Things quarantine has taught me

DH got his first vaccine shot.  I’m just a bit away from being completely vaccinated.  The US is starting widespread vaccination for all adults in most of the country sometime in mid-April.  This is amazing.  The prospect of escape lets me reflect.  Here are some things I’ve learned.

  • I am more productive when I’m not constantly getting random colds and other viruses from students and my kids.
  • I am more productive when I don’t have students constantly dropping into my office to say hi or to ask questions (not about the homework because I don’t allow that outside of office hours).
  • A lot of what I thought were random colds are actually allergies.  Going forward I need to be more proactive with trying allergy medicine when I’m feeling congested and not just assume I have whatever crud is going around.
  • I am more productive when I have a reasonable amount of service and some of my lack of productivity these past few years really was because I was overburdened.  I also do a lot of service that I don’t get credit for because it’s the “mom” kinds of service of remembering things that need to get done and checking to make sure they got done.
  • My children are incredibly resilient and yes I can tell them that I’m working and DC2 is more interesting than my work but I have to get work done, so ask your teacher.
  • My kids are much happier people in general when they get up at 7:30 compared to when they get up at 5:30 or even 6.
  • I am more productive at home where I have a computer that I have administration privileges over and have Dropbox working.  Our department IT is incompetent but I actually knew that before quarantine.  But the new thing is that if I work at my computer then I start treating it like a work computer and not just a play computer.
  • Gochujang really is a fantastic condiment.  We are now going through it faster than we do ketchup.
  • Curbside from the grocery store where their own workers do the picking is way better than delivery from instacart.  There really are gains to experience (human capital…) from doing something repeatedly and it isn’t completely unskilled labor.
  • DC2 doesn’t need to be out of the house to keep from bouncing off the walls, but zie DOES need mental stimulation and probably some conversation (zoom is fine) in order to let us work on work days.
  • We’re allowed to ask librarians to pick books off the shelves and hold them for us even if they’re shelved at the library where we picked them up.  It seems so lazy!  But in a quarantine, it’s great for everyone (especially with curbside pickup).  I’m wondering if I should stop doing it when it’s safe to be at the library again– that is, maybe I should go back to picking the books off of shelves myself.
  • DH actually can be away from his extended family for a year so long as he gets his weekly conversations in.
  • I am reminded at how easy it is for a large propaganda machine to sway [too many] people from being their best selves to their worst selves, even at the cost of their own personal interest.  There really must be extremely wealthy super-villains out there who get their jollies by making things worse.  Because it’s easy to make things worse and doing so makes them feel powerful.  Making things better is harder and can be frustrating.

Grumpy Nation, what has this past year and some change taught you?

34 Responses to “Things quarantine has taught me”

  1. Steph Says:

    I also really love curbside pickup from the grocery store, except that it’s very hit or miss with produce. I’m glad my 2nd shot is coming up so that I can shop for myself soon, but I think I’ll keep using curbside pickup especially during busy times of the semester.

    I’ve learned just how much I rely on external accountability to get, like, anything done. I’ve finally largely learned how to work from home and I do like it, except I’m not sure it will hold up once the semester is over and the daily accountability goes away. I’m planning to transition back to working in my office pretty quickly after I’m immunized.

    Related to the last point, I’ve learned that I have some symptoms of ADHD (“inattentive type”). Haven’t decided what to do with that new information.

  2. Leigh Says:

    * I love working from home and want to do this full time, permanently. It’s so quiet, no one can ever walk up behind you, I have a full kitchen accessible, no public bathrooms, etc.
    * My limit of time I’m willing to go between seeing my parents is about 3-6 months, not 2 years, which is what I assume it’ll be at least since the last time I saw them.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m going to miss the winter because summer at home seems like constant yard work noises. It just… never stops. We’ve asked our yard people to never use leaf blowers and just leave cut grass wherever it is, and every year they are incredulous about being reminded.

      • Leigh Says:

        That’s annoying! They’re finally just about done with the construction outside our house which is amazing because those noises definitely made working from home more difficult.

