Note from the Editor: In today’s Quarantine Diaries, we’re travelling to Seattle, to check in with Ramneek, who’s a friend I’ve known since elementary school! Also being a Canadian in the US, we’ll travel to the other side of the country, to the West Coast, and see how things are in the city known for it’s coffee, fish market, and home to one of the most iconic rom coms ever — Sleepless in Seattle!
Hi there! My name is Ramneek! I live in Seattle, Washington, the coffee capital of the United States (don’t quote me on that, however it was the birthplace of the original Starbucks, so take that as you will!). I live in a condo downtown Seattle near Pike Place Market with my dog Teddy and my husband, Richard. We are new to the city, and the States in general actually, originally from Toronto, Ontario in Canada; we just moved here in July of last year. I work as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Analyst within the Public Sector and have been working from home as of the first week of March.
As newcomers to Seattle, we were still in the midst of settling in and making some new networks before our state got hit with the virus. Seattle was one of the first places in North America with cases of COVID-19 and, for me, that meant that a lot of my social networks in Seattle were still very premature by the time we were on a ‘lock down’ so to speak. In some ways, that made it very easy for my husband and I to social distance from our community in Seattle because there’s no temptation to see family or friends locally. In other ways, we are still strangers in this new city so there’s a high level of unfamiliarity and disconnect with our surroundings, and given the circumstances, there is a greater sense of longing for ‘home’.
That being said, we have tried to make the most of our situation, we have been trying to connect with our friends and family in a way that we didn’t prior to our State’s ‘Stay Home and Stay Healthy Order’ . We FaceTime with them almost daily now, we have regular game’s nights over Google Hangouts, we’ve gotten very creative with our game’s nights as well actually because we screen share our laptop screen over Google Hangouts while our friend’s connect to Jackbox over their phones remotely allowing us to play the same game together and, overall, its really made me wonder why I wasn’t actively engaging in these platforms before COVID-19 exiled us from our peers into the great indoors.
Prior to the ‘Stay Home and Stay Healthy Order’ in Washington, the coronavirus was on my radar all the way back in January. My husband and I booked our first cruise ever last year in August, and it was set to depart in May 2020 with the Norwegian Cruise Line; it was to dock in Venice, Italy and take us all around the Greek Islands. We had been looking forward to this for a while, but once the virus appeared on the scene and was made public in December, this was something I was tracking closely to determine whether my husband and I needed to back out of the cruise. Eventually, yes, after many phone calls and emails, we were able to get out of our cruise, and we received a credit to use before December 2022. That was on March 6th and at that point I was also working from home, and the seriousness of this virus had fully settled in, at least for me.
My workplace was quick, relatively speaking, to respond and implement work from home measures, and then a week later all public places were also closed within Washington, so the overall response in the state was pretty quick in my opinion. I think that there’s something to be said for the state’s response in Washington because, given that the situation was still developing, and some state’s were still in disbelief that this was going to spiral into a pandemic situation, it was obviously a daunting and very difficult decision to make for the Governor and as a policy maker. This coupled with the stress of the impact that your decision will have on the economy and the public, it’s a hugely daunting task, especially considering the fact that you’re telling people that they will have to close down their businesses, yet they have to continue paying their bills, and there’s no financial security to offer to them at that early point in time.
COVID-19 is a threat but it’s an intangible threat so you are bound to get naysayers, and a lot of the time we don’t take a moment to recognize leaders because, regardless of the situation and the outcome, there’s always differing opinions and perspectives, and there’s no way to make everyone happy with any given decision. All in all, I recognize that it’s not an easy job, they are a regular people with extraordinarily high level of responsibility, risk and exposure to scrutiny, so I have to give credit where credit is due, and I think my state did a good job in terms of taking the steps that were needed at a dire but unpredictable time.
