I’ve Mastered Social Distancing for a Decade, So Why Does 2020 Feel So Different?

I haven’t left the house in two months.

While I may have been ahead of the curve on taking the coronavirus seriously, there’s a pretty good chance I would have still been this vitamin D deprived even if the virus didn’t exist.

When I did a Twitter poll a few weeks ago on my personal record for not leaving the house, 68% of you were generous in choosing only 3 or 6 months.

The correct answer is actually 9 months. I can still remember breaking the streak on Thanksgiving 2011, noting to my mom after she got the car out that “this is the first time I’ve left the house since February.” Her face turned to shock with a hint of disgust as she told me “you better never tell anyone that.” Whoops. That streak may also be broken this year.

Staying home and keeping my distance from human beings is just how I prefer to live. My grandma used to call me a hermit, but if I can take one positive away from COVID-19, it’s rebranding hermit into “social distancing.”

Suddenly, my lifestyle has gone globally mainstream as social distancing is the way we’re going to slow the spread of this virus. At least, that’s how countries with functioning leadership will handle it, but we can talk about how ratfucked America is later.

(Warning: this piece was written in three sittings and it has mood swings)

Asking me to stay home is akin to asking me to continue breathing oxygen. I am almost as selective in choosing when to leave the house as Daniel Day-Lewis was at choosing film roles. In a world of more than seven billion people, I have to be in the running — comatose patients excluded — for having the least amount of change to my life from the coronavirus pandemic.

However, I can’t say there hasn’t been a mental change already. I’m more pessimistic than usual and I find it hard to get excited about anything. Despite a decade of unrivaled experienced with social distancing, I find myself having to daily stem off a panic attack. I figured if I’m having a difficult time with this quarantine, then it must be a real shock to the system of the people who are so used to going out the door daily. Throw that change on top of the anxiety and uncertainty over what’s going to happen to your health and wealth. It’s a lot to handle right now.

I can’t promise this will be the most helpful of stories to read — maybe you’ll get a few laughs at least in a time we need comedy. I just knew I had to sit down and share my thoughts to feel the catharsis I only get from writing. While I may go on to regret sharing so many personal feelings about my life, there is a sinking feeling that something could happen this year where I never get another chance for people to understand why I lived the way I did.

So carpe fucking diem; this one’s for the misunderstood social hermits.

Why I Love Social Distancing

This has quickly gotten pretty dark, so let’s dial it back to the fun times of social distancing in a world before someone ate a bat at a wet market or whatever the hell happened in China to start this chaos.

What started me on social distancing? Well, if you’ve been around people before, you know that it’s not always the most pleasant experience.

You probably want to know what goes into the psyche of a person who would voluntarily not leave the house for nine months as I once did. Some of you might not even fathom why I’d do it for nine days for that matter. By the way, I know many people are struggling right now since 52.3% of you on Twitter said you’d rather do two weeks in prison than 12 months of house arrest.

I don’t think my lifestyle choice is better than anyone’s, but I can’t help but get the feeling that a lot of people would say there’s something wrong with mine. So I admittedly find myself writing this from a defensive position after seeing so many people on social media struggle and complain just a single-digit number of days into a self-quarantine. When you see people equate your lifestyle with the end of the world, it makes you question if you’re really okay.

But I do feel more than content with my way of doing things. We’re just cut from a different cloth. However, I would strongly deny being an anti-social person. In fact, I used to call myself the most social hermit you’ll ever meet because of how much I enjoy conversation with anyone. I’ll start up conversations with people at elevators, or with waitresses, doctor’s assistants, and any random Twitter user where I have over 22,000 followers. I simply enjoy talking, I’m very approachable, and people are comfortable at opening up to me. That’s why I probably should have been a psychologist so I could sit my ass at home and have people come to see me. I’d also be making way more money than I have.

Oh yes, work. If you’re new here that might be your main area of interest. How do you achieve a decade of social distancing with work? The answer is to be a freelance writer. Even when you don’t have any gigs, you can just say you’re working on a book or a screenplay, which are two things I have done already. I started covering the NFL full time in 2011 and worked on research projects for a few years before that. I can honestly say I have never once had to leave the house for a single task related to my coverage of football. Everything has always been done remotely and handled by emails, attachments and some phone calls. Some people are likely just discovering how amazing working from home can be, but that’s what I have always done. Sadly, I may not be able to continue doing this, which would really put a damper on my lifestyle. Hard to find a sportswriting job as it is, but even harder when sports are suspended. But enough for now about my depressing future.

