Contributed by Just Go Abby
Where or how should I even start?
So, we have this pandemic that unimaginably shuts down the world. I never saw it coming. And I must admit I am one of those who took the virus lightly at first. Although I had been reading and asking my friends from the medical field about the 2019 novel coronavirus, I must also admit that I was a bit biased. I relied on sources that said it is not as deadly as SARS or MERS. Or at least that’s what I wanted to believe.
I continued to travel days before the pandemic. I even found it absurd when people online suggested lockdowns. Like others, I thought it was not going to happen until, on 16 Mar 2020, the Philippine president imposed the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. That was when the tables turned and my most unexpected struggles while on lockdown happened.
What’s it like in my hometown
I live in Benguet, one of the many provinces in Luzon affected by the lockdown. In our humble municipality of La Trinidad, we were placed under a 24-hour curfew. That means no one is allowed to wander the streets and public areas. The only exceptions are frontliners and members of the essential workforce. Each barangay was only given one day in a week to go out to attend to their groceries, banking, and medical needs. And these could be done between 8am and 5pm only.
In my district, our schedule would be every Tuesday. On Sundays, there’s a total lockdown. No one is allowed to go out unless it’s for an emergency. Walking around is also not allowed, as this is considered grounds for loitering. Anyone caught violating will be arrested. If that happens, you will have to pay a fine, or you will be put in jail for two weeks. Yes, that’s how strict it is in my hometown.
My initial reaction wasn’t out of the ordinary. I didn’t panic and I even took it positively. “It’s just one month,” I thought. But that one month was extended to two months. And as of this writing, there’s still no assurance that we’ll all go back to normal even after the lockdown has been lifted. As days and weeks pass by, I’ve noticed how I struggled a lot from issues I never thought I would have when I still had the freedom to roam.
My struggles while on lockdown
I believe that many of us are experiencing this. In one snap, some have been put out of work, or have had our paychecks cut for our companies to survive. Although I am lucky to have landed a project and worked from home for a few weeks during the quarantine period, not to mention I have savings set aside, these didn’t give me any assurance at all.
My livelihood depends on travel, and the industry I am in is badly affected by this crisis. My plan to launch my business has been back-burned, which I can only describe as heartbreaking. It involved months of sleepless nights and hard work, after all. I have no idea when I will get a job again. And for the first time in seven years, I feel financially unstable.
Travel is my number one source of motivation. I can go through months of hard labour and saving up thinking at the end of the season, I’ll be packing my bags and exploring new places. But with the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases every day, it is uncertain when can I do this again.
For almost two months of being under lockdown, with very strict implementation of quarantine policies, I can say that 70% of the time, I have not been productive. Before, whenever I would feel unmotivated, I’d usually go out for a walk to get some air and reward myself with milk tea. But this simple joy of mine has been taken away.
That being said, I’ve ended up not doing much. My brain would just shut down and I would waste my time looking at the ceiling for hours. I felt like I had too much time on my hands, so the things I was working on could wait until I felt motivated again. But that never happened, even until now. As a result, I haven’t accomplished much, which is one of my biggest struggles while on lockdown.
As a traveller, I am at my happiest when I go on an adventure. But during the quarantine, I’ve felt caged. That’s the exact way to describe it. I have never been this sad since my mother and my sister’s passing years ago.
I’ve felt doomed for not having a breather. Sometimes, I find myself staring outside the window, crying without any reason. My sleep pattern has been badly affected, too. Now, I would often be wide awake at 2am or 3am. This only gives me more opportunities to entertain my late night thoughts. The worst part is my nightmares. I usually have ones about me and my loved ones being caged in a hospital, and they’re scary, to say the least.
During this time, the best alternative to hanging out with friends and loved ones is through video calls. As for me, I already had a FaceTime session with my friends overseas and my family for a bit of catching up. However, I also find myself having difficulty talking to them.
Oftentimes, I talk to my loved ones to share positivity by telling them good things that happened. But what can I share at this moment? Nothing is going on with me compared to when I was travelling. The lockdown has likewise been successful at bringing out toxicity among people, and it has only added to my difficulty in reaching out.
Some of the people I adore have become opinionated in a bad way. And this is the main reason why I distance myself from them. I don’t want to vent out my frustrations or rant to them. Some of them have different opinions from mine and I simply refrain from arguing with them, especially because talking on the phone is quite different from face-to-face conversations. There are more chances of being misunderstood.
Dealing with social media
Social media should be a reliable medium for information sharing, fun, and inspiring others. At least that was how I saw and used it during my travelling days. A few days before the lockdown, however, it started to become toxic and even became worse when it finally happened. Negativity, led by continuous bad and fake news, overflowed.
Once, I saw a friend raise an argument about how deadly COVID-19 is. She was up for a fight. Another would often share updates of virus cases in the Philippines, followed by writing personal opinions. I was not exempted when I made a six-word sentence comment on a relevant article. Someone came for me, throwing harsh words, even criticising my looks.
I ended up deleting my comment and promised myself to never give my two cents on these things anymore, then logged out. But knowing social media is my only source of news, I logged back in again two days after. This time, I unfollowed those negative people on my feed. Gladly, I am doing fine now in that area.
Admit it. More than eight weeks of quarantine is long enough. Even if you are the most productive person on the planet, there are times when you will get bored during these times, too.
Although the Internet has been filled with trends to ease boredom, they weren’t enough for me. I was living a completely different lifestyle before — waking up in different places and doing various outdoor activities. I am simply not used to following a certain routine.
Fear of missing out
Now, this is pure selfishness you may say. And I know this type of feeling should not even be allowed during this time of crisis.
The first weeks of lockdown were really bad for me. I hated it. I hated the situation itself and the atmosphere it brought. Worse, it intensified whenever I checked my friends’ Instagram stories and posts from overseas.
They’d say that they were on quarantine, but how come they could still go out? Some of them would play golf. Others would go hiking and cycling for the whole day. Meanwhile, some didn’t have lockdown in their cities at all.
At that point, I started questioning how the government was handling the situation. How come other countries were not having a lockdown and their citizens were free to move around while we were locked up in our homes?
But then I realised we have different situations, facilities, and approach compared to other parts of the world. I should just start trusting the process and do my part. That is, to stay home. I also stopped snooping on my friends’ posts and just focused on my well-being during the quarantine.
The bright side of these struggles while on lockdown
On the positive side, during the lockdown, I learned to slow down and appreciate other things. I started noticing the beauty of my neighbourhood, which I often ignored. I made a productive daily routine which includes allocating time to do household chores, watch travel movies (to keep me inspired) and K-drama, read books, and work out.
Furthermore, I turn off my phone data from time to time and only use it for a certain amount of hours per day. These hours involve attending to my emails, getting updates regarding work, and checking in with my friends and family.
I learned to be kinder to myself. I started accepting the fact that if I didn’t accomplish anything today, then so be it. There’s still tomorrow, after all. Finally, I constantly remind myself of my life mantra — “If it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end.”
Note: I also deep cleaned my room and collected more than a kilogram of dust (not a joke), which would not have happened if it weren’t for the quarantine.