On a more personal level, my daily morning routine is a lot more geared around self-care than ever before, self-care to me takes many shapes, such as enjoying a hot cup of coffee, engaging a more lengthy skincare routine in the evening, reading a book, taking an online class that I didn’t have time to take before, taking up running in the park, and journaling. The biggest reason for that is that I have more time; time, it’s all mine now and although I work from home on weekdays, I don’t have a commute that I have to factor into my schedule, I have access to my fridge and freezer, my appliances and pantry all day long so I have no reason to skip breakfast, which was the norm previously, and I can use my extra free time to make a cup of coffee and drink it while it’s still hot, and that, to me, is a gift.
My drink of choice in the morning varies from a classic cup of coffee with a splash of creamer, Indian chai, or the new TikTok trend that I have obviously hopped on too as well — whipped coffee! It depends on my mood and how much effort and dishes I am willing to put up with, but either way, fully caffeinated we start our day! For breakfast, I eat oatmeal most days’ at the start of the week I make a jar of strawberry and banana compote that I store in a jar and pull out daily to put into my morning bowl of oatmeal, I combine that with maple syrup, cinnamon, and chia seeds.
I start my workday at 7:30 am, at which time I log into my laptop and start by clearing my inbox.
I look forward to my mornings because I love that I’m up before the sun, my eyes and I can ease our way into the sunrise and I do it with a hot caffeinated beverage in hand, going through all my emails and clearing my inbox. I have to start my day with a clear inbox so I can have my ‘to do’ list set for the day, and it also prevents me from becoming overwhelmed down the line with an abundance of unread emails, unaware if I have missed something important. As I mentioned previously, my theme during my time at home has been centered around self-care, and what that means for me is reducing stress, maximizing my time and productivity, and trying to stay in a routine so the transition back into ‘normal’ life isn’t going to be as much as a shock once that day arrives. I’m up before my dog and my husband so my mornings are my ‘me time’, and that has got to be my favorite part of quarantine.
On the topic of emails, I’m finding that I have more emails now that I ever have in the past, and I think that speaks to the fact that there is a certain level of productivity and efficiency that is derived from letting people work from home. As someone that works within the realm of Public Administration, this is a field that takes a little longer to innovate and fully adapt to new technologies, so it’s amazing to see how everyone was able to hop onboard the teleworking train and I hope that this is something that can continue in the future too. There are benefits for everyone when you introduce these types of efficiencies because you have employees that are fully rested, not burnt out from commuting, are able to have breakfast for the first time ever (this may only be true in my case haha), and employers that are receiving work objects within the same if not more efficient timelines, creating a cohesive and mutually beneficial environment and positive workplace culture.
My husband will get up somewhere between morning and the afternoon, and when he does he likes to take our dog our for a walk. While he is doing that I will take this dedicated time for my lunch break. My lunch of choice has been either a smoothie (banana, orange juice, spinach, protein, chia seeds, and milk) or the classic, Ham and Cheese sandwich. While I take my lunch break, I will usually also watch an episode of The Office, I have watched this show so many times, at this point I can recite all the words and there is no suspense left in the show whatsoever, but it’s such a good show I just can’t stop watching it over and over again.
This is also a time that I like to take an inventory of what I have done thus far in my day, and if I feel like there’s something that I am missing and would add value to my life. What I mean by that is, if I am feeling anxious about what’s happening in world, or things in my life, I will pull out my journal and work my way through those feelings and get to the root cause; I have actually discovered through this journaling exercise that I was feeling pressure prior to this situation in life that I would carry with my daily, but I never had a chance to stop and tap into what was causing it and why I felt that way. I realized from journaling while in quarantine that it was pressure that I was putting on myself about expectations and goals that I felt I had to meet within these very short timelines.
