And just like that, we’ve made it through March. What a month it’s been. It feels like it’s been years since February.
There’s no doubt that March was a tough month for a lot of us living in the Western hemisphere. While Asia has already been dealing with COVID-19 for months, it only just started becoming a part of our daily vocabulary late February. Who would have imagined that by week 2, we’d be working from home. By week 3, we’d be effectively under shelter in place order.
This month has been a whirlwind for me. I moved across the country, started a new job, am still in search for a long term home. I’m long past the “wow I sure picked a great time to move” phase and into the “I no longer have any conception of what is and isn’t normal anymore.”
But despite everything, perhaps because of everything, I think we (collectively, society, culture) have been able to find a strange sense of clarity when we slow down. Like all the uncertainty in the world making the day to day feel oddly small, manageable so long as you don’t let yourself think too far. I’ve never been one to write out daily gratitudes, but this past month, amidst the fear, frustration, loneliness and helplessness, I’ve felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. So I thought I’d dedicate this March roundup to all the things I’m grateful for. Small and big.
thank you to
Working from home requires a lot of discipline. Entering my 4th week of working remotely, I still struggle. Back at my last job, what feels like a lifetime ago, it was a treat to be able to work remotely for a day. But I think once the choice is taken out (and when starting a new job) it kind of sucks to be working out of the office. That being said, the sheer number of resources that have appeared have given me a little more faith in society (in terms of how big business can be run), and in technology (v impressed that our networks have not broken down).
A few things that help:
I’m grateful for
In addition to our first responders, hospital workers, the obvious heroes at the front line fighting this global pandemic, we have the everyday people. The ones that almost feel invisible in the context of the city, a part of the background. The characters that don’t even get names in the film credits. But these are the people who keep our society running. And I think everyone is now realizing just how important these people are, that they are the essential workers still working while the rest of us are at home.
On a parallel note, I am grateful to be employed. Even in the past week, I’ve learned about close friends and former coworkers who have been laid off, not even in the service industry. I am grateful to have a full time job that allows me to easily work remotely when there are so many people out there who don’t have that as an option. It’s not ideal, of course, working remotely right when you start a new job, but I feel very lucky to be able to be in my only slightly uncomfortable place.
i’m inspired by
The food community has been an endless source of inspiration this month. As the food service and hospitality industry has taken a hit with mandatory closures and shelter in place orders, there’s been incredible initiatives to support this industry that employs millions of Americans. And it seems like a lot of people and companies are stepping up to help out, from delivery apps to national chains to food publications to local organizations, there really seems to be a “we’re all in this together” mindset to helping out small businesses across the country.
Within the food community, I’ve also been so impressed by the organic creativity and innovation that has come out of hard times. A few local restaurants in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Lower East Side came up with a creative way to entice people to support several local businesses in one go. And even as restaurants of all kinds take hits, so many are going above and beyond to support their community. East Village restaurant 886 started making Taiwanese bentos for hospital workers, and within days, people around the world were donating money to sponsor these meals. Just a couple weeks later, they recruited other local restaurants to join the effort, converting their restaurant business to a way for former diners to connect with the community and serve the ones fighting this virus on the front lines.
As for me, I figure the least I can do is support small businesses from the comfort of my temporary sublets (yes, that’s plural, no it isn’t comfortable, it’s just within my high tolerance for discomfort these days). So I order from different restaurants whenever I get delivery, and since I’m not looking to accumulate more stuff until I move to a more permanent location, I’ve been getting gift cards from my favorite small businesses (hey Poketo!).
These days, all this mundane nothingness and high baseline of anxiety has gotten me too drained to create and too disengaged to consume consciously. But when I do need some comforts, whether that’s an escape, or a reminder that we’re all trying our best, here’s what I’ve been tuning into:
Still Processing: Ah yes, my favorite culture podcast is back and quarantining probably within a few miles of where I sit right now. It’s comforting to have two smart, conscious people take all this craziness and distill it into something articulate. And it’s nice to hear the familiar voices (especially now that Michael Barbaro’s voice telling me what I need to know today has become anxiety-inducing).
Ugly Delicious Season 2: Sure, it’s a little cruel to have to drool over food adventures while stuck at home. But food is still a comfort, and to be able to travel through a screen is better than nothing. Plus, it reminds me of happy times. And gives me something to look forward to. Sadly, it also became a final tribute to Floyd Cardoz, who died from COVID-19 within weeks of the new season’s release.
Terrace House: Ok this one is a little annoying bc I can’t often be bothered to read captions, but I’m so glad I saved these episodes until now because this was exactly what I needed to cure some of my quarantine craze. The season (Opening New Doors) is finally getting good. And if anything I’ll just go back and listen to the old theme song to spark momentary joy.
Great British Bake Off: I mean, the magic still works. My default background TV still holds strong, hitting all the right notes of feel-good charm and just the right amount of stress (I mean, even on repeat watches, I still hold my breath when they carry those showstoppers over). Plus cheery British voices make excellent background noise when you feel lonely.
Bon Appétit At Home: Speaking of comforting voices, sometimes I just put the BA YouTube channel on in the background. And thanks to a truly impressive editorial production team, they’re still churning out content on a regular basis, through what seems to be a complex network of zooms, cell phones, sound equipment and virtual directing. If you don’t get the hype, just know that it gained over 2M views and 9K comments ORGANICALLY within 72 hours. Yes, my trailer drop report tendencies are showing, but these days, it’s about the only way I can process. For your sake, don’t give me access to any analytics dashboard. Some people are learning how to bake bread, I’m analyzing video performances that I haven’t been asked to analyze.
Virtual Communities + Events: It’s funny how now that we’re all cooped up at home, there has been a surge in events. Webinars never sounded enticing until now. And between virtual panel events and live interviews and expert Q&As, I’ve already learned so much just from the portal of my laptop. It’s been really cool tuning in to conversations. I think a part of it is the voyeurism. And another part is that every Zoom feels like an elective. Like you are going to school but only picking the fun and interesting ones to attend. So far, I’ve done a Q&A with the founder of a new sparkling water brand, listened in on a live conversation among local restaurant owners, participated in an intentional tea break, and attended a panel interview about sustainable consumption during coronavirus. While it can be deterring to add yet another zoom into your schedule, these are actually quite refreshing to break up the day.
FaceTimes, planned and spontaneous: Another funny trend is this bias toward connection during separation, when (particularly among millennials) we are so often accused of disconnecting and technology being a source of distancing. Now, even introverts are racking up hours in social distant social activities. I have talked to some friends more this week than I have in a year (mostly because we live far away and opportunities to meet up are few and far between). And it feels good to set aside an hour to just talk. But it feels just as good to be texting someone and switch over to FaceTime and just have a friend there working in her apartment while you are working in yours, even if we’re physically a 10 minute walk away from each other, 10 minutes farther than we’re supposed to walk.
my go-to snacking match: fig and olive crisps with a generous spread of mascarpone. what are other TJs snack power couples?