Extreme social distancing was not always my lifestyle, but I have certainly taken on more social distancing post-college than I did as a teenager and college student. I graduated from college in December 2008, so 2009 was the first full year where I wasn’t constrained by the need to go to classes. Had I known how infrequently I was going to leave the house over the next decade, I probably would have kept track of every instance since I am a data nerd with OCD for such things. If you named a year since 2009, I could probably list a few of the events that drew me out the door. For example, 2010 got at least five trips out of me for jury duty and kidney stones, so definitely not my favorite year.

If I had to ballpark it, I’d say I probably average about 2.5 trips out of the house a month. For example, I left the house three times in January this year: once to a meal on New Year’s Day, one doctor’s appointment (stopped for a flu shot too, fortunately), and my last time out was on January 25 (two months ago today) to my best friend’s house. I didn’t go out once in February, and March (and probably April+) will be the same way of course.

A year ago, I left the house five times in March, but it was one of the worst months of my life. It started with a terrible case of the flu, which led to two ER trips. In between those I broke my MedExpress cherry, but it was short-lived as they denied me service because of my new health insurance. So we picked up Arby’s on the way home, because I’d rather die by roast beef than that flu. Another trip would have been to see my grandma after I finally got over the flu, but she passed away on the Sunday morning of St. Patrick’s Day. Later that week I had to purchase a suit jacket at a store before attending her funeral and wake two days later. So that’s five trips that I would gladly exchange for just one last time to see her for a proper goodbye.

You get the sense now that I’ve always worked from home, and I mostly just leave for medical reasons and family events. The next logical question is what do I do for fun? You know, living. The things people are freaking out from not having access to right now as the world has stopped. Well, this is where I feel I’m very consistent in my habits of what I like and enjoy:

  • I’d rather eat at home (with food brought to me) than go to a restaurant
  • I’d rather watch a movie on my HDTV than go to a theater
  • I’d rather listen to music on headphones than go to a concert
  • I’d rather watch sports on my HDTV than go to a game

Movies/TV, music and sports are my big hobbies in a nutshell. In each case here I prefer the option that is more efficient in terms of time and cost, and I choose private/small gatherings over being in public and in large crowds. That’s just how I am.

The only real inconsistency I have is that I do prefer seeing a friend in person over just texting or talking to them on the phone. Unfortunately, my inner circle these days is almost exclusively people from different states, so there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m still on brand in that I would prefer a friend to come over than to go to a party. In a party setting, I’m absolutely the person who latches on to a friend and just talks their ear off without circulating the room.

How do I manage online dating? By being a good texter (read: not a creep or fuckboy), I actually get most women to meet me at my house for the first date. And since I’ve been straight edge since I was 17, bars/clubs are not places I ever frequent or take interest in. Don’t need to go to the liquor store or to buy a pack of smokes. Never have the urge to go looking for the Dope Man.

But wait, there’s a lot more…

  • I don’t drive and being in a car long can make me physically ill (need the window cracked for air no matter how cold it is)
  • I never liked flying and haven’t been on an airplane since a couple months before 9/11
  • So asking me to fly to a conference or to the NFL Combine (my least favorite event) is a no go
  • I’m agnostic and haven’t been to church since I was a teenager
  • The only water I want to be in is a shower, so no thanks on going to the pool, beach or water park
  • Amusement parks/zoos are fun as a kid or if you have kids, so 33-year-old childless me isn’t so amused anymore
  • If a 33-year-old man is chilling at a park alone, he’s probably a pedo or a serial killer, so that’s not for me
  • People like to walk their dogs, but I’m 100% a cat person, and like me, they stay indoors
  • I’ve never had any interest in hunting, fishing, or camping
  • Dancing or hiking? Me not liking
  • Going for a run or to the gym? Nope, but I’d love to have a stationary bike I could sit on and exercise while I stream media…at home
  • Gun range to practice shooting? Nope, not into guns (not even paintball)
  • Bowling? Tried it once at a birthday party (that was enough)
  • Strip club? Waste of money (PornHub is free)
  • Unlike Robert Kraft, I’ve never taken a spa day or been to a massage parlor
  • Wrestling shows? Been to a ton, but stopped following in 2001
  • Casinos? I’ve been there twice, but I’d rather lose money betting on sports from home
  • Plays, museums and art galleries? Not my bags
  • My mom knows how to cut my hair so I stopped seeing my barber
  • My uncle is the flea market/garage sale type; not me
  • Haven’t been inside a library since college
  • I guess I’m a bad person for admitting I have no interest in going to a homeless shelter/soup kitchen, but I do donate many items to Vietnam Veterans
  • Circus? I’ve gone twice as a kid; threw up on a woman the first time and got a bad splinter the second
  • BINGO? I actually liked those as a kid, but I’m not that or a senior citizen now
  • I hate fireworks and saw more than enough of them as a kid

I think 25 bullets are enough to get the point. I’ve experienced many of these things in my life, had my fill, and the fact is I’d rather just stay home than do those activities. If that makes me weird then so be it, but I know what makes me happy. I also must acknowledge that my age and lack of a family has a lot to do with this. It’d be really hard to stay home all the time if you had a kid to take to school or a spouse that wanted to go out from time to time. I’m also an only child, so no siblings to do anything with.