Once I started journaling out those feelings and working out what the root cause of my anxiety was, I was able to figure out what I needed to do in order to feel happiness in my life and not bound myself to such strict timelines. I journal for a number of different reasons, I like to view myself as a bit of a historian and I like to write down the things that are happening in the world around me so I can reflect on it in the future, I also journal for personal growth so I can see what I was struggling with at points in times and see if those are still struggles I face or if I’ve been able to overcome, it’s also for self-reflection, as I mentioned before. Journaling has allowed me to find purpose in my time in quarantine and I would encourage everyone to also explore journaling during this time as well.
I find that most of my meetings are scheduled in the afternoons, so my afternoons are when I am in back to back meetings or my most productive. It can be my most productive time because it’s a time when I have cleared my inbox, had food, and I know the end of the day is right around the corner so I get my butt in gear to finish off the last few items on my ‘To Do’ list. If I find that the afternoon is dragging on, I will take my dog out for a walk or go for a quick run, this is my way of energizing my body and my mind so that I can finish my day off strong and feel good about what I accomplished. There is no better feeling in the workplace than when you make it to Friday and you look back on your week and realize how much you got done. Sometimes when I have a week where I’ve been unmotivated and unproductive, my weekends don’t taste as sweet, so I try to make an extra effort to maintain my routine and make sure that I am treating my workdays as such even during these unprecedented times.
I end my work day at 4PM, and that’s when I will sit down on the couch for a bit and read, or watch something on Netflix. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to me to continue to treat my workdays as workdays because I know that there will come a time when we will have to transition back to the office, and I want that transition to come seamlessly. There’s a risk that while we are in social distancing, quarantine, social isolation mode, we will lose touch with the outside world, we aren’t receiving the same level of human contact we received previously so it can affect our communication once we are back in the office. For some, I know the weekdays and weekends all roll into one, and you aren’t able to feel the different, but I would say the experience has been quite the opposite for me.
I continue to work and maintain a routine during the weekdays by waking up early, focusing on my job tasks, and then getting in some self-care by journaling or exercising. The weekends are when I let loose with a bottle (yes, bottle) of Prosecco by Cupcake, my wine of choice.
On Fridays we have our Google Hangout nights with some our Canadian friends that we met when we moved here who are also living in Seattle, and it starts at 7PM. This is my one time a week I indulge in wine, and it’s something I look forward to every week.
Saturdays and Sundays are flexible, there’s usually some grocery shopping involved, taking our dog for long walks, enjoying the nice weather in Seattle. Lately, in Seattle, we’ve been getting lots of sun with temperatures reaching as high as 21 degrees so mother-nature has been good to us, so the temptation to go outside is very high! I am an Asthmatic so I’m extra cautious about going outside, I have a cotton non-medical face mask that I wear when I’m outside that I purchased from Los Angeles Apparel. I also maintain a safe distance from everyone outside; there have been several occasions when my husband and I have driven to a park to take Teddy for a walk, and recognized that there were too many people that there was no way for us to safely social distance so we turned around and went home.
Overall, I would say that, what I have determined for myself so this may not ring true to everyone, there aren’t many times in life that we are forced to slow down. Life is fast paced and there’s never really a good time to take it easy, this is a time when we have been given no choice but to take a step back from our regularly scheduled busy lifestyles. I know that I have to try to make the most out of it, and I want my personal legacy during my time in quarantine to be one of personal growth, reflection and self-care. I have taken this time to connect more with my friends and family, my FaceTime’s with my nephew when we are playing dinosaurs over the phone bring so much joy to my day, and I would never have had the opportunity to discover that in my life pre-quarantine.
My pre-quarantine life was fast-paced, when I had an opportunity to FaceTime it was for a quick ‘hello, how are you doing’ and lacked the same level of depth as my calls do now. In my pre-quarantine life I had no time to think about my next move, career-wise or other, because the world was still moving so I had to as well, there was no time to stop and think because you may get left behind. Now, in quarantine, I can now figure out what brings me joy in life (how Marie Kondo of me, right?) so I don’t have to feel like my life is being lived for me rather than by me, and I don’t have to act on a whim but rather based around what truly satisfies my soul.