I’ve been home since the 21st. Month 7 of the pandemic, and it finally happened: one of my teaching colleagues tested positive, and then then a student we both taught. I’ve been in self-isolation since then.
Though I’ve used the word “quarantine” throughout all of ~this, I’ve been teaching in my office since the beginning. It was just me, my manager, and the same seven kids (in two separate classes, each with their own table) for months, but we maintained something close to normal. With the start of the public school year, more of our students have returned, and we’ve brought the college-aged assistants back to help us wrangle them in their distanced rooms.
This is what the doctors have been saying all summer as BC slowly recalled the restrictions that had us locked down during spring. Our top doctor, Bonnie Henry, explained how there would inevitably be more infections. But the sign of success would be keeping that number low, tracking contacts, and identifying outbreaks early. This is not “herd immunity.” There are still many restrictions: masks in public, distancing inside restaurants, limits on gatherings.
I go to the same office with the same people four times a week; I pick up groceries once or twice a week while I’m already out of the office. And since the farmers market finished, I don’t go anywhere else. I’ve been feeling pretty safe.
But the beginning of October, I started teaching at our second location again. It’s bigger, there are more teachers, and it’s a whole new group of people I’m adding to my own bubble, which hasn’t grown all that much since May.
This current moment isn’t the fault of any one person. But I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach, as soon as I got on that bus, that something was going to turn, that perhaps my 2020 had been too easy.
As 2020 trudges on, the Spider-Man pointing at Spider-Man meme has grown. I saw one with three Spider-Men sometime in the late spring, with labels like “depression,” “anxiety,” “quarantine.” This week, a version made the rounds with seven Spider-Men in a judgmental circle—“regular depression,” “existential dread,” “burnout,” “COVID anxiety,” “seasonal depression,” “election anxiety,” and “financial anxiety.” It’s only by my luck of being born on the north side of the invisible line cutting through the continent that I’m not currently afflicted with the latter.
Quarantine sucks, but here’s how I’m privileged and fucking grateful: the Canadian government gave all workers making less than $1000/month an emergency benefit of $2000/month. (There are also benefits for those sick at home and for caretakers.) I’ve made something like $800 or $1200 a month for every year of my working life, and I have therefore moulded my life around that fact. My apartment costs $850/month, including utilities, internet, and laundry. My phone bill is $21/month, including taxes. My current prescriptions are 100% covered by Medicare. I don’t own a car; I don’t smoke or drink.
$2000 a month, from April to October, has made me the most financially secure in my entire life.
That money has made my 2020 easier than it’s been for many others. It’s made this summer the first since I started this job when I didn’t worry about how to pay next month’s rent. There’s been, perhaps, a little too much retail therapy, but there’s also been thousands I’ve redistributed to mutual aid funds on both sides of the border. It’s meant I can buy whatever food I think might make me a little happier in the moment. And not much makes me happier than food.
Thursdays are my one day off during the week, when I had planned to do a big grocery shop. Instead, Thursday the 22nd turned out to be my first day of isolation. I texted my mom with a short list on Wednesday, then Thursday, when I got word to stay home until November 2nd, I told my mom, “Anything else you wanna throw in the cart would be great!”
My mom—being her mother’s child—brought me two bags of groceries, plus an entire box of Mandarin oranges. Then she went to Costco on the weekend and brought me a produce shipping box with more. Not only will I be well-fed until November 2nd, I’ll be well-fed until the end of 2020.
Because this is my Sunday letter, I promised you a breakfast recipe, and I started writing this to tell you about how much I love cold cereal in the mornings. It’s what I ate nearly every morning growing up—except for those cold mornings when my mom made us oatmeal, of course. I wanted to write to you about cereal because my mom brought me two boxes of Life (Why two? My guess is they were on 2 for $X sale). But then I thought I should explain why my mom was bringing me groceries, and then I wrote all that above about my small-q and capital-Q quarantines.
Cereal in our house was most often Cheerios, Rice Krispies, Shreddies, or Corn Flakes. Sugar-coated cereal was bought only as a special treat, usually on camping trips, in those tiny boxes which can be cut and folded into a tiny bowl. Life cereal is the exact middle of the Venn diagram between the “healthy” cereal I was allowed to have as a kid and the sugar “cereal” that only Grandma bought for us when we weren’t at home. You get the cross-hatched whole grain of Shreddies on the outside, with a layer of crunchy sugar sandwiched in between. It’s the perfect combination of nostalgia and comfort, but also something new and unfamiliar in this year of being stuck in my bubble.
I stopped eating cereal as a regular breakfast when I moved out of my parents’s house for good. It’s ridiculously expensive, for what you get, and I had also switched from cow’s milk to soy milk—also a more costly expense. Packaged cereals have never been an ideal breakfast; it’s too much sugar too early in the morning (even the “healthy” ones, like Cheerios), and not enough protein to keep one going until lunch. It was invented (albeit without the sugar) as a bland, vegetarian alternative for patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium.
So it’s not surprising that Millennials have decided to stop eating cereal. I stopped drinking pop for the same reason: sometimes childhood favourites are meant for kids and not adults. They’re meant to be a treat we use to remind ourselves of what life was like when we didn’t have to wash the dishes, pay the bills, make the decisions. Despite the anxiety, I’ve actually enjoyed this week of isolation. I stay in my pyjamas, I wrote stories and played word games, I ate two entire boxes of cereal, all to myself, no sharing with my brothers.
Being an adult is just bringing the best parts of childhood along with you.