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What it’s like to be unemployed in quarantine

Apr. 7, 2020
Avatar leyla 5.jpg0bfa6701 604b 4fb3 8166 2c286ff42294

Illustration by Sky Kim

When the world first heard the news about a virus outbreak in China months ago, it all seemed far away. Suddenly, I’ve found myself sitting at my kitchen table opposite my partner with a stern look on his face because the internet isn’t working too well these days and his conference calls keep breaking up. I, on the other hand, just sit there and stare out the window, trying not to make too much noise. It’s a new experience, being trapped in a relatively small place with him. We don’t even live together yet—this could make or break us. Especially since he has a busy schedule and I have nothing but canceled projects for the next five months. Now I, like the companies I work for, have no idea when I’ll return to my normal life. 

My life has always been a bit stressful, because as a freelancer I’m never totally financially secure. I never believed in saving my hard-earned money either, because frankly there’s never been much to put away. I live from hand to mouth most of the time, so with this pandemic I have no safety net. For the time being I have to rely on the help of my government and my parents. When you’re in your mid-twenties, asking for help can really sting—but I’m trying to remain positive. I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head and food on my table. But the question that remains is how do I fill my days? What do I do? Sure, it’s fun playing video games and watching YouTube and Netflix for hours, but there comes a point when your vision is all blurry because you’ve been sitting there staring at a screen for more than ten hours. It gets boring.

I’ve been finding myself wondering what I can do to help my career, so that I can be prepared once this all calms down. Asides from reading books and plays, I’ve made it my mission to learn a short piece of writing every week—whether it’s a monologue, speech, or piece of poetry. I take some time to find a piece that speaks to me, and then over the next few days I repeat it to myself until I know it by heart. Hopefully, I can use these pieces for auditions in the future. 

I wake up to my boyfriend's alarm clock to bring structure to my life, trying to avoid slipping into a routine of waking up at 3 PM and going to bed at 5 AM (because that can really have a bad effect on your mental health and mood). Mornings have always been rough for me, so now, when I wake up at 9 I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I start my day with a cup of tea and meditate for however long I can focus. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes; other times it’s an hour. Meditation has been a great tool for me to destress. If you aren’t sure how to do it, YouTube is a great place to start. The same goes for yoga classes. Since studios have had to shut down, many are offering online classes instead. 

Personally, I’ve found that having a routine has helped me stay sane and given me purpose. When I give myself tasks to do, I give myself things to look forward to (which might sound little, but when you can’t even leave the house it’s extremely important). 

In a way life is paused for me right now. Until I can get back to the hustle and bustle of life in the entertainment industry, I have to stay focused on not falling into a downward spiral. I’m staying determined to do at least a few things every day that remind me of my enthusiasm for my work. Even if I can’t do it right now.