When a “Work Space” Doesn’t Exist

I live in a two bedroom condo with two people and our lovely little Loki. I live with my mother and middle sister, who’s girlfriend is staying with us during the COVID-19 quarantine. So that’s, four people and a dog, in a place with three rooms.

I share the master bedroom with my sister, since it’s the only room that can hold two of all bedroom furniture. With her girlfriend here, three people sleep in that room. During the day we can spend our time here or in the living room.

Now, I don’t want to complain too much and talk badly about my family because these are tough circumstances. I wasn’t supposed to be home right now, I wasn’t supposed to be in online school.

So I got used to my space at school. I had my own room, a desk, and a whole campus to wander in search of a productive space. And that’s all gone right now. Instead of a library, I have the foot end of my bed next to my bookcase. Instead of a random table in the Pit of the Student Center, I have our dining table.

Everyone says to create a place for work and a place for relaxation. It’ll stop you from slacking off during work time, or keep you awake when you’re trying to sleep, they say. And I’m sure they’re right and I would love to particupate in this phenomenon, but I don’t currently have that luxury.

So, here’s what I’ve been trying to do anyway.

Focus on the time where I am the only one awake. My mom works nights in an essential business. So she comes home at 5 am and sleeps until noon. My sister and her girlfriend have lost their usual schedules and like many others find themselves up at odd hours of the night, so they also sleep until noon.

That means that if I can get myself out of bed, even at 11 am, I have at least an hour of quiet time that makes this whole space feel private. I can sit at the dining table and attend my lectures with minimal distractions and idle noise. I can work on other assignments before anyone has started their day, and sometimes it feels similar to being at school.

If weather permits, there’s a sunroom too. One warmer days I can sit out here and seclude myself into a place where my only distractions are the deer just past the tree line, and Loki scoping them out.

On normal days, the others spend the day in the living room, which frees up the foot of my bed, or my sister’s bed to occupy as a work space. I close the door can again minimize the distractions from people who aren’t in online school and are simply bored in quarantine (I’m a little jealous). The buzzing in my head quiets and I can listen to the words in my head as I type. I can easily comprehend my lectures. I can read novels that I need to dicuss for class, and school work doesn’t feel so crazy, or taxing.

There are days that aren’t normal. There are days when the others are sick of the dent in the couch. Sick of hearing noise from the kitchen. Sick of the oddly bright light that hangs over the dining table. Some days you just want to watch movies all day in bed instead of the couch. I get it. I really do.

But when you occupy a space with noise, I can’t use it anymore. I can’t co-exist in the bedroom when you’re watching Harry Potter all day. I’ll close my laptop and end up watching with you. Some days all spaces that I can be productive in are occupied or unusable (cold day+sunroom=not fun at all).

And then all my irritability builds up and floats right to the surface. Now, I’m on edge for the whole day, a breath away from snapping. What am I supposed to do though? I don’t snap. I find a new space and do whatever work I can muster for the day. If that means sitting on the couch only working on workshops and then calling it a day? Well, maybe tomorrow will be better. And honestly, yes, it’s a huge struggle. The layers at work here are dense and I keep discovering more as the days pass.

This all really makes me miss being at Rowan. The ease of walking to class for a lecture or discussion. The late nights with my friends, both productive and unproductive. We’ve learned how to take care of each other. You learn when the others are burnt out. When you just need to watch terrible American Idol auditions and take a break from our piles of work. We know when to go on a walk, how to hold each other accountable to get out of bed and at least get a meal in our system. Besides the friendship we have we learn how to take care of each other. And I really miss that.

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