root of it, it’s human nature to want affection from another person.  We crave touch and when we are touched, we feel loved, and that’s independent of sex.  The simplest human contact like a high five or a hug seemed so insignificant when they were regarded as a greeting in the past but when those everyday interactions get taken away, we realize how comforting they really are!

3.  Stillness is vital for our mental health.

Being still.  No conversations to be had.  Nothing to occupy ourselves with.  A month and a half ago, my millennial friends would have likely cringed at the thought of just sitting in a small space by themselves for hours on end.  Being still with nothing but the rhythm of your breath isn’t just calming but rejuvenating.  When our minds aren’t occupied with a hundred thoughts and priorities, we’re left with ample space to exist and existing truly is a blessing.

4.  You don’t have to be doing work-related things to be “productive.” 

Doing nothing in stressful times might be the most productive thing I’ve been able to do for myself.  I was trying to operate normally for a couple of weeks by tricking myself into thinking that life was still normal.  That only made me feel like I was living a lie.  The sooner I confronted my new reality, the sooner I got out of a creative block.  Allowing myself to step away from work allowed me to find pleasure in random things like new music, juggling, and learning the harmonica, brought joy back into my life.

5.  Plot twists can lead you to new beginnings or even better, a stronger you. 

How many times have we used the excuse, “I don’t have time right now.” Or, “I’ll get to it one day.”  Well, when we’re in quarantine we’ve got nothing but time!  I had multiple fits about my movie takes an unexpectedly dark turn, but I chose to switch perspectives by asking myself, “Am I going to see where this road leads me or am I going to forcefully try to turn this mother around to get back to the movie I was creating for myself before?”  Truth is, the movie will keep going and as every coming of age movie goes, its lead character will always stumble at least one challenge/one roadblock to become stronger in the end. Why should this be any different?


B. Tru xx





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