Twenty days of self-isolation hasn’t slowed me down. Not one bit. While some might get tired of seeing the same old walls, the past three weeks have actually come with a certain sense of nostalgia for me. Even as the days seem to run together, I feel a familiar connection to the past, remembering bygone days in faraway places. Instead of becoming frustrated at the seclusion forced upon me, I’m embracing it. I was made for this.
Seeing the same thing, day after day, for months on end doesn’t really bother me. Some people say that familiarity breeds contempt. Whoever said that didn’t spend a year in a foreign country surrounded by sameness: the same drab colors, the same buildings, the same people, the same food. If anything, familiarity breeds sarcasm. Where else are you going to be greeted every morning with the words, “Another day in paradise”?
In the same vein, I’m not at all upset about being confined to a specific, defined area or being told where and where not to go. That pretty much defines every deployment I’ve ever experienced. In this case, my area of operations is a lot smaller and my forward operating base is much nicer. The internet service is also far better. The only thing missing is the Big Voice; I live in Kansas so I suppose tornado sirens will have to suffice.
No toilet paper? No problem. Anyone who’s ever deployed knows what I mean. AAFES always seems to sell out of the one thing that’s needed most while maintaining a healthy stockage of the items no one really needs. Shampoo, wipes, soap? Forget it. But, if you’re looking for a pair XXXL men’s leopard print briefs, they’ll have you covered. Just learn to adapt.
Feeling cooped up? Not me. Our concept of “confined spaces” is a bit different than the average citizen’s. After spending a year in a windowless, 40-foot long metal shipping container, cabin fever just doesn’t happen. After that, how can I feel strung out in a 3000-square foot house? I can spend an entire day in one room and not even blink an eye.
Repeatedly being told to do the simplest tasks – like washing your hands – is also par for the course. Having spent years of my life sharing the same bathrooms and showers with hundreds of others conditioned me to rituals of habitual, almost obsessive, hygiene habits. Deploying into regions of the world where diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, and dysentery are common only served to reinforce those habits. There’s a good reason why some people have to be told to do the same thing more than once. Getting them to follow simple instructions might one day save you from something equal parts virulent and nasty. Roll with it.
Tired of being presented with outdated information by people who always seem to lag behind the news cycle? I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t dealing with leaders who were making decisions based on a days-old FRAGO that had long since been overcome by events. Frankly, we are being inundated with information that is changing by the hour, and deluged with data that is often incomplete, misinterpreted, or otherwise wrong. We’re also surrounded by statistical “experts” who couldn’t pass an undergraduate data analytics course. Learn to take it all in stride.
Honestly, not even the thought of a respiratory infection worries me all that much. Like many veterans of the forever wars, I’ve carried a persistent respiratory infection for the better part of thirty years – the end result of breathing in everything from the residue of burn pit fires to clouds of smoking human waste to whatever exists in all the dirt and dust. The only time I feel completely normal is when I’m deployed, at which point it always seems to clear up. I will say one thing, though: at least the VA doesn’t pretend coronavirus doesn’t exist.
So, as I close out my third week of semi-seclusion, I really don’t feel all that isolated and alone. The food is good, the company tolerable, and the sleeping arrangements more than adequate. The sense of nostalgia is real, however. The sameness of it all reminds me of places and people I haven’t seen in years, of sights and sounds that existed in another time and another war. I was made for this.
Another day in paradise, just living the dream.