I’d also be remiss not to mention the technology from this past decade that fuels my lifestyle. I wouldn’t have been able to do this in any other decade. Being able to stream movies/TV and music so easily has changed a lot. I used to actually go to the video store to rent a VHS or DVD or video game, which often meant a second trip out to return it or get more. I used to actually go to Best Buy on Tuesdays to buy new CDs, but mp3s and Spotify killed those days. Now we can also have food, groceries and medication delivered right to our homes. Then in terms of getting anything delivered, Amazon Prime and free two-day shipping has of course dominated shopping. I get almost all of my clothes from online orders. Those days of going to a shopping mall and trying stuff on are long gone for me. As many Americans know, malls in general are relics of our past. Future generations won’t know what you’re talking about if you mention a joke gift you once bought at Spencer’s or that some high school fraud only knew bands with merch at Hot Topic.

I’m of the age where I grew up in a pre-social media, pre-internet world where we actually had childhoods, birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s, and vacations to Disney were affordable. Now I’m older, streaming has taken over, and I’d shamelessly rather just stay home.

If I’m happy, then who cares? I’m going to continue enjoying social distancing, but not so much in this current situation.

Why 2020 Is Freaking Me Out

I saw a girl I follow on multiple social media platforms complaining that she has to stay in and can’t go to the bars and clubs. I felt like saying “Sis, you’re almost 30, you can’t keep a man, and it’s time to grow up. There will be plenty of chances for you to post your cute outfit on Instagram, post the random dude you’re grinding on for Snapchat, and then tweet a day later that all men are trash.”

These aren’t the end times. Those days aren’t over for her, but they need to be put on hold for at least several weeks if we’re all going to get through this together. Not enough people are taking this seriously. People like her would be among the first out the door should we ignore the social distancing guidelines before Easter (April 12) and act like there’s nothing wrong.

I’m probably preaching to the choir, but the concerns go far beyond the death rate that is fortunately not very high for COVID-19. Still, 2% of the population is no joke as anyone who has watched The Leftovers knows. The concern is that you can pass it to someone who will have a serious illness/death from it, as well as overwhelming the capacity of our hospitals. Just wait for the crow-eating tweets from people who called it a hoax and that it’s just the common cold when they’re stuck in the ER for eight hours with chest pains and can’t get a doctor because they’re overloaded. It’s coming. Also, people comparing it to the flu need to shut the fuck up already. It’s not the flu. It’s not any type of flu. It’s at least 10 times worse than the flu.

I don’t want to make this too political (follow my Twitter where I’ll lash out about that in real time), but the fact is I fear that America will be the worst-hit country from the coronavirus because of how incompetent our leadership is. We’ve managed to turn a global pandemic into more petty, partisan bullshit. You cannot half-ass a response to this virus where many people are staying at home, but too many are still gathering at parks or horrifically playing basketball on a public court. Guess what? All those people are still using the same grocery stores and pharmacies, which have to remain open of course. We’re not doing enough and certainly not doing the type of lockdowns that China and Italy strictly enforced.

You need a legit lockdown (plus high-volume, efficient testing) for at least three weeks to really slow this thing down. When a massive country like India can start that, then what is our problem? Oh that’s right, this is America, a country where people would rather boast about their patriotism and freedom than do anything logical or with empathy for others.

It starts at the top with Donald Trump, who then has his ghouls in the senate and media follow his lead, poisoning the minds of millions of his Kool-Aid drinkers. Yeah, I guess it would be ‘beautiful’ to see things return to normal for a holiday like Easter. You know what else would be beautiful? The NCAA March Madness tournament. WrestleMania with an audience. Rage Against the Machine name-checking Trump at Coachella. The NBA/NHL playoffs. The 2020 Summer Olympics. You know, the things that have been cancelled or postponed for logical reasons because of this virus.  People would love to enjoy those events too, but tough shit. These are unusual times and we have to take unusual actions to overcome it.

A decision to let people roam freely too soon could trigger the trifecta that would lock up Trump’s legacy as the worst president we’ve ever had: the worst coronavirus outbreak and most deaths from it in the world, record-setting lows for the economy, and record-setting unemployment. If this happens, it should signal the death of the Republican party after choosing greed over humanity. It’s really the legacy Trump and his party deserves, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that grim of a reality.

