Stages of Isolation
By Obenewa Adu and Tracy Miller
This co-written poem reflects our journaled memories of the year 2020, as well as our conversations with each other about our lives in lockdown.
I lazily rolled out of bed at any time I pleased.
I slept in late, too, and let my Metrocard expire.
Just to make my daily walk to the kitchen, where I taught myself to brew homemade iced coffee.
I opened up my laptop, where my entire world lives now.
I brushed my teeth, showered, sat down, and mindlessly scrolled on social media traveling from app to app.
I waited anxiously for my contact-free deliveries.
I reminisced over what life used to be.
To be honest, I didn’t always miss it.
I completed some work, joined some Zooms, sent some emails, ate until I was full.
Memorized the reflection of my face on a webcam.
Sat and watched the news in awe.
I’m so tired of living in interesting times.
This rotation of events went on for month after month, all while I was confined to my tiny apartment in Connecticut.
And I to my tiny apartment in Queens.
As a student, at first, lockdown seemed like a well-needed break, a relaxation period.
I worked from the safety of home, while others risked their lives.
Until those covid statistics were no longer just statistics but friends and family.
Until one friend got sick, then another, then another.
Until our two weeks of distance learning carried on until the end of the year.
Until I let go of every carefully made plan.
Until I feared trips to the grocery store and packages on my doorstep.
Until I feared seeing my family.
Until I was forced to watch injustices on the news.
Until it seemed like the world had shattered.
Until I lost track of what day it was or even how long it had been since I last went outside.
And when no one was around, I removed my mask to sneak just one breath of fresh air.
I could no longer see everyone’s smiling faces. Instead I looked for squinted eyes.
I learned there’s more than one way to smile.
No more handshakes and hugs, now we raise our masks and make sure to cover noses.
It’s the least we can do for one another.
A basic sign of respect in 2020.
Because this year is happening to all of us.
Last March I walked around freely with no idea what was to come.
Two weeks turned into twelve months.
Since then I have battled staying motivated and hopeful.
A new year, a new vaccine, a new President.
Together we have grieved, we have grown, and we have felt all the stages of isolation.
When we resumed our pair meetings in fall 2020, we realized that we both had an interest in journaling more frequently. So we started by writing reflections on our experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the ups and downs of quarantining at home. We documented our personal timelines to capture memorable events and how we were feeling: the hour by hour of a typical day in quarantine, and the month by month of the entire year. From there, we decided to combine our thoughts into a poem that includes our shared and differing experiences, told in both our voices.
Obenewa Adu is a 17-year-old senior in high school in Stamford, Connecticut. This is her second year as a Girls Write Now mentee. Obenewa is originally from New Haven, but has moved around, attending schools in Queens, Hamden, and Stamford. Obenewa’s favorite types of writing include poetry, journalism, and memoirs. She is passionate about writing and volunteer work. In the fall, Obenewa will continue her higher education at a four-year college with the hopes of one day inspiring change by breaking mental health stigmas around the world.
Tracy Miller is an editor, writer, and digital strategist living in Jackson Heights, Queens. As a journalist for more than 10 years, she was a staff editor for the New York Daily News and Prevention magazine. Tracy’s combined interests in digital media and health and medical writing led her to the field of healthcare communications. She is currently the Director of Patient Communications and Engagement at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and also helped lead a digital transformation and website strategy at NYU Langone Health. When she’s not busy at work, she’s probably working her way down her never-ending To Be Read list, cycling around the city, or playing street hockey in Tompkins Square Park.