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Letters from the Homefront: Finding Ways to Cope

The following “Letters from the Homefront” account is part of our new initiative, Collecting in Quarantine. Inspired by the poignant letters in the Maryland Historical Society collection documenting past adversities from the Spanish flu of 1918, to the Annapolis yellow fever epidemics of 1793 and 1800, MdHS is calling on Marylanders to send their personal stories of how the pandemic is impacting their lives.

Group portrait. Unidentified men and women working inside office
Today’s contributor, like a cross-section of others across the country, has been fortunate to transfer his work at the office to work from home. Group portrait. Unidentified men and women working inside office, photograph by Paul S. Henderson, circa 1949, HEN.00.A1-077. Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, Baltimore City Life Museum Collection, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Maryland Historical Society.

April 13, 2020 – On this day, Shaun from Baltimore writes:

My workplace ordered us to telework around the weekend of March 14th, so it has been about a month since I started adjusting to a life centered around my home. I remember going to a neighborhood bar on Thursday (March 12th) treating it like it was my last supper. The domino effect of COVID-19 news and quarantine policies really took off that day, and I needed to have that meal and some drinks at the bar to process what was happening.

If I had to be honest, I have not really had to deal with the levels of anxiety and stress as others around me may have. There are a few factors that I think have helped me on this.

1. I was fairly prepared already with regards to groceries and supplies. Toilet paper was never an issue for me… I bought a big pack of it back in September the previous year. I do realize that had I run out of toilet paper in March instead of when I did, I may be fighting all the other crowds for some. While there have been some groceries that I have needed to buy, I had some staples already, and my grocery store was pretty well stocked. Since I live in a small apartment, my storage space is fairly limited which affects how much I can buy at a time, and this is honestly a good thing. It’s been business as usual for me.

2. Throughout my life, I have been very adept at coping with isolation and dealing with boredom. Even today, I live alone and quite enjoy it. I was not only the eldest child in my family by 5 years, but the eldest grandchild on my mother’s side by 3 years. While I had friends back then (and obviously now) more often than not I tended to play alone, whether if it was shooting basketball or playing video games. This was probably due to my introverted nature. Believe it or not though, my friends were surprised to find this out since they know I tend to do a lot of social activities, lending credence to their belief that I was an extrovert. The last time I think I felt truly negative from being isolated was during the end of my solo trip to Seoul in September 2019, where I did not know anyone nor could speak the common language.

3. My job is very heavily computer-based, but then again what software engineer’s isn’t? Of course there is some adjustment to working from home instead of a my [sic] formal office environment. Fortunately my coworkers and I had a trial-run of sorts when a couple years we had to work from home for a couple weeks while our organization was relocating into a brand new building. If I had to be honest, sometimes working from home in the past has allowed me to be rather productive, particularly if I was struggling with a problem at work. That change of environment can definitely work wonders for those situations. I definitely feel like my month-plus time working from home so far has been very productive as well.

4. I have a great coping mechanism already in place: running. At the beginning of the year I decided to train for the Baltimore Marathon in what would be my first marathon (and honestly probably my only one). Running has always been a way to unwind after work and, in times of stress, a great way to destress. Trying to build up and keep my base mileage during the pandemic has been very important for me as I prepare for the race, and it is very nice for that training to serve a secondary purpose as well.

5. I am not sure if this is contributing or not but I would like to believe that my departure off of Facebook nearly a year ago has helped some too. My logic is that if I am seeing other posts about doom and gloom or woe, then it may put me in a similar mindset. However I can definitely see the benefits of social media for people that are feeling anxious and need that connection.

The only times I leave my apartment is to go running, get groceries, or get takeout. I order takeout probably more than I should, but I feel slightly compelled to in order to help some of the local restaurants. There are enough books and video games in my apartment and enough Netflix content and Youtube videos to keep me entertained. As a silver lining to having to work from home, I just started using Facetime via my work Macbook which allows me to video chat with my 1.5-year-old nephew for the first time (in addition to other relatives). My college friends and I have taken this time to start playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time, which from what I understand is having a renaissance with other people undergoing shelter-in-place. Right now I am praying that I can still do my beach trip to South Carolina in June but it is not looking likely and I have come to accept that, particularly if I end up getting a refund on my portion of the condo rental. But I realize that potentially losing a couple hundred bucks on a lost vacation is a drop in the bucket compared to people who have larger sunk costs and certainly people who are struggling to make ends meet right now.

If I had a lesson to give others in the future so that they could making coping with future pandemics or other similar issues, it would be to be a proactive person rather than a reactive person. Just having all the necessities in advance really helps when the unexpected occurs, and it will occur. I think this lesson can apply not only to the individual but to the government as well. Unfortunately the government tends to be more responsive after something happens rather than proactively making laws, allocating budgets, and so on. I realize it is impossible to account for everything unexpected but trying to at least be prepared on the whole can bring about so much ease of mind and prevent things like panic-buying and making rash decisions. At the end of the day, I hope everyone learns more about himself/herself during this crisis and comes up with his/her lessons that can be applied in the future.

Everyone stay safe and keep persevering.

Please note: The views, information, and opinions expressed and shared on the underbelly through the Collecting in Quarantine project do not necessarily represent those of the Maryland Historical Society. Our staff does not verify for accuracy the information contained within these submissions. We also do not edit the content beyond minor modifications for formatting or to remove personally identifying information, if applicable. Just like the historic letters in our collection, each letter presents the writer’s own perspective. The primary purpose of this series, with the permission of contributors, is to share and collect the experiences of Marylanders living through the COVID-19 crisis at this moment in time.

To learn more about the Collecting in Quarantine project and how to share a story of your own, click here.