It is April 20th. I have been closed in my house for 38 days now. The word quarantine comes from the Venetian word ‘quarantena’, which referred to a 40 day period. Will this end after forty days? I don’t know. I don’t know if there is an end in sight. An end at some point? Sure. But what exactly?
I am not sure I care all that much.
I think a lot of people are freaking out these days. Frankly I am not. Not only that, I am not getting just what the big fucking deal is meant to be.
Yes, there is a virus going about. Yes, it is a pandemic. Yes, it looks worse every day for a lot of people. It doesn’t look like we are going to get out of this any time soon, and it looks like it will tank the economy.
Wait, aren’t these real problems? Yes, yes they are. But so what?
The past few years of my life have been difficult. In fact, I am getting close to a decade of life that I haven’t really enjoyed. I have enjoyed parts of it, but mostly here and there. I was sort of getting towards that point of my life where most people I knew were starting to have some kind of trajectory, and I continued not to. It did bother me, particularly because trajectory didn’t come in any way – not monetarily, not work wise, not socially, not anything. For a while I was even living and working in a place that I despised. I got into a pretty bad existential slump wherein I didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to improve my situation, and generally felt kind of trapped. About a year ago, I was spending a lot of time of time at home. I went to work, maybe the gym (until my health got in the way of that), and then went home. Some times on the weekends I wouldn’t get at all. I didn’t have much of a social life to speak of, and most of my friends were online and kind of far away.
And I did this for years.
And then 2020 rolled around. Shit has hit the fan and here we all are. But here is the thing – for me, this is all kind of normal. Things are uncertain? Yup, but they have been for sometime. Can’t have a social life? Meh, I’ve got books. That’s the thing. Everything that is going on right now – it really isn’t all that bad. In fact, for some of us this is kind of normal. The only respect wherein right now I am luckier in some is that I have my job and I can work from home. But even that is uncertain – my company isn’t doing great and we could fold at a moment’s notice. So? What to do.
You do fucking nothing.
Ok. For a couple of months in 2009 and again for a few months in 2012 I lived in a homeless shelter (the same one both times, actually). The experience isn’t something I am ashamed of, but I don’t bring it up terribly often. I mostly don’t want to get into the specifics of how I ended up there. It’s largely a conversation I don’t like to have. But I was there, and I did my time until I got back on my feet.
Did my time is apropos for the situation. I met a guy while I was there whose story was much more interesting than mine. He was born in Italy but immigrated to the US when he was very young. While in the US his parents never bothered to have him made a citizen, and once he came of age he had no idea that he wasn’t a US citizen. He lived his normal life (sort of, more on this in a minute), and then in the post 9-11 world he got a traffic ticket which got him (an illegal immigrant who had been living in the US since he was three and knew no other country) deported back to Italy at the age of 65.
He ended up in a bureaucratic nightmare trying to get back into the US. He also ended up in the same homeless shelter that I was in.
He took a liking to me, and he told me a lot about his life. He told me that being in that homeless shelter was a lot like being in prison. He had been in prison several times, and he liked telling me about it. He didn’t sugar coat things about his time there either. But at some point I asked him about what he did to pass the time while he was in there. He made it clear that the question was absurd. YOU DO THE TIME. It’s not a discussion. You do the time. End of story.
Well, what do you do about the uncertainty of it all?
You do the fucking time. Are you going to fret about all the things that are out of your control? You could do, but it won’t do much good, now would it? So what is the point?
But what about the solitude?
I don’t know. I am not sure I can help with that. Sometimes solitude bothers me, but frankly, I’ve gotten really good at solitude. I have spent a lot of the past several years feeling very alone. I am chronically single, and I suspect that at this point that is just going to be my life. I wasn’t really socialized very well growing up, and I never really learned how to be around people. So now that we are all stuck and quarantine and we have to be alone, it is all pretty easy to me. Is there a trick to being alone? I don’t know. I think you just need to do the same thing I recommended above. You do your time. Just imagine that you were in jail, that this was something that was beyond your control, and do your fucking time.
See, you can learn a lot from ex-cons.
Everything is uncertain. I could be out of a job tomorrow. I am not sure where I would go if I did. My computer is breaking. I don’t necessarily have the money for a new one. I am stuck at home and don’t have a social life. There is no exercise I can do except for walk, and I have a knee injury. Everything seems kind of fucked and uncertain. But fucked and uncertain is my home country.
So relax. Gethcu a cuppa coffee. Everything is uncertain. Everything is fine.