My quarantine routine

Theresa Lee, Staff Writer

Minimized stress? Check. Family time? Check. Free time for myself? Check. At first, quarantine seemed to be a mini-break from school in which I could spend my once demanding weekdays like fun weekends. As the stay-at-home order extended, I realized quarantine also had some downsides. To stay productive while social distancing for two months, I developed a “school day” routine to follow on E-Learning days. Throughout the day, I discovered both positive and negative aspects of quarantine.

7:30 a.m. – I wake up to the sound of my phone’s alarm, which would have been set for 7:00 a.m. on a typical school day. Surprisingly, I’m not very drowsy, and I can will myself to get out of bed and wash up. I don’t bother with my contact lenses — glasses will do just fine. I regularly hit the snooze button on my alarm two or three times before reluctantly trudging to the bathroom, but with extra sleep during quarantine, I am no longer groggy in the morning.

7:45 a.m. – I prepare breakfast for myself in the kitchen, leisurely debating between yogurt with blueberries or an apple with granola. Without a bell to mark me tardy, I don’t rush to scarf down my food. Instead, I take time enjoying the breakfast I rarely have during the school year.

8:00 a.m. – Opening my Chromebook, I begin the “school day” by checking my email and Google Classroom for the day’s E-Learning while wearing pajama pants and an oversized sweatshirt. Whipping out my notebook, I write down notes for a video lecture. To replace class discussions, my teacher instructs my class to type our responses in a collaborative document. I imagine the extent to which this discussion could have flourished at school, the irrepressible side comments making everyone laugh and fresh insights arising from the flowing conversation. But with only three typed contributions required, my responses turn stiff and formal, solely packed with information addressing the prompt.

9:00 a.m. – After an hour’s worth of classwork, I get up for a glass of water. In the absence of a bell signaling the start and end of a period, my only movement between classes consists of quenching my thirst and retrieving documents from the printer. I have become a lot less active throughout the day, sitting at my desk for hours on end and staring at my Chromebook screen.

12:00 p.m. – A garlicky aroma sends me down to the kitchen, where my mom cooks lunch. While eating, my family marvels at my mom’s cooking and shares stories. I’m eager to return to chatting with friends at those grey lunch tables, but I’ll certainly miss this sense of togetherness with my family once everyone returns to their respective workplaces.

1:00 p.m. – I join Zoom meetings and Google Meet calls to say “Hello” and ask questions on class concepts. It’s great seeing my teachers and peers, even if they’re inside small boxes on the screen and my words cut off when the Wi-Fi signal is low. But not everyone shows up at these meetings, and I miss the in-person interactions at school, both with teachers and students.

1:30 p.m. – I resume my E-Learning. By this time at school, my productivity would have declined, my head already brimming with wishes to go home. But E-Learning pushes me to finish strong, since there isn’t additional homework to complete afterward. My stress levels have significantly decreased with a reduced workload and no school on Wednesdays, but I feel I’m missing out on a big chunk of the learning experience compared to when I physically attended class.

2:30 p.m. – Upon completing all of my classwork, I spend time pursuing hobbies. I cozy up with a book and a fuzzy blanket on the couch, unleash my creativity as I doodle in a sketchbook, dance to music blasting from a speaker and watch as my younger sister paints my nails with funky, neon colors. I’m glad to set aside some time to do the things I love, which had been previously eaten up by endless hours of completing homework, working on projects and studying on top of a packed list of extracurricular activities.

3:00 p.m. – I peruse the pantry for a snack, grabbing a granola bar or a browning banana. Sometimes, I even help myself to some ice cream, forgetting my goal of staying healthy during quarantine. Other times, I bake, something I never have time for during the school year. So far, I’ve made brownies, blondies, chocolate chip cookies and Korean rice donuts. While baking, I imagine the recipes I won’t get to cook and the canceled field trips in my Fit For Life P.E. class, which I had greatly looked forward to all throughout first semester. I’m also sad to be missing many of the fun activities scheduled at the end of the year, especially Springfest. 

5:00 p.m. – I eat a lighter dinner, having indulged in trays of sugary desserts. A simple salad or roasted vegetables will suffice. As my mom calls us for dinner, my dad marches up from his new office in the basement. It’s still funny to think about how my dad is only a flight of stairs below us, as opposed to 45 minutes away by car. Given that everyone’s constantly in the house now, I want to use this precious time to create new memories with my family each day, even if they’re as small as eating meals together.

6:30 p.m. – Weather-permitting, my dad, sister and I stroll around the neighborhood, occasionally venturing to downtown Northbrook or to the nearby golf course when we tire of the same streets and uniform houses. I’ve begun to notice the sky’s beautiful colors and textures, sprays of flamingo pink and baby blue one day and streaks of amber and honey another. The way soft flower petals drift to the ground and how the water pooling from the fountains in my neighborhood twinkles like floating crystals in the sun. I seem to have missed out on quite a few things when my hectic school schedule dominated my routine.

8:30 p.m. – Feeling refreshed after a warm shower, I join my mom in applying homemade honey and baking soda face masks. I’m glad to pamper myself — something I don’t have time for on a regular school night. Before the stay-at-home order, the only care I gave my body was a rushed shower each night, but now I have the opportunity to treat myself from head to toe to make up for all the times I was too busy to do so.

9:00 p.m. – I catch up on T.V. shows and movies I’ve never watched before on Netflix. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before places as my favorite during quarantine, and after finishing the second movie, I patiently wait for the third to premiere. I’m happy to catch up on T.V. shows, but I also miss shopping at malls, borrowing new books from the library, dining at restaurants and exploring the various shops in Chicago.

10:30 p.m. – Lights out. Although an early bedtime confused my body at first, I quickly grew accustomed to it after two months. I have finally bid my late-night homework adieu, a major relief amidst terribly missing school. Before falling asleep, I ponder my current lifestyle. Quarantine has reduced my usual stress levels, provided extensive family time, increased hours of sleep and created time for me to relax. At the same time, it has prevented me from hanging out with my friends, taken away the rest of the school year and deprived me of a chance to say goodbye to seniors and teachers. Overall, it’s been a pretty life-changing experience, but, at this point, I think I’m ready to return to my pre-quarantine routine.