In the future I might look back to my 25th year of life, and I will always remember: I spent more than half of it in quarantine. Not the seclusion of the sick or the studious, but the quarantine of a government defined by inaction and deliberate negligence.
I will remember months of becoming intimately familiar with the four corners of my bedroom. This place was my safe space from 36-hour duties and long days of medical school. These days, this room is my everything.
Contrasts and dreams
When I celebrated my 24th birthday, and even when we stepped down from our New Years’ trip in Japan, I remember having many hopes for 2020. What an auspicious-sounding year.
I wanted to prepare for my future. I had a planner I was still figuring out (now gathering dust). My medical school career was nearing its end. I wanted to take better care of my family and of myself, especially after getting seriously sick earlier this year. I wanted to visit more art museums. I wanted to finally go back to Hotel Jen, or to visit my friends in other provinces, and to bring my mom and sister to Sip and Gogh. My family had a flight booked to Thailand for April.
Instead, I learned many other things. How to connect to the world with only just the Internet, how to bake bread, how to cook breakfasts, how to exercise for days on end and how to not exercise for weeks more. How to physically touch only the same three people. How to swallow everything the government is failing to do. How to celebrate my birthday online.
When you think about it, birthdays are really just regular days. We assign special meaning to it to celebrate people and relationships. Without this pandemic, I probably wouldn’t have thought much about it. But the lack of options chafed. It’s a contrast. How do we go from celebrating with dinner parties, or trips abroad, or staycations, to celebrating with only takeout food and zoom?
I have the privilege to write this post today because our classes got cancelled. So I also have the privilege of going to a school that understands the burden of typhoon Ulysses (we still don’t have access to water as I write this, but at least the electricity came back early).
I’m writing this to remember a milestone I hope will never be repeated. Somehow next year will be a lot better. It has to be. And I’m also writing this post to be thankful for the ways we’ve learned to adapt and survive. It is never ideal, but it is heartening. Despite everything, my birthday was fun.
Someday, a bored gen Z student or enterprising journalist or tired historian will write down everything wrong that went down in 2020 –the eruption of Taal, the overt corruption of the health system, the stranded seafarers and muddled quarantine rules, the fucking Dolomite beach, and the several city-flooding, home-wrecking typhoons arriving in quick succession. But just for this one moment, I’ll write about something good.
As you might have noticed, all these photos came directly from my Instagram stories. I’m still part of the masses enjoying that shopping and microinfluencer-infested site. Follow me there. Or something.
Twenty-five. This makes me a proper adult now, right? (Even in a conservative Asian setting). Back in high school a lot of my teachers were aged 25 or so… Time is weird. I feel more or less an adult, more or less a doctor. Still a student.
I’ll write about my experiences through the different online rotations someday soon (maybe later). Until then, stay as safe as humanly possible! 💖