By Becca Masch
This period of social distancing has taken a lot from us everyday humans—I’m not going to bother explaining further. One of the most important things taken from me specifically was time with my sister, who lives overseas in Israel. A seven-hour time difference already complicates our relationship, but add a worldwide pandemic to that equation and suddenly the prospect of seeing each other in person rather than through a screen becomes pretty unlikely. We understood because we didn’t want to risk ourselves or the people around us, but we were unhappy.
Then, like a miracle, my sister got a ticket to the States to come visit. I say "like a miracle" because it wasn’t really finalized until a week before the plane was to take off. Suddenly, my house was having to prepare pretty quickly to make sure she could quarantine properly yet also not lose her mind from isolation. I should probably mention that I’m living at home with my parents at the moment, which equates to two high-risk individuals in close proximity to a new variable. Nevertheless, we all waited excitedly for the day to come when we’d finally get to see her face-to-face.
The day came, and quarantine began. Something I hadn’t really considered was how I’d feel when she arrived. The news had taught me to view the outside world as fraught with danger—my house had become my sanctuary. Now, my sanctuary had been breached, and the place that used to feel the safest now felt the deadliest.
We took a wide range of precautions with the strategy that at least some of it would help. Some of the precautions were practical, like wearing masks when interacting with each other. Some were on the silly side, like hanging shower curtains between room dividers with some kind of hope that maybe the flimsy pieces of plastic would keep out the infamous virus. Fear brings out the ridiculous in all of us.
Now that I’ve made it out the other side (virus-free I might add), I thought it would be helpful to record some conclusions from the experience. You’ll get over seeing your visiting human as a potential threat in just a few minutes. My sister stood in front of me in a mask with a Clorox wipe in her hand to disinfect everything she’d touched, but she was still my sister. Frequent hot chocolate fixes and binge-watching movies will really help in preventing you from losing your minds. It was Halloween-themed, so our list included Hocus Pocus, Halloweentown, Halloweentown High, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Books, books, and more books will make you forget the world around you in general as you escape to an imaginary place. Mac & Cheese is still the ultimate comfort food—not even a global pandemic will change that. Talking politics is probably a bad idea when you can’t leave your house (why do we never learn?).
One of the most important lessons I’m taking away from this experience is how a little discomfort is worth it in exchange for social interaction with someone you really care about. I’m young and healthy and fortunate that I don’t have to worry too much about contracting COVID-19. However, I live with two people who are in a much more serious situation, and it’s caused me to drastically change the way I live to accommodate them. No one is really to blame in this situation; however, I have become starved for human interaction. This visit was something small—just a taste for how things used to be, but it helped me feel instantly balanced again.
If you take anything out of this story, I hope it’s the importance of caring for yourself during this time of social distancing. I’m not talking handwashing or mask-wearing, although those are also crucial practices. Instead, I’m referring to the significance of emotional care—interacting with people in a face-to-face conversation. You may not realize how beneficial it is until you try it once again and feel that glow of connection in you once again. COVID-19 has taken a lot from us, some things easier to recognize than others. A human conversation, whether that be with a stranger in the food store or a friend you haven’t seen in forever, is something we can take back for ourselves. You may be surprised at the amount of good it can do for you.
Edited by Jenna Fults