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Editor’s note: Last week we ran our first #IsolationDiary. The positive response was overwhelming (it was our #1 read story on the site last week), further proving that we, the BYT community, are in this #AloneTogether. We continue the diaries today and will keep sharing them as long as it makes sense to do so. If you have a story to tell, please email us at [email protected]

This edition is contributed by Tyler Cargill, BYT reader, who pitches us this diary with this note: “I live in Dupont, I am a queer ESL teacher, who is teaching and helping her school to teach online for the first time ever. I also have been creating interesting masks and looks to leave the house to go to the Safeway on 17th.

Of course we said yes to this dress.

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Simply put: I am a scheduled ball of colorful chaotic energy. I love being loud: from my voice, to my personality and my outfits. But I’m also a planner. For example: before heading to a bar, restaurant or any other weekend shenanigans with friends, I need to think through where I will be and for how long. This dictates the lip color (red), the sunglasses (a large white pair), that will compliment my outfit and backwards blue floral baseball cap (with “BROQUEEN” embroidered on it). The combination of those aspects, mixed with my queer self expression is on full display when I chit chat with and see people on the weekends at our favourite venues.

But the weekdays? Oh hun: the personality tank’s about to run on empty. It’s hard to be my previously described self on a work day. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, I’m in work mode from 9 to 5. When I clock out, I’m so exhausted that all I look forward to is getting home and relaxing. With a few exceptions, I rarely venture out on weekdays. What this has created was a stable and, what I thought was, a stable routine.

But then COVID-19 happened. And, much like everyone else, my beautiful and curated routine was destroyed. The impact it’s taken on my day-to-day life is the equivalent of the big, annoying pimple you get on the night of homecoming (not Beyonce’s film, but the actual school dance). Trying to construct a new routine has been a struggle because of the short amount of time to create one. But especially because I live alone.

In all seriousness, I know I’m lucky to have a job where I can stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s still a new experience for everyone involved dealing with these difficult changes and if it weren’t for my weird and witty view on life, I’d probably have a harder time handling it all.

So below is how Wednesday, April 8, 2020 went for me.

7:00 am: ‘I do my hair toss, check my nails. Baby how are you doing?” – Lizzo 

Waking up today was hard because of the chilly and rainy weather and because right out of the box, my anxiety and depression started kicking in. Unusual because I’m usually a happy and upbeat morning person, like annoyingly so. Do you remember every Disney Princess who wakes up chipper and sings to gather all her woodland friends? Yeah, that’s usually me. So usually getting up and ready rarely takes motivation on my end.

7:10 am: “Yawn and stretch’” – Dolly Parton

Teeth brushed? Check. Medication taken? Check. Shower? ….Later. After I get ready, I put on my morning walk mask (one from a collection of scarves, bandanas, and other unmentionables — at least until my real masks arrive). I have to get my morning walk in before everyone else comes and doesn’t-practice-social-distancing-well, I mean “crowd up the sidewalk.”

These are only a few of my choices.

7:25 am: “Bring me java, bring me joy! Oh Taylor the latte boy, I love him…” – Kristin Chenoweth

Yes, I know. What do I know? Thank you for asking. It is the possible judgment that may result from my next action. Just like pre-quarantine, I go to the Starbucks across the street from my apartment every other day. I have read about the conversation on what defines an essential employee, especially in the food industry. As a former employee of said company, I understand the need to go to work days and situations others have off – whether due to a holiday or safety concern. However, I am thankful for them because these familiar faces of pre-COVID help create a sense of normality. Also I’m tipping the hell out of them (~$20 a week) because they deserve it. Also the Dupont North store has the cutest takeaway setup.

I love this set up. Please note I’m over 6 feet away. These two, they are not.

8:15am-12:30pm: “An education is the most important thing in the world, next to family. And pie.” – The Gilmores

Teaching time! Lets get my coffee and colorful desk setup. Right now we are on an “extended spring break” meaning we have a few weeks to help students one-on-one and prep for the next 2-3 months worth of online lessons. As an ESL teacher, I know that my students learn more effectively through face-to-face lessons, but everything has had to fundamentally shift . This means more daily preparation and communication with the staff regarding everything from lesson plans to problems (such as a video conferencing system on an online platform crashing on the first day).

In addition to all this, I remotely help students based at a variety of campuses across Turkey with improving their casual conversation skills. I teach roughly 25 students a day and it’s a lot of fun! Because the students are seven hour ahead, we get to chit-chat about their lessons throughout the day focusing on using the material learned in a practical conversational setting. It is one of my favorite things to get them excited and energetic to talk.

In a former life I was a human osteologist and bioarchaeologist, hence the skull. The color blocking is all me though.

12:30-1:30: “It puts the lotion on the skin…” – Buffalo Bill.

Skin care, lunch, and lesson planning. Hunny, the skin on my hands, face, and scalp areSUFFERING! So it is time to hydrate. Say it with me: HYDRATE!

