Felipe Cerón (MBA ’22) reports on his holiday encounter with Covid-19.
I thought I was immune. I liked to believe so. I had had several close encounters from which I emerged unscathed, and each one gave me more confidence. Well destiny (I believe we can now call it Covid-19) has a funny way of smacking your privates when you least expect it.
It happened when I arrived home for Christmas and New Years. I had plans to reunite with my family, see friends I hadn’t seen in years, and go to the beach to celebrate NYE.
I wonder what is the average number of times a person checks and re-checks a positive result. Ten hours after the fact, I was still doing it, and in an attempt to stop this mania I did some research (as if that would change anything). In simple words, PCR tests extract RNA, turn it into DNA, and then tiny segments are amplified. With fluorescent dye, the determination of positivity comes based on the brightness of the fluorescence of these segments. There are a number of reasons for having a false positive, ranging from cross-reactions (dye turning bright with something other than SARS) to incompetence (grabbing another sample). At the end, my positivity was determined by someone gauging how bright a vial looked. What if they had cataracts? Or turned a bit colorblind? See, I did have a lot of time.
I had stayed over with a Colombian friend for three days, and he had tested positive. A quick aerobic workout showed that I was a bit out of shape, when just a few days ago I had been ok. Way below my capacity, I got the feeling you get when you run really fast on a really cold day. Maybe all the drinking and junk food?
This would not be my first rodeo in quarantine-land, but it was going to be my longest (240 hours) and the first time I dragged people along with me (my parents were contact traced).
My initial reaction was to be positive and be thankful for the small things—not really, my first impulse was to break my computer and scream. My reaction was to think about all the things I would miss and about what ten days in the same place might feel like. When would I start to lose my sanity? I had never wanted time to pass by quicker than then, but I hate to waste time.
I realized that it was not really the worst possible moment. The worst possible moment would have been just before boarding, left stranded in Colombia, alone. Maybe there were a ton of other worst possible moments. I guess I will never know for sure.
Ironically, I had my health. I didn’t feel any worse than usual. I had Covid-19 but no symptoms. Actually, I felt great. This was ironic, but good news.
You know the feeling you get when you are caught up with work and you feel you don’t have time to do all the things you want to do? Those high personal value things you should do? So I subscribed to online guitar lessons.
Also, lockdown is a good moment to solve all those painful proceedings that you never want to do, so I spent a lot of time in call centers. It’s important for all of us to think about, why the hell does call center background music exist? Why do we need to hear the same snippet over and over and over? Do they want us to hate them even more?
Getting dressed is critical. You can stay all day in your pajamas, but I feel that bends reality a little. Time loses meaning. So I would get dressed. Everyday.
Oh I had bad thoughts, but I crushed them the moment they appeared. Covid-19 was aggressive with me so I was aggressive with it. I would work out every single day. I would push it out. I didn’t want it to feel welcome.
I thought about how much fun people were having on NYE—I worked out for two hours in my miniscule room. I longed to sit on a beach with a beer—I worked on my short stories. In addition, electronics had to be limited otherwise social networks would suck the time I thought I had and quite possibly my soul.
Midpoints are great. There is probably a psychological effect. If I am doing something I do not like and I pass the midpoint, everything becomes seamless. Before midpoint I am offline, just going through the motions, not allowing myself to think about time. After the midpoint is when you can look at the clock. Right after that we got some news. Someone tested positive on my family’s Christmas (the one I was supposed to be in along with my parents) and several attendants were testing positive. Did I just save my parents? I like to believe I did. I needed a win, some meaning for my quarantine, because that’s the worst part, the meaninglessness of it all, especially being asymptomatic. This voided the meaninglessness. I was a hero. I was ok after all, and my quarantine was more than halfway over! Also, I would be immune for a couple of months.
Quarantining teaches gratitude. The longer the quarantine, the more value you will assign to your normal state of affairs. If I go into quarantine again, I will read this and try to hold myself accountable to all this annoying positivity. Positivity is annoying because it is hard to sustain. It takes conscious work, but it helped me make the best of my time.
That is what I did in my quarantine—I took care of myself. I also watched The Beatles documentary and a ton of HBO and Netflix of course.
Looking back to when I was positive always helps me, and I hope it does for you as well.
Felipe Cerón (MBA ’22) is a Chilean who worked in consulting and retail. He is a musician, and he is an avid fan of films. Boxing, laughing over a beer and reading inspiring books are among his favorite pastimes. He thinks Pisco is the best beverage ever created.