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Quarantine: The Forced Pause

Letting Go of the Hectic to Appreciate the Everyday

Recording in a small space for hours at a time. Focusing intently on delivering the copy in just the right character tone. Carefully editing to provide the client with the best possible audio file.

Whew. Couple all that with working in a small windowless room for a bit too long a stretch and you can emerge feeling a bit disoriented. That’s when I like to step outdoors and give myself a wholly different experience. Especially with Atlanta’s beautiful early spring days – before it gets too hot and humid – and walks around the neighborhood can be simply glorious. And so refreshing for the soul.

These short excursions during the day have changed dramatically since the quarantine confined everyone to their homes. If there is to be a silver lining to this health and economic crisis, it’s that human social behavior has returned, at least for the duration of this pandemic, to its most basic interactions: the need to see and connect with others face-to-face. Social media and video communications like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime are great, but they generally don’t satisfy the essential human need for contact in physical space.

Before the quarantine, I’d walk my neighborhood with few other people out and about. only the occasional dog-walker or jogger. Most of the people I glimpsed were speeding along in their cars on their way to or from home. And few waved or greeted one another. I would see a house or two in the process of remodeling, but rarely with the homeowners in sight.

Now, in our Twilight Zone of Quarantine, it feels like the world clock has turned decades backwards in time. Not since I was a child have I seen so many neighbors just hanging out in their lawn chairs. It seems like everyone has rediscovered the outdoors. And each other. We are meeting neighbors we didn’t even know we had, waving and calling greetings to each other – from at least six feet away, of course. Front yards have been rediscovered as the primary spot for relaxation. Patio chairs, tables, and toys have moved from the back yard to take up residence on front lawns. Without after-school organized sports, kids of all ages – and family groups, too - are riding the streets on bikes, scooters, and Razor ripstiks. On a recent unusually warm day, little kids were running through sprinklers, coasting down homemade slip ‘n slides, and just playing ball with their parents in their driveways. It’s wonderful! I’ve come to really enjoy these walks, striking up conversations, and truly enjoying a sense of community. And as a gardener, I am able to see and appreciate my neighbors’ landscaping projects so much better during those walks, rather than from brief passing glimpses out a car window.

I feel revitalized when I finally return to my recording studio after such a stroll. Happier, more content, and relaxed. The hectic pace I set for myself melts away and I can just enjoy life a bit more. I think the work reflects this new balance, too. We forget how essential it is to our well-being to disengage from the mechanical, the digital, the continuous feedback loop of our own thoughts and internal conversations. I’ve become more grateful for those long walks, the quiet times strolling through nearby wooded paths, and the camaraderie from my neighbors. More than ever before, I feel part of the community. I take true pleasure helping elderly neighbors with their grocery shopping. I’m happy to compliment the people down the street on the beautiful results of their home remodeling. And from speaking to others, they feel it too.

This home confinement will soon be lifted and we’ll begin to gradually return to (more or less) our normal routines. I only hope that we can retain this renewed sense of community, too. It’s a cliché to say that the best things in life are free, but that doesn’t diminish the truth of it. Especially when we experience it firsthand.


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