There have been weeks during the pandemic during which I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Monday and a Thursday, or a Friday and a Sunday. In an attempt to keep track of the activities that take place from day to day, I decided to document a day in my life—a day in the life of a virtual Penn Quaker. Sit back and try not to fall asleep, as I recount a typical Tuesday in my life this semester.
7:00 am: My alarm rudely goes off… I snooze it and I go back to sleep.
7:05 am: Again, it goes off… again, I snooze it and again, I go back to sleep.
7:08 am: My alarm is once again going off but this time I can’t reach it to snooze, and I am awake. I stare at the ceiling.
7:26 am: I am still staring at the ceiling when I realize I have a meeting, and I check the time on my phone... I have all of 2 minutes to get ready!
7:30 am: I sit before my laptop whilst waiting for participants to join my zoom call, quietly cursing the hour and wishing I could climb back into bed. Winter is fast approaching and it is still dark outside. I don’t often have meetings at this hour, but time differences mean that this is the best time for all members in my Penn Sustainability Consulting group to meet, and so I suck it up. I eye my disheveled hair in the video and cringe. I wonder if I always look like this in the morning and just never notice because I don’t have to stare at myself whilst I wait for latecomers? Members pop in, