Alone in a time of coronavirus

Looking back through my calendar, I think the last time I deliberately met anyone was March 7th. I foolishly skipped a couple of Massey College social events in the next couple of days and helped my ex-flatmate Silas move out, but by the time another friend was visiting town on the 14th, she cancelled her social plans and left Toronto shortly after arriving. My dentist’s office closed on the 16th, during the same timespan as I was trying to cancel my appointment because of a sore throat.

Since then, all my social gatherings have been cancelled. So was the Mark Jaccard talk at U of T on the 23rd, Massey Grand Rounds on the 25th (which I had been strongly suggesting to medically-minded friends), and my mother’s intended birthday visit on her way back from helping her mother in North Carolina, along with the U of T Festival of Dance which we planned to attend. The big Queen’s Park climate rally planned for April 3rd by Fridays for the Future was ‘shifted online’, producing no effects which I observed (in fairness, that’s true of in-person climate rallies too). The UBC alumni lunch I was invited to on the 9th was cancelled.

There’s a reasonable chance this is the longest I have gone without a deliberate meeting since I first had any control over my life, say in elementary school, when agreeing to meet a friend after school was already normal. Running into my supervisor or member of the provincial parliament on the sidewalks is certainly welcome and a change from solitude, but it doesn’t diminish the oddity of having nothing scheduled except forgettable group videoconferences (I pity those whose schooling will increasingly take that tedious and unengaging form).

Particularly as I am working through an audiobook on Stoicism I am mindful about the pointlessness and perhaps inappropriateness of complaining, which isn’t precisely what I intend to do with this post. It’s more to share life experience and preserve a contemporaneous account than to advance any claim that what’s happening is intolerable or undeserved. Indeed, I am exceedingly fortunate in that my most important work is largely unimpeded by all this. My data collection and research for the PhD are done. Now it’s just a matter of incorporating the literature into my manuscript and editing it to the point where I can send it to the committee. I can do all that alone, as odd as a solitary life continues to feel.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

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