Life in Time of COVID-19: Day 20 in Self-Isolation

Today marks the 20th day after my office formally announced the work from home (WFH) policy following the rising outbreak of COVID-19 in Jakarta. Today also marks the 35th day of the first COVID-19 cases in Indonesia. In 35 days, Indonesia goes from two positive cases to 2,273 cases, with 195 deaths. Life has been thrown out of balance — people are confused with the lack of actions taken by the central government, and we live under constant fear and worry. I feel like I’ve been neglected by people whom I vote to lead me and whom I paid my taxes for. It only fueled my resentment towards authority and heightened my level of distrust.

When COVID-19 cases were first reported in China, I was already on high alert. Living with anxiety disorder means I am used to being paranoid about almost everything, and sometimes, it comes in handy. But, even if I was already on high alert, I still didn’t believe that we would come to this state. The first three weeks in self-isolation were chaotic even for me, who supposedly enjoy the isolation. No matter how many memes out there glorifying introverts for thriving in self-isolation, I was far from thriving.

Routine is a big part of my life; it keeps me in control, and control is always something I aimed to reduce my anxiety. So, when the routine was abruptly disrupted, everything seems hazy, I felt like I was back in the dark tunnel that I was in a year ago in Boston–no more crowded Commuter Line, ordering Kopi Susu Tetangga on my way to the office, walking to Thamrin10 for lunch, pushing my way in to get inside the chaotic train home, going to Pasar Santa in the weekend, Korean barbeque time with my high school friends, and just nights out to drink with my friends in Senopati. Those routines are my anchor to sanity, a semblance of healthy life to remind me that I am still living, and I intend to live with vigor.

From what I see in this current situation, it will be a long time before everything gets back to normal, especially with the lackluster response from the government. My office has extended the work from home policy twice. By the third time it was announced, I finally concede another defeat.

Who do I want to be during COVID-19?

My uncle sent an exciting post in my family’s WhatsApp group a couple of days ago. It’s a graph about several zones that we’re in as an individual during this pandemic.

For these past three weeks, I was in the fear zone.

I was externally angry; I complained a lot despite having the privilege to work from home and receiving steady income while so many others are about to or already losing their daily income, I frantically stay up to date with the news even though it makes me angry. There is nothing I can do about it. My government is stupid and stubborn, and no matter how much I complain in social media, they are a lost cause — I should’ve focused on what I can do to help instead of relying on them to do something. I was halfway in the learning zone by now, and I set a strict screen time, so I didn’t dwell on social media too much and ended up screaming my head out, I evaluated information. I didn’t react exaggeratingly, so I don’t invoke panic and fear in others.

It’s a new month now, and I am slowly accepting that this is the new reality-staying at home, working from afar, cutting my physical hang out time with my friends, and trying to adapt to the new reality.

It is a weird time to be alive, but it is also a life-changing time that propelled me to questions everything about my existence. Crisis always does that-it driven you to rethink about your life, about who you want to be, about what you want to do, and from crisis to crisis, my answer remains:

I want to be kind, compassionate, and useful. I want to put humanity above others; I wish not to give up, I want to have courage. With these answers in my hand, I welcome myself to a new world, a bleak reality, but a fact that I have to accept and live with nonetheless.

Whoever you are who stumbled into this reading, I hope you are well and healthy; I hope you will stay strong and have the courage to face this, I hope with that courage you and I and everyone else will be able to turn it into compassion to help others.

Jakarta, April 5th, 2020.

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Azarine Kyla Arinta

Dedicating myself to digital media and tech for social issues. Communications Manager at Amnesty International in Indonesia.