This post a bit more personal than my usual offerings, so if you’re here for fantasy and science fiction, feel free to skip it.
Every few weeks, my acquaintance messages me to ask, “how is it going?” We then proceed to have a short chat, sometimes about updates from his life, sometimes about movies or games. Then, the conversation is over, but he’ll ask again in less than a month. In a way, it amuses me, because my life rarely changes and events that others would consider “exciting” are a rarity, so even months would not be enough for an update.
You see, I’ve been pretty much self-isolating for the last years.
A different life in the USA
When I was wrapping up my life in Ireland, I knew moving to the USA would mean changes. But I didn’t expect things to be so different for so long.
At first, I needed my residency sorted out, and the process took over six months. During that time, I wasn’t even able to learn to drive, so I stayed at home. We were both new to Arizona, so we had no friends there, and we lived in a small but expensive town that didn’t offer much reasons to go out.
Then I got my green card and could finally start learning to drive, but when I finally got my license, we were already preparing to move from Arizona to Virginia.
In Virginia, Inq’s job didn’t come with work truck, so we knew he would need our truck to go back to and from work, but we also thought I’d find a job and get a vehicle of my own. Yet, it seemed that hardly anyone was interested in hiring a person who’s all experience and references are overseas, so upon Inq’s encouragement, I started my own business.
That meant working from home and even less reasons to go anywhere.
Every day I get up at 6 a.m. with Inq who gets ready for work. I prepare his lunch if he takes one and make myself breakfast. Then I do my clients’ work or focus on my own writing if it’s a slower day. I do chores around the house, prepare food, and when there’s time, sometimes I play some video games. I also do art and read. I don’t go out as the neighborhood isn’t the most inviting place and lacks footpaths to do so.
Weekends are a bit different: we do shopping which constitutes of my weekly outing, and after other chores we often experiment with new food or cook meals we love.
We don’t go out much except for routine doctors visits. We don’t eat out as we love to cook and most restaurant-related experiences turn out disappointing. We stay at home because our home is full of things we love to do and all those things keep us busy enough.
Most days, I find myself complaining that I don’t have enough time to do all the things I’d like to do. Yes, sometimes I’m lazy and don’t feel like doing anything, but I’m never bored.
When I was moving over to the USA, I knew I would lose many of my friends simply because their lives weren’t and aren’t as digitalized as mine. The same happened during my previous move, from Poland to Ireland, when I lost touch with many of my friends who relied only on real life interaction.
In the USA, my human interaction moved entirely online. I chatted with friends back in Europe who weren’t opposed to Messenger or Skype, and my bonds with American friends—living in various states—became tighter as I was in more or less the same time zone.
After the move to Virginia we still haven’t made local friends, because we know that in the end, sooner or later we will be moving again, and people—so used to that in-person interaction—will drift away, loosening the bond we would have been working on.
Yet, with all my friends online with whom I chat more or less regularly and with my wonderful writer friends, I don’t feel lonely. I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
Times of madness… times of normality
Like everyone, I follow the news about the virus. I worry too—about my mom in Poland, about Inq, about my friends in different parts of the world. I’m concerned about the economic and civilizational implications of the situation. I do feel the pressure of uncertain future and the onslaught of often fear-mongering news that people nowadays tend to share widely and frequently.
Yet, I still do my best to get on with my life. I still work from home. I still do shopping once a week. Inq still goes to work every day, because his duties can’t be performed from home.
Therefore, in all this worldwide madness, my life hasn’t changed much. And since I’ve been practicing what constitutes self-isolation for four years, I’m used to it already. I’m also aware that—as happy and content as I’ve been during that time—I can’t really relate to people who take their time harder. That with so many hobbies and projects, I don’t see my home as a trap, but as a creative opportunity. And that I don’t feel further away from my friends than I was before social distancing started. Perhaps, I’m even a bit closer now, because more of them is willing to give the digital socializing a go.
I also feel it that reading about it would be difficult for all those who, unlike me, are uncomfortable in that new situation. And that’s why I don’t write about it much on social media and elsewhere, but perhaps I should? To provide a more positive perspective of self-isolation and a long with it—perhaps some hope.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.