Our reality now is that many people are scared and we don’t see any reason to trust our leader. The total lack of common sense and empathy that many are showing just adds to our fears, because we’re not in full control of our health. I’m doing my part to stay home of course, but what happens if some asshole with a cough goes to the store, spreads his unknowingly infected germs on an item he puts back, and then my mom goes on to purchase that item and brings it home? A CDC study found the coronavirus lived on surfaces in the Diamond Princess cruise ship for as long as 17 days. There is a lot to be concerned about here.

You should have known there would be problems with this when people laughed off “it only affects the old and those with underlying conditions,” which has morphed into “let the old die to save the stock market.” The fact is we all know people who fall into the high-risk categories. They still matter and we can’t put a value on their lives.

I’m a high-risk person. I have sleep apnea and I’ve had pneumonia twice and a pulmonary embolism in 2016, so my lungs are anything but pristine. Furthermore, my immune system is not in good shape because I was taking Humira, an immunosuppressant drug. It’s the same drug I was taking a year ago when the flu kicked my ass for over two weeks. Now imagine how I might fare against a virus 10 times worse than the flu. I stopped taking Humira in late February for this reason, but I am absolutely scared about the prospects of catching the coronavirus in my condition.

My mom is also high risk for her age and she’s had a bad cough for two months now. Chronic bronchitis is an issue for her. You can tell I lean on her a lot as really the only family member I have left. If something happens to her, I don’t know what I’ll do. Chances are if she gets it, I’ll get it too. My little family tree could be all out of leaves if we’re not careful enough, and again, our health is not entirely in our control.

Am I willing to go 18 months without leaving the house until there’s a vaccine? That would be twice my personal record, and I already had a bit of a headstart at two months in. I think I could do it, but I sure as hell hope it doesn’t come to that. My thought process is if we get it, I hope it’s months down the road when there are more ventilators, the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed, and maybe they’ll have a good idea of which medicines to treat people with by then.

My only real hope in this situation is that we have the best minds in the world working hard on this virus, looking for effective treatments and ultimately a vaccine. I’m confident we’re going to get there eventually, but for now, these are scary, unfathomable times. It’s okay to be scared, because even though I am uniquely qualified to get through a long lockdown, I’m scared too.

If you’re looking for some media to consume to pass the time, just know I’m always offering recommendations as this is my zone. It’s never been my intention to implore the world to live life the way I do, but the longer you can stay home and grind it out, my family would appreciate that as we continue to flatten the curve and hope for the best.

Much like binging on a series, we just have to take this pandemic one episode at a time, and hopefully we’ll make it to the next season together.


4 thoughts on “I’ve Mastered Social Distancing for a Decade, So Why Does 2020 Feel So Different?

  1. I think you should check this out: https://swprs.org/a-swiss-doctor-on-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR3dXPpFuJ3s-e8Ph-pn_D4QbdOYG_FsaxAXYZXtqNFfKVQhbc8Qvx-adZc

    And, yes, people should be careful (I already wash my hands a lot and use sanitizer, so it’s not an adjustment for me). However, people in this country need to see the bigger picture. It’s interesting that this virus appears when there is so much protesting around the world (France, Chile, etc…). What the powers that be hate the most is dissent. They are afraid that it will happen here (which it needs to).

  2. “Also, people comparing it to the flu need to shut the fuck up already. It’s not the flu. It’s not any type of flu. It’s at least 10 times worse than the flu.”
    Back when I was researching about this whole situation, I found that coronavirus is basically a cousin of SARS, albeit less deadly (although to me any kind of deadly is too deadly). That was, like, a month ago and at THAT point is when I started to take it very seriously. Why doesn’t anyone make that comparison, instead of comparing it to the flu is beyond me. Fortunately, it isn’t as deadly as SARS, but it can still kill and spreads fast. That’s enough reason to take action.

    “You need a legit lockdown (plus high-volume, efficient testing) for at least three weeks to really slow this thing down. When a massive country like India can start that, then what is our problem? Oh that’s right, this is America, a country where people would rather boast about their patriotism and freedom than do anything logical or with empathy for others.”
    I’m honestly very surprised that the US hasn’t locked down yet. Like, here in Venezuela the same day the first two cases were diagnosed, nearly half the country locked down. So far there are less than 100 cases, and they are raising but very, very slowly. And this is a country that is pretty much run by idiots. How the F can there be more cases in a US city compared to a single country? At this rate you guys are going to be like Italy, but even worse.

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