COVID Companions is a series of creative pieces featuring snippets of life during COVID-19, with a special focus on the other individuals or creatures who are keeping us company during quarantine, lockdown, ‘circuit breaker’, or whatever your equivalent might be.
Thriving in lockdown depends on one thing, and one thing only:
How much do you like yourself?
I, for one, love my own company. Thankfully, I am already my own best friend and absolute, all-round favourite number one person.
But you can’t power through a lockdown on just narcissism and megalomania. Eventually, you’ll want out of the circular thoughts, power fantasies, and playlist of regrets. So, where to find healthy distraction in a pandemic?
Yes, I did just reduce the idea of “companionship” to “distraction”. What does this say about me? Another conversation, for another time. For now, these are the companions I am grateful for… none human nor even alive.
1. “Dream Home” Pinterest Board
After a decade-long resistance, I’m finally on board (haha) with Pinterest. Now I collect, organise, and superimpose myself on other people’s photo references of a dream home.
Note! There is a right way and wrong way to Pinterest. A catalogue of model interiors makes for a poor emotional crutch.
Reject the overhead wide-angle shots of living rooms, with fireplaces and monsteras. Shun the panoramic views of artfully wild backyards, nestling wood-fired pizza ovens.
What you want is the close up. The shot that looks into a corner– where textures, light, and planes collide. The glimpse– of a sunny kitchen through an open doorway. The blurry photo of a child running barefoot across a hardwood floor, even if you’re opposed to both children and hardwood floors.
A pandemic Pinterest board is a collection of feelings, not practicalities.
2. +7 kg
People outside the metric system call this the “Quarantine 15”. I call it my Phase 2 expansion.
To be honest, I had a head start on this 7 kg even before quarantine began. After half a year of despairing at the rising number, I’ve finally embraced the weight gain that comes with middle age. Not lightly (pun intended) but lockdown has a way of stripping away the usual excuses.
I used to say:
“The first +3kg was because I switched to a desk job.”
“This next +3kg is because of all the hawker food around the office.”
But working from home means I can exercise during lunch hour. It means I can cook my own healthy meals.
I have done neither! My work-from-home diet is Doritos!
My own lies have been exposed. I can no longer tell myself that my perfect body is 8-10 business days away, if only conditions were more ideal. The only thing left to do is just exercise to feel good, don’t look at the scale, and focus my efforts on the endless battle with portion control.
It is actually quite nice to finally fill out a pair of shorts.
3. Better lungs
The timing is ironic and almost disrespectful (given the nature of the virus :P). For half my life, I smoked a pack a day… and suddenly I don’t at all.
It wasn’t intentional. My last cigarette happened right before lockdown (April 2nd?) and I just never bought another pack. I’d like to say that I’ve quit, but these are laboratory conditions. See how I feel when I have to return to social life, office life, and its attendant anxieties.
In the meantime, I am enjoying the company of more oxygen, better skin, money saved, and less crap to carry around.
4. A new language
Ah, the quarantine cliché: “Use this time to better yourself– learn a new language!”
The implication: Learning a new language is a worthwhile use of time, because it can be parlayed into some kind of advancement. The endeavor itself signals virtue; the actual benefits remain vague, while being waved about emphatically.
For me, learning a new language is like playing a game. All the tiny vocabulary victories, and mini grammar milestones, delivering dopamine hits that reality cruelly withholds. やった！
Do I have a reason to learn Japanese? Not really. Is this a useful skill? In the hands of someone else, sure. Will I monetise this new knowledge? Unlikely!
But it’s nice knowing that I have something that I keep doing just because I want to. Just because it’s fun. Nobody asked me to do it, nobody cares that I do it, nobody’s doing it with me, and sure as shit nobody’s paying me for it.
Have I bettered myself? I do feel better… so… I guess I have?
I don’t know how I’ll look back on this corona time. I hope that the things that have happened here somehow end up mattering in the big scheme of things. I think most people feel the same.
I am grateful for the time I’ve had and continue to have, the access to information that makes the time count, and the experience to make sense of it all, this time around.
This might be my first pandemic, but it’s not my first lockdown.
Yoon Wong is a sometimes-copywriter, art-sympathizer, and filthy weeb.