Living in Lockdown: Quarantine and The City

BY Harper's BAZAAR Arabia / Apr 6 2020 / 20:38 PM

Bazaar contributor Casey Kohlberg describes staying connected with family and friends while isolating alone in New York City

Living in Lockdown: Quarantine and The City

It’s a brave new world we now live in.

Like many of us, I was surprised at how rapidly news trickling out of China in January turned into mandatory shelter in place orders and social distancing in March.

We’re now three weeks into the worldwide health crisis that is the novel coronavirus (it’s now been declared a pandemic by the WHO) and nearly two since New York City – where I have lived for the past 10 years – issued its official stay at home order on March 20.

I was in Paris the week all of this unfolded – at a seeming rapid pace. At the time of my departure there were no restrictions from the State Department or the CDC.

My trip passed without incident although the media sensation surrounding the pandemic seemed to be ramping up, especially in terms of intensity. I woke up for my scheduled return flight on March 12 to find out President Trump was stopping all European travel - which meant a very anxiety ridden trip back to the states.

As soon as I got home, I placed a grocery order for delivery and immediately decided to self-quarantine just to be safe. I’m an introvert as well as a freelance writer – so I’m pretty good at hunkering down.

The speed with which the news came in shocked me and because of my decision to self-quarantine, that meant I couldn’t join my family before the New York shelter in place orders came in. That’s been the hardest part, all of the fear, and still being separated during a time like this. Since then, I’ve been trying to work as much as I can but still keep myself occupied, happy and sane.

Here’s how I’ve been spending my time in quarantine: I’ve thrown all semblance of a normal schedule out the window – it’s actually been really nice and productive. While a lot of my day-to-day work has tapered off, I’ve been able to work on a lot of personal writing projects as a result.

I have restarted a book/film club with three other friends that was supposed to start last year. We read one book and watch one movie or TV show every week. I’ve been cooking a lot more, mostly to minimize going outside and I did treat myself to nice delivery from Carbone last week.

While my official self-quarantine ended last week I’ve only left my apartment twice. There’s an eeriness to the empty streets that makes any New Yorker jittery, but there are a few things that have helped me get through my time in isolation.

The daily 19:00 applause for healthcare workers has been lovely. I’ve tuned into watch New York Governor Andrew Cuomo give his daily briefings for reassurance and facts. I’ve been keeping up with friends over Zoom and FaceTime. I’ve had business lunches, drinks, a birthday party, and good old-fashioned catchups all from the comforts of my home. I’ve perfected my Zoom “look” of glam pajamas, with bright lipstick and a fun headband.

So far, I’ve been okay staying inside. I imagine it will get harder as the weather gets nicer and we can’t really do all the things that make New York so amazing in the Spring and Summer.

Rooftops, dinner outside, casually meeting friends in the park and trips to the beach will likely not be in play this year.

But the world keeps on turning, somehow. No one knows what the other side of this crisis will look like, or when or even if we will return to what we used to know as normal. But I’m choosing to remain hopeful and positive for now.

In the meantime, I hope people will be kinder to each other during this. A favorite author of mine once wrote that happiness can be found in the darkest of times, as long as one remembers to turn on the light. And I think she got it right.

After all, we’re all in this together.

This is the third installment of ‘Living in Lockdown’, a Harper’s Bazaar Arabia series where our international contributors share their experience in self-isolation or quarantine.

Lead image courtesy of unsplash/Fezbot2000.