(Dear reader, did you say it? Don’t lie now.) At this point in my day, I want to move and wake myself up. Therefore, I’ve found that a nice sheet mask every few days after a quick shower perks me right up. It also forces me to have a 20 min break from staring at my screen . I like to check up on Facebook, but I try to avoid the news until the evening.

I cleaned up my desk immensly. Yes, I am proud of myself for this.

2:00pm: “Few activities are as delightful as learning new vocabulary.”  ― Tim Gunn,

Around this time I like to challenge myself to one of the self-isolation/quarantine challenges Instagram has to offer. My favorite is by a stylist named Nancy The Girl (IG: @Nancy_the_Girl) whose challenge is called: ‘Quarantine, but Make it Fashion” Where she gives you daily themes to make a fun look. This is a great way to take a break from work for a few minutes. This one is where we had to incorporate food into a look

Who doesn’t like a recyclable headpiece?

5:00pm: “rinse and repeat.” – my shampoo bottle. 

So I usually wrap up at a nice spot that leaves me at a good place for the next day. And even though I’m exhausted, like a true millennial I bring my work home. I’m the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for both a university and my ESL school, which means I explore creating diverse and inclusion spaces in international environments. This work is usually one I take on between breaks and after school. I’m proud of my role and with my working at home schedule, I can balance a bit more. So around this time I might be sending some final emails to our marketing and student services directors about a brainstorming meeting.

Then it’s time to… shut… the computer… (checks emails again) down. Because the work will still be here tomorrow.

5:30 pm: “What does that mean? What does “fold in the cheese” mean?” – David Rose

Dinner time. This has been difficult for me because I hate cooking as it is. Seriously — on my dating profiles I have “If you love to cook, I will marry you on the spot.” Shockingly, I am still single! (I know, right?!)

But with the quarantine I have tried to make the most of my free time by getting better at  cooking. Tonight’s dinner? A pork risotto from a food service. I have the recipe card and all the ingredients. Surely learning to love cooking will pay off in the end and help me fill up my time, right?

I thought I would take a cute photo to show people I could cook

5:56pm: “Baby, I’m sorry (I’m not sorry)” – Demi Lovato

I’m ordering pizza. My risotto rice would not become translucent even though I followed the recipe to the T! It started to burn and the rice was hard and everything was mixed in. So I had a slight breakdown, threw it away, and ordered pizza from Jumbo Slice Pizza Kouzina Angelina’s (support local businesses!!!). I know cooking is a great way for people to be crafty and to show love for their bodies, but it’s not for moi. So I am going to stick to my basic oven cooked chicken breast and a vegetable medley.

7:15 pm: “I am so fab…” – Lady Gaga

Okay, so I love clothes, fashion, colors, and textures. I also have a passionate desire to combine these together with a large hat. Some say extra, I say sorry that if your definition of “extra” is my “basic.” Right now I‘m working on a 4 foot circular hat for this summer. This idea came to me after I created a toilet paper Marie Antoinette wig a few days ago (no TP was harmed during the making of this fashion).

I love a simple wig.

 7:20 – 10:00 pm: “Gossip is the devil’s telephone. Best to just hang up.” – Moira Rose

With the materials required to make said hat, I played “Florence and the Machines” and did an amazing dance number to ‘Dog Days Are Over.’ (Seriously, the imaginary crowd went wild!) I then got ready for a virtual happy hour with friends. I need gossip. I need laughs. I need pity and a drink.

I really have come to appreciate these moments of video messaging my friends, even though it is not a true substitute for an in person meet up. I try to space apart virtual time with the same people, mostly because these days not a lot can change in a few days. Leaving a window between chats has drastically changed the conversation to more new topics and not repeat the same ones.

Tonight we watched some new shows streaming on Quibi, specifically the Sasha Velour show Nightgowns — you want to see behind the scenes of an amazing drag show with an equally amazing cast? Watch Nightgowns! This led us to a diccusion on Drag Race and then about missing our queer spaces in D.C. My friend then chatted about video games, which lead to Pokemon and Nintendo talk. I then discussed how I’ll recreate (slight spoiler alert) Moira Rose’s outfit in the last episode of ‘Schitt’s Creek’ — you know which one. Like everyone, planning for the future is helping us get through this.

My one friend was not happy to join the conversation.

10:01 – 11:30 pm: “I never sleep on planes, I don’t want to get Incepted.” -Jack Donaghy

After the hangout time it is time for bed. Which I hate because I can never go to sleep on time. Seriously, I have done whatever I can to try to pass out. But high anxiety does not bring that easy. So starting around ten, I try to read a little before bed. After that didn’t work, I had a lovely visit of panic because I could not sleep because I was counting how many hours of sleep I would get if I went to sleep right now. Nothing worked. Well I thought not until I would find myself throwing my phone on the floor because the alarm was going off. Waking up grouchy and trying to find some happiness in my situation. Rinse and repeat (see that quote was not for nothing).

Moral of the story?

It is really hard right now and adjusting to it is not perfect. It is not easy to plan and have a sense of structure in an unstructured time. Do what you can to be alright. And if you are not alright, that is alright. We will all get through this, in one form or another. And once we do, we will all post about it on Instagram.

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