  3. Bee Says:

    * I am not as much of an introvert as I thought I was. The improvement in my mental health when I got back in the office and was able to have daily brief conversations with coworkers was staggering. I miss talking to random people in public.
    * I’m very unusual in this respect. Most people don’t like talking to coworkers. (Luckily my company has a lot of people who do. I dread changing jobs.) Most people want people not to talk to them in public.
    * I get distracted too easily working from home, and it’s harder to get undistracted.
    * I’m also unusual in that respect. Most people love working from home.
    * There’s a local deli that makes amazing salads. (Somehow we didn’t discover it until our Support Local Restaurants kick during the shutdown.)
    * I have a very good instinct for when things are too good to be true. (The family trip we started planning in January 2020 that I somehow knew was not going to happen; the yearlong event by a local business that I somehow knew wasn’t going to make it all year; the idea that a few weeks of shutdown would contain the virus and we could start socializing again which I knew not to believe.)
    * Living 500 miles away from family actually *is* that bad because you can’t always be there when you want/need to. (This is in rebuttal to my 2019 end-of-year reflection, when I wrote that living 500 miles away *isn’t* that bad because you *can* be there when you need to.) Sometimes there’s travel restrictions and you can’t go because you don’t have enough PTO to quarantine.
    * Sometimes you can’t publicly complain without issuing a bunch of disclaimers, and complaining with disclaimers reduces the catharsis of complaining. At such times it’s really valuable to have a journal in which to do your complaining.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Interestingly, I also learned that I am either more of an introvert than I thought I was or my kids (and DH) are really more than enough socializing than I need each day. I really thought I would need more adult interaction and I just… don’t.

  4. gwinne Says:

    Love this list!! One of the things I’m most eager to do is go to the library and browse (I’ve been getting books via UPS or a pick up locker).

    I don’t have time to add to the list but hope to come back–and I might borrow this format for a post!

  5. Omdg Says:

    The pandemic taught me that school is not for learning things, but for learning how to learn, learning how to make yourself do something you don’t want to, and learning how to be around other people. If you are expecting school to meet the academic needs of your child, you will be disappointed.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I am sad to say I learned that (not the learning how to learn part, but the other parts) back when I was in elementary school. :(

      DC2’s online 4th grade has been surprisingly good, but I think that’s just because the teacher is so amazing. Not looking forward to 5th grade next year which is likely to be just busy work. At least DC2 likes crafting more than DC1 did.

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    I am getting more and more introverted with age. Or, in other words, any semblance of extroversion I had was probably “the need to breed” of the fertile years, so now that it’s waning, so is my tolerance of other people. I was quiet and socially awkward as a young child, so I am reverting to that. I can still simulate a gregarious extrovert for teaching and conferences, but it takes me a lot of time to recover from these performances.

    I miss being in my office at work. At home, i share an office with youngest kid and never have any alone time during the week. However, I can get a ton done at home in the evening and on the weekend, when the family isn’t on their school computers.

    I liked teaching in person, but I also liked office hours online (and students not wiping their noses with their hands than touching stuff in my office, and not coughing/sneezing within a foot of my face).

    I am really exhausted by and totally over cooking. I cooked 100% of the time for a number of months during the pandemic, now we alternate between takeout and me cooking b/c I teach till late. I hate cooking. I also hate grocery shopping. Not sure why the pandemic has made me hate these more, it’s not like I don’t have to do these regardless, but it did; the pandemic made everything more of what it used to be.

    i am grateful I had this year at home with the younger two kids. My relationship with Middle Boy in particular is better than it’s ever been and he is relaxed and happy and doing great in school, which really helped his confidence. This was a great year for him.

    I had a ton of time with youngest boy, literally sitting next to him day in and day out. I got to see how whip-smart he is, how much ahead of everyone he is, and how desperately bored he is, and how little they actually do in school. It was really disappointing to see how little content they cover. |

    Mostly, I just miss being really truly alone, with no one who would interrupt, at least some part of the day.
    And I really hope we can continue to have online faculty meetings. I hate all meetings in person.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was figuring that it was that my kids were enough like adults that I didn’t need actual adults anymore. But maybe it is me!

      I’m not going to say again that you need to go on a cooking strike, but … it does seem to have been a continuing problem and it is an important life skill. DC1 has gotten a LOT better at cooking over the past year and has gotten to be less of a jerk about having to do it.

  7. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I learned that people are astoundingly terrible at assessing risk and acting accordingly (mostly they have been over-estimating risk; one of my colleagues is too scared to come to an outdoor social event where everyone will have been vaccinated, IN JUNE. I want to staple the definition of ‘endemic’ to their forehead.)

    I learned that my spouse and I have a fundamental disconnect about the value:suffering ratio of public schools, and also that he is a nicer person than me. (Our youngest is in a private school now. She actually learned things this year.)

    Re: introversion, I read many months ago someone saying something like “each person has an optimal amount of contact with other humans and if you go way above *or* way below that people start getting weird and unhappy”. My very introverted spouse said last March, “I don’t like people but it turns out I like them more than ZERO.”

