Quarantine is weird. March was an eternity, April sped by. What was once preposterous — going out to only essential businesses, conducting work and school online, “social distancing” — honestly feels normal now. We humans are more adaptable than we think. We’re just so goddamn resistant to change initially.
I went home to New York in the middle of March. That was the beginning of the panic, when it just seemed appropriate to get with your family and hunker down to weather this storm. The week prior, I was in a funk. My beloved dog, Millie, had just passed away. I had signed up for a marathon in June, hoping that having a goal to work towards would give me some purpose. My work trip to Tokyo and subsequent visit to friends and family in Portland had been cancelled. My next day off was months away. And I had no idea when I’d see my siblings and parents next. “Maybe Thanksgiving?” I wondered.
The opportunity to return home was an enormous relief. I had been hurting since Millie’s passing, knowing that the rest of my family was physically together at some point or another in the immediate aftermath. Being physically together means you can hug each other, can cry in each other’s arms. I was nearly 2,000 miles away from those arms.
And so when my supervisor proposed the option of going home, I immediately consulted my mom, booked a flight, and packed my bags. I figured it would be two weeks or so, then I’d return to the office and life as I knew it. Just two weeks of family rejuvenation — watching movies, playing music with my dad, pouring love into our other dog, Chowder, cooking and baking with my mom, and joking around with my brother and sister.
That was the first couple days. Then the situation became dire in New York City, and we took in my uncle and my sister’s friend, both Manhattanites. With the house growing crowded, my brother decided that being young and healthy, he should return to his apartment in Brooklyn to make space. After that, each day seemed to pass infinitely slowly. We watched the coronavirus case numbers rise each day, took solace in Andrew Cuomo’s press conferences, and wondered when life would just go back to normal, if ever.
I was glad to be with my family when I found out that the Olympics were cancelled. I was glad to be with them when I realized that my year-long job with the Olympic Committee might not be extended — that I might not get to see Tokyo. And I was glad to be with my family when I found out that my job might be ending altogether in May, too.
But I inevitably had to return to Colorado. My lease ends on May 31st. I have a precious few weeks left with my roommates. I have to sell my car. And I have to figure out where and when I’ll be moving in June — which is impossible when I don’t even know if I’ll have a job then.
I had been grappling with the timing of my return for weeks. When was it appropriate to fly back? When was a socially responsible time? Terrified of contracting or spreading the virus, I didn’t want to make a rash decision. The ethics of it all made me wonder if I should have gone home in the first place — I traveled in mid-March to a coronavirus hotspot, and now I was risking my own and others’ health again to return? I could have spared that risk altogether.
But what if I had stayed put? I was already emotionally crumbling prior to COVID. Remaining 2,000 miles away from the best love and support I have would have quite possibly destroyed me. Dealing with the pandemic “on my own” — I use quotations because I would have my roommates, and plenty of support over the phone, text, and email — would just have made me kick myself for the umpteenth time for choosing to live so far away from the people I love the most. Even though Colorado is the place I feel I’m meant to be.
It was the right choice to go home, but it was also the right choice to come back. I’m now cherishing the time I have with my roommates — laughing and cooking and going for walks and runs with the dog. It pains me to think that I was supposed to be snapping pictures of them in their caps and gowns a week from now, a proud mom in the commencement crowd. To think of all of the festivities that should have happened these last few months. The celebrations that they deserve. But my roommate and fellow graduate of 2019, Sophia, and I will do the best we can to recognize their accomplishments. Though at this point, they’re all pretty resigned about the whole thing.
I’m back to strolling around Colorado Springs, admiring the wacky and disparate architecture, reveling in the beautiful open spaces and trails it has to offer, and feeling very sentimental toward this community that I’ve grown to know and love for nearly 5 years now.
And as usual, I’m biding my time wondering about irrelevant things. For instance: my house number is 605. The Arctic Monkeys have a song called “505,” the main lyric being, “I’m going back to 505.” Why have I never thought to sing to myself, “I’m going back to 605”? Lost opportunity, if you ask me — like missing the “.com” button on the iPad keyboard.
I also recently realized that I make/eat quesadillas instead of burritos because I’m truly awful at rolling burritos, but I can nail a quesadilla. All the same ingredients, just a different format.
This Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what I appreciate most about my mom. And lately, one thing has especially stood out: she taught me manners. You always write a thank-you note, you wait for everyone to be served before eating, and you excuse yourself if you burp. My roommates have been burping up a storm, without apology, and I have become mildly distraught by it.
And finally, speaking of Moms: I’ve noticed that I’ve reverted to the mom-like role I assume among my friends. In the first week back, I had to replace the light bulbs in the upstairs bathroom (my roommates had been peeing and brushing their teeth in the dark for a month, too afraid to ask our landlord for help or to take initiative to replace them), do a massive grocery order and pick-up, and bring a dozen bags to Good Will that were literally overflowing in our foyer.
Some things — pandemic or not — do not change. No matter where I am, my thoughts will be occupied with these little realizations and absurdities. No matter where I am, I’ll be missing people and places, whether it’s family in New York or friends in Colorado. I’ll always feel a measure of guilt about if I’m making the right decisions. But that’s life. This is just a long way of saying that yes, quarantine is weird. But life is weird too.