One Freelancer’s Life in the Time of Corona
By Héloïse Chung
It’s Week Three. This morning felt different. Someone had turned down the roar of dread, panic, and confusion in my head so when I woke up, it was now just a tolerable low level drone. It seemed my brain had finally had enough time to process everything and settle into some kind of acceptance at the state of things. (Speaking of drones, how are leaf blowers still considered essential business? Aren’t they illegal in LA? And also, they kill bees. But I digress.)
It’s also a relief to see that the federal government is finally getting on board with science-backed recommendations for civic preservation. I didn’t want to get into yet another argument on some social channel about the benefits of wearing masks or staying at home. It seemed common sense to me and many others that if there’s a contagion, the only logical thing was to reduce contact and limit asymptomatic carriers from spreading their germs in public. But I know how powerfully anecdotes can sway any one of us. We are story-based creatures after all. So it’s easy to see how a personal anecdote that looms larger than any mountain of evidence to the contrary — say, a story about how one person was fine while on a crowded beach — can become the basis for confirmation bias. We believe what we want to believe.
My anxiety, at this point, has also been the genesis for a million projects (that don’t include the screenplay I had planned to finish) so I could become more self-sufficient. This week I started seeing the rewards. A gift of sourdough starter had bloomed into two pillowy loafs of bread. My first attempt at kombucha (something I’d long scoffed at when I lived in NYC) is showing a thin layer of fresh scoby — this is a weird slimy pancake that apparently forms everytime you brew a batch, and which you need to start a new batch. My scallions regrown from the ends of my last farmers market bunch, some foraged nasturtiums, and a tiny basil plant were all thriving. (Fingers still crossed for my kale, collard, and daikon seeds.) I’ve found a couple online yoga videos I like. Here’s one with Cat Meffan I enjoyed this morning. My friend Sondra, who has the most soothing voice ever, hosts my favorite yoga class which you can find under the moniker Sondra Sun Yoga on Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays. Another friend donated his old pullup bar, while I patiently await my six-weeks-out backordered hangboard for climbing practice. And of course, like half the country, I am dancing along with Ryan Heffington at Dance Church along with friends via Zoom.
I’m one of the lucky ones, I know.
I have steady work for the time being. A welcome respite from a months long job hunt last year, that finally turned around this winter. I’m lucky that I can work remotely, that I have access to outdoor space where I can grow my own food, that I’m in good, non-urgent health, and that we live in a time where groceries and supplies can arrive on our doorsteps with just a few keystrokes.
The joy of steady work, of course, is tempered by the fact that many of my friends and colleagues don’t have the same flexibility and they’re either adapting (by moving their classes online for example), scrambling to cobble together enough work, or counting on unemployment to get them by, because their work can only be done face to face — like restaurant work.
But it’s also a time of intense mental and emotional drain.
I’ve forgotten what it means to focus. This blog post for example. To be honest, it took me a few days of fits and starts to find the words and silence the siren call of neverending information online. Plus there were the frequent breaks to tend to my elderly dog, forage for snacks, or just stand on my balcony listening to the birds trill and chatter into the quiet void left by the disappeared traffic.
But I think I’m finally becoming more acclimated to the rhythm of our days as defined by isolation. I know I need to practice more self discipline. Not just to sit down and work. But to know when to stop and be done for the day. To not be productive at all, to breathe, to be still, to cherish what freedoms I do still have. And of course, make sure my dog gets plenty of treats and pets. It’s 6:17pm. I think I’m actually going to sign off and enjoy the sunset for once. I hope you can, too.
About the author.
Héloïse Chung is writing the great American science fiction blockbuster in the moments between her day job as a copywriter and creative director. Non-screen activities include rock-climbing and making ceramics.