    Also, I like online office hours too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I still suspect people who seem like they’re over-estimating risk are just enjoying not having to hang out. I mean, I’m definitely using that excuse. And I know I’m not the only one (especially people with overbearing family members!)

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        This person is so freaked out that they were actually afraid my kid petting their dog from 6 feet away might give the dog covid, and then give them covid. I think they’re just delusional/ also they teach English.

    • Dame Eleanor Hull Says:

      Hey! Not all English teachers are irrational.
      That said, I was just saying to Sir John a couple of days ago that I’m seeing a lot of evidence that people in other fields are smarter than the students I’m teaching, so maybe English is a default for people who can’t cope with numbers, logic, or other languages. Sigh.
      (I get bitter towards the end of every semester.)

      • Matthew D Healy Says:

        I did my BS and PHD back in the 20th Century, and have been in Biotech R&D since 1998, so am perhaps somewhat out of touch with recent developments in academia, but when I was a Faculty Kid conventional wisdom then was that Business Majors and Pre-Law were the majors with the most students who didn’t really care about the subject matter but were there because of family or job market expectations and they were supposed to major in *something.* Actually, at the place where my parents taught they *could* avoid choosing any major subject and pick Bachelor of Arts General, known as BAG and pronounced “bag” just like “shopping bag” but very few did.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The gut major varies by school! Where my mom taught it was communications, but at my undergrad communications was such a competitive major you couldn’t even declare it as a freshman. Other places it’s been linguistics, political science, or business (which is weird because at my moms college business was really competitive!)

      • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

        I know, I was mostly joking. (Though our English department is at least two standard deviations out from rational.) I see logical thought as a muscle that some people fail to exercise.

  8. SP Says:

    * I used to hate working at home because I could not focus easily. So, I learned how to regularly be productive at home, but it still isn’t my favorite. I’d probably have a different opinion if I had a commute or was in a crowded / unquiet office environment.
    * I am a grocery delivery / pick up convert. Saves so much time. My struggle is that I’m enriching amazon via whole foods (instacart was too hit and miss, and probably also an awful company), so I’ll have to go back to doing it myself if I want to support local.
    * I also like people more than zero
    * I don’t know how to phrase this one or what i really learned, but how families (and especially women) were just treated as sacrifices that had to be made without any serious acknowledgment, much less gov’t help/support, was really sad to see. I guess it underscores that we are more on our own in the US than I previously recognized. Our jobs were ultra supportive, but in retrospect, I wish I would have just drawn a clearer lines and not tried to do so much work when child care was closed. (I failed at it, for the most part, but the self-pressure stayed on). Working with kids on your lap was culturally normalized for a bit, but maybe I could have just closed the work laptop instead?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I was in a bad situation where I was unable to be productive from home because I was in the habit of just playing at home, but the pandemic definitely broke that. And a good thing too since dropbox STILL isn’t working on my computer at work.

      Yes definitely on your last bullet. I’ve learned a lot about how individualism and libertarianism can have truly dreadful consequences. Which I knew intellectually before, but is stunning to see in action now.

  9. Debbie M Says:

    I also just got my first shot (yesterday). This is earlier than I *feared*, because most of my friends got theirs by driving a couple-three hours to more conservative areas where the demand was lower. And it was just as good as I *hoped* when I heard that there were extra vaccine appointment slots going empty in my area. However, the fact that slots are already empty just a couple weeks after they switched from hospital workers/older people to everyone makes me worry that there really won’t be enough people getting vaccinated to make a real difference. It’s like we are trying to breed new variants as fast as we can.

    I don’t feel I’ve learned much but I have learned a few things:

    * I learned what kind of masks I like to wear. I like the kind made of two pieces. And I like to have one that straps on and thus is comfortable to wear all day and one with ear loops that’s easy-on, easy-off.
    * I learned to bring my easy-on, easy-off mask to the dentist.
    * And now that I have masks, I will start wearing them when I am sick but insist on going out in public anyway. I’m not sure that counts as something I’ve learned exactly, but it is a way that I am changing.
    * I can’t exactly say I’ve learned to use Zoom, but I’m now fine with it when someone else sets up the meeting.
    * Playing Walkabout Golf (a virtual reality game) with friends feels like socializing. I like it better than plain Zoom for the same reason I prefer dance parties to trough parties. (This is a distinction an old friend of mine made: “dance parties” have activities, whereas at “trough” parties, people just stand around the food stuffing their faces.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I feel you. My students said that they’re going to close our county clinic next month from lack of demand. I don’t know if that’s true or not though. It’s all moderna so pfizer being available for teens wouldn’t help, and the university is providing pfizer to the college students now.

