Hannah Yoshinaga, a freshman in Boston University’s College of Communications and a staff writer and photographer at The Daily Free Press, has been at home in Orange County, California for the past few weeks practicing social distancing. She picked up her camera to document the subtle ways life has changed under lockdown, and how she’s been able to make the most of a difficult situation.
In a vacuum, “social distancing” sounds like an introvert’s dream, right? It did to me, but that was before I knew how deadly the novel coronavirus pandemic would become and how many aspects of daily life would be altered.
The importance of social distancing truly hit home on March 11. Within a 20-minute window, news broke that beloved actor Tom Hanks and NBA star Rudy Gobert had both contracted the virus, and the NBA season was suspended indefinitely. The Boston University men’s basketball team also secured their first conference championship in years, but it almost felt selfish to celebrate that when the fate of the world was in limbo. I sat in one spot on the couch for the next two days, watching the pandemic spread and take what seemed like the whole world down with it.
Fast forward nearly a month, and social distancing is still important as ever, if not more so. I’m still learning the ins and outs of constructing a life that is almost entirely indoors. Some days, seconds feel like hours as I sit around and wait for someone to wake me up and tell me that none of this is real. My life feels like it’s in an upside down, “Shaun of the Dead”-esque universe, but I find comfort in the small things.
On any given morning, I can find my mom sitting outside in our backyard. Our house isn’t exceptional, and our yard is about as tiny as they come in Orange County, but she still finds space in her busy work schedule to spend time outdoors every day.
Our next-door neighbors have also been passing the time in their backyard. Sometimes we talk to them over the six-foot wall that divides our lots.
Our oldest dog Izzie used to devote quite a bit of time to jumping over that brick wall when she was younger. I have countless memories of looking out the window, seeing a flash of white as she made it over the wall and yelling out, “Mom! She’s gone again!”
Izzie can’t get anywhere near the top of the fence now and she’s lost most of her puppy-like energy. That’s probably a good thing, because the Izzie we knew five years ago would never have made it through spending this much time cooped up in the house.
Plenty of other neighborhood dogs (and people) have had trouble staying inside for long periods of time. A few times each day, I’ll notice different neighbors conducting social distancing walks, where one person walks on the sidewalk and the other person walks several feet away in the street. On this particular day, two of my neighbors had a long conversation about the state of the world outside our house, a good 10 feet apart from one another.
Adjusting to classes online has been just as strange as adapting to life back home two months before I was supposed to do so. I’m lucky to have professors who conduct regular Zoom classes so I get to have some kind of interaction with the outside world on a daily basis.
Math has been the hardest subject to learn online, but my professor has been nothing but accommodating. My writing professor does his best to make us laugh every day: last week, he wore a kangaroo mask to one lecture and screenshared a professional Norwegian belly-flopping contest during another.
Every few days, my mom will make a run to Starbucks around lunchtime. I’m not much of a coffee drinker but I decided to tag along so I could get some fresh air. The cashier and the other baristas I could spot through the drive-thru window were all wearing masks. It’s strange to think about how normal mask-wearing has become these days.
Part of my new normal has been exercising more frequently and taking my workouts outside.
Like many other residents of West Campus, I was guilty of several walks of shame past FitRec without stopping inside. During self-isolation, I’ve committed myself to at least three workouts per week. It’s not the most fun thing I could be doing, but hey, it’s something to pass the time.
I’ve also played more board games in the last four weeks than I have in the past four years. This week’s game of the week was Star Wars Monopoly. I can’t say I have much of a future in real estate, but I found that putting all my eggs in one basket and spending all my money developing properties in one section of the board was a winning strategy.
During the afternoon, I work on all the designs I get assigned. I intern for BU Dining Services and I get to create menus, advertisements, infographics and all other kinds of fun stuff. Most of my extracurriculars are sports journalism-related and aren’t currently operating, so I enjoy having a creative outlet at work.
We used to not eat out for dinner very often, but since so many restaurants in our neighborhood are in danger of going under, it only seems right to eat out as much as we can afford. One of our favorite meals is the barbeque chicken plate from our local Hawaiian barbeque restaurant. We’ve also eaten our weight in Mexican food since there’s a Mexican restaurant on just about every street corner in Southern California.
I try to catch the sunset every day. I almost never paid much attention to sunsets before self-isolation, but they serve as a reminder of how beautiful the world is even if it isn’t safe to go outside for the time being.
Once it’s nighttime and everyone is done with their work for the day, it’s movie time. Tonight, the classic film of choice was “Clear and Present Danger.” My entire family really likes the classics. Plus, we needed something to bring us back down to earth after watching “Tiger King” twice.
My mom insists that we sanitize each door knob, light switch, button and frequently-touched surface in the house before going to bed every night as a precaution. Thankfully, she was able to buy some cleaning supplies before the panic-buying began. Now, I’m not sure we’d be able to find any wipes, paper towels or Lysol if we tried.
Not being able to find those things at the store feels like such a trivial problem when I think about the bigger picture. I’m worried about my immunocompromised relatives and friends whose families have lost sources of income. I’m concerned that there are still so many uncertainties when it comes to how we’re handling the pandemic in this country. I’m sad that the sports I have devoted my life to photographing, writing about and covering may be canceled for the next few months.
But I also feel an overwhelming sense of optimism when I think about the millions of people who have mobilized to fight this disease. I see the hundreds of healthcare workers going to the frontlines every day at the hospital near my home and I read about the contributions people are making to fighting this invisible enemy all over the world.
I’m more than happy to do my part and sit in the house for months if doing so will bring an end to this disaster more quickly and keep more people safe. I have my camera, my dogs and my family, and that’s all I really need.