Thursday, May 13, 2021

Social Distancing Life Lately: 14 Months (and Nearly Done?)

via Unsplash

K and I are now two weeks out from our second doses of the COVID vaccine. Our family members and our close friends across the US also all have their second shots by now. The New York state government is allowing most things to reopen - with indoor masking and certain other social distancing and public health precautions still in place, of course - on May 19. All in all, everything's turning around incredibly quickly here! 

I'm not sure when K and I will start resuming the activities we used to do. We're comfortable with small, maskless indoor gatherings with other fully-vaccinated - as in two weeks out from their last shot - adults, and we'll probably also spend a few days with K's parents in the NYC suburbs in the next week or so. My sister is currently planning to travel from the Washington D.C. area to visit NYC in early June. We're a little less sure about when we'll be ready to semi-regularly go back to restaurants and dining indoors around larger crowds. (We've been opposed to outdoor dining because NYC streets are kind of gross and I wouldn't like the feeling of cars passing by so close. We'd rather just bring the food home.)  

Return to the Office 

I expect my workplace to institute a full return to the office for attorneys quite soon, possibly as early as sometime in May. We'll continue to observe all required public health requirements, of course, including by still wearing face masks while in the same room as any of our colleagues.

I believe a late May return date is on the much earlier side of average for NYC-based offices in industries where achieving full productivity while working from home is relatively easy to do, including the legal industry. Certain biglaw firms have even announced that they're making a permanent move towards a partially work from home schedule. (My workplace has always been much more old-fashioned about in-office face time requirements than most others in the legal industry, so that is absolutely not in the cards for us.) While my personal preference would be to keep at least a bit of work from home flexibility - to be able to work from home once or twice a week most weeks, depending on workload and team needs; unfortunately for me, that's totally not happening - I'm also eager to be back in the office most of the time.  It's definitely been difficult for me to do all of my work from a fairly cramped one-bedroom apartment, even with noise-cancelling headphones on. 

There have been... limited discussions about an attempt to schedule yet another international business trip in late June, though I'm not certain how serious these discussions are. I think it's impossible to predict now whether the US and the destination country's international travel policies will actually allow for such a trip. (We'd likely scrap the idea if there were any quarantine requirements of any duration still in place, if we couldn't get out of quarantine due to being fully vaccinated.) I also privately doubt the other parties we'd be meeting with would even be willing to meet in-person, rather than over videoconference. But if the trip were somehow possible, I don't think I'd have grounds for refusing, now that I'm fully vaccinated. 

Unintended Effects of 14 Months at Home 

As we got to the one-year mark of social distancing, I started to notice various small physical symptoms from our new lockdown lifestyle. My body felt far more creaky than usual, with mild aches and pains that would come and go. (The most likely culprit is that my office chair at my desk at home is... not great.) And on the handful of occasions I've needed to head in to the office - which requires a roughly 15 to 20 minute walking commute each way, hardly a major physical exertion - I'm always completely physically exhausted by around 6:00 PM or so, when I'm ready to head home. 

On my first trip back to the office last November, I wore my trusty and extremely well broken-in Sam Edelman Petty booties - the older pair purchased before I started recording my purchases on this blog in January 2015, in the softer leather - and I was surprised to find my feet started to hurt by noon, my toes felt pinched and I ended up getting blisters on my ankles. It seems my feet have gotten too soft for most real shoes now, even the pairs that have always been comfortable and never gave me blisters or other issues in the past, even when brand new. (I don't think I'm the only person who has experienced this, as I was just commenting over at JENKR's!) Since then, I've worn sneakers on the rare occasions I've needed to go to the office, but I even needed to be careful about wearing longer socks to prevent ankle blisters with those. 

It's been a year and half since I last posted an outfit photograph, but throughout the years, as early as December 2016, one constant background feature of my outfit photos has been our trusty old Exerpeutic stationary bike (affiliate link). K and I first purchased this bike - our apartment is so cramped we can only consider a cardio exercise machine that can fold up for storage and can easily be moved around frequently, which seriously limits our options - back in 2016 when our in-building gym was closed for several months due to renovations. And once the COVID shutdowns began, which also included the closure of our in-building gym for a few months, we really appreciated having a cardio exercise machine in our home. 

Ever since we first purchased it, we've put this stationary bike through fairly intense use - typically at least five or six moderate-intensity exercise sessions of 45 minutes-plus per week, between the two of us, even when the in-building gym was open - and it had never given us any real issues over the years. Around late 2018, one of the parts that helped it stay folded up broke, but the bike was small enough unfolded that we could push it against the wall for storage and it was otherwise still fully functional. We used the bike less frequently in the times our in-building gym was available, between when it reopened in 2017 and when the pandemic shutdowns began in March 2020, but still kept the bike in regular rotation at all times, for the days we didn't feel like leaving our apartment and going downstairs to work out. 

Alas, now that we've hit the four and a half year mark of intense use - with the frequency ramping back up significantly in the past fourteen months of the pandemic - our stationary bike has finally broken beyond repair. (The pedals are falling off in a way that they can't be reattached.) We'll probably end up getting the exact same bike as a replacement because it's pretty important to our fitness routines to have a cardio machine that we can store and use in our apartment, and we know from experience that this specific item is very functional and relatively durable for our needs. 

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