      I’m gonna wear masks when I’m sick too, now that I have them! I’m hoping that’s a new norm we’ve added… US non-Asian people wearing masks when sick.

      OMG, I have gotten so good at zoom.

      DH recently interviewed with a VR company… I prefer trough parties, especially those outside that aren’t very loud.

      Oooh– I also learned what Bath and Body works scents I like for hand sanitizers.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Yikes on closing the clinic!

        I do love the food at trough parties and can always get into a couple of conversations. But I also like music recitals, board gaming, pumpkin carving, etc.

        Right, you’ve got all the best hand sanitizer scents now! And you’re reminding me I learned a couple of extra hand motions to use while washing my hands for 20 seconds. I probably won’t keep washing them the whole 20 seconds, but I will at least add those extra washing motions.

  10. Candi Says:

    I learned that I really, really like working from home. So much so that I can’t bear the thought of going back.

  11. Matthew D Healy Says:

    That introverts like me still need in-person contact with people outside the household from time to time. I’ve even dreamed about places like the Driver License Office! I was grateful to be able to renew my license from an automatic kiosk in a supermarket: I was inside that store less than 10 minutes total. But the vaccines are giving my wife and me our lives back; last weekend we socialized indoors with some friends for the first time in over a year.

    Unlike many people, our work didn’t change because DW and I were already working remotely with people hundreds of miles away before the pandemic hit.

  12. First Gen American Says:

    I’ve worked from home for years, so no learning there. I know I love the flexibility. I do have issues shutting off work sometimes in the off hours:

    I learned:
    -That much of my back problem was not from having c-sections, but from too much travel. Sitting in cars or planes for many hours in a day was the root of my agonizing pain. It almost all went away instantly without any PT once I stopped travelling for work.
    -That my kids can be in the same room with each other for hours at a time without fighting. They learned how to get along with each other most of the time. I expected more bickering.
    -That my younger son has my overeating tendencies and the only reason he stayed so thin before now was because he hated the hot lunches and played a lot a lot of soccer. He does have super discipline when it comes to his schoolwork though. Similarly, older son has a lot of self control when it comes to eating but very little when it comes to time management.
    -That people keep leaving my company and nothing is ever backfilled. I learned I’m overwhelmed not because I’m juggling kids, work and my mom but because I’m doing all that plus 2-3 people’s jobs.
    -That I’m not as good at riding a dip in the stock market as I thought I was now that my balance can swing 6 figures during a correction.
    – (A sad one) That I’ve lost all empathy towards the MA teacher’s unions and their goals. (The latest is that they wanted their own special vaccination sites administered at their schools. They are giving teachers special days at mass vaccination sites, but a big NO to the valet service request. How do they even think this is logistically feasible, let alone wanting special treatment above all other at risks groups. )
    -It double confirmed that I want to keep my mom out of a nursing home.
    -I saw both the best in people and the worst…and continue to see the worst as material shortages mount. (I work for a material supplier)
    -that kids can have a super fun summer without endless expenses at camps and vacations. They really only need their friends, somewhere to swim and to be outside…oh and a parent with a schedule that can allow such things.
    -If I ever do a side hustle in retirement, the service industry is not the best bet.
    -I learned all the ways that I’m fortunate. We didn’t experience job loss, food scarcity or death.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My kids too! ALL of it including DC1 staying unusually skinny and DC2 pudging up. (Well, DC2 still needs something in the summer or zie interferes with work, but also zie didn’t have friends, somewhere to swim, or a parent with a schedule that allowed such things last summer.)

      Great lessons!

  13. Jessica Says:

    I would be interested in a post on more of your thoughts about transitioning out of covid life as you get vaccinated. I realize it might be a bit different for you since kids aren’t vaccinated yet. I am more than 2 weeks past my first dose and so is my boyfriend (the only person I live with), so I’m starting to think more about what I will do once I’m fully vaccinated… It will definitely be a slow transition as case loads hopefully go down. It’s hard to know what will be appropriate.
    Also, I am usually very extroverted and adventurous, and I am excited to see more people again but also feel like the pandemic has kind of changed my personality, or at least temporarily changed my level of comfort with high amounts of activity. I still miss doing things, but doing things is more draining now. So that’s also going to be weird to figure out.

  14. NZ Muse (@eemusings) Says:

    Hah, I always put in my book requests for pickup, even if it’s already at my local library :)

    We are doing 2 days in the office, which is perfect for me :)


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