A few days before my office implemented working from home, I spent the past two days traveling and getting stuff done. I renewed my ID card, took a job entrance test, had lunch at two different restaurants, and got a birthday gift for my friend. I would be coming back home tired but still energetic and happy, wanting to explore my city even more.
It never crossed my mind that those days might have been the last time I would be able to step out.
On the one hand, I am okay with staying inside. Particularly if it means I can keep myself and my family safe. Plus, during this time, I have the time to learn and try out new things.
I find myself battling the daily temptation to go out.
I have discovered several of Pakistan’s beauty influencers on Instagram; I am always seeking out Farah Haris, Sana Abid, and Laraib Rahim’s Instagram stories. According to Variety, I am spending a third of my day on Netflix. I have recently fallen in love with BTS and have stuffed my phone with their songs. I am learning the basics of dressing for work at home. And, perhaps most importantly, I am educating myself about the Coronavirus pandemic.
But despite it all, I find myself battling the daily temptation to call a cab and go out for a cheesecake. Do some window-shopping. Or maybe, just walk around the shops and feel the wind on my face.
For all its current benefits, social isolation has its own set of disadvantages. It can increase premature deaths by 29%. On top of that, it can also make life extremely difficult for people suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety. And while I am surrounded by my family, I find that staying in just one place has not given me much experience and wisdom in life. Something I still struggle with every day.
93% of Pakistani women will experience sexual violence in public areas.
Before university, I spent most of my time at home. I would go out for school. For shopping and leisure, I would be accompanied by my parents. It was fine if I were with cousins but if I were to visit friends, I could only visit if it was at her house. If it were out to eat, there had to be a group of 4-5 girls of “decent backgrounds”.
My parents were not being mean per se (they did get more lenient overtime), just overprotective and hesitant; Pakistan, after all, is not exactly a place where a woman can roam around freely or safely – 93% of Pakistani women will experience sexual violence in public areas in their lifetime – without meeting with rampant harassment or a general distrust of the woman’s intentions.
It was at university where I gained the confidence – independence – to go out of campus. Then, the minute I got employed, I used that as an opportunity to go out as much as I could. Until the evening, I was a free bird. My boss is very lenient and sweet, so I could do a lot. I would go on the public bus to the other end of town to buy clothes; if I could, I would leave work early to visit friends and then jump into a nearby taxi for home.
All this made me used to a certain level of experience, confidence, and happiness that I was not prepared to give up.
Which is why the Coronavirus lockdown is making me feel suffocated. I cannot go back to staying home 24/7, like I did in my childhood. And as we pass Day 20 of this lockdown, finding ways to kill time at home is becoming challenging.
Finding ways to kill time at home is becoming challenging.
I am turning into that person who takes YouTube to bed. I am slowly becoming frustrated with Netflix as I have watched all the seasons I wanted to see. Home-cooked meals lose their charm after a while. New skills become a hindrance as they just add to my work load. And while talking to your long-distance friends on WhatsApp is great, it still does not match the joy of physically meeting someone up close.
Freedom is finite as it is, but when you are a woman in Pakistan, it’s a luxury. It’s frustrating to let go of such a luxury for even a short time. But it would be foolish of me to put my wants first when the situation is bad right now. The only thing I can hope for is the vaccine to arrive soon. Or for my boss to command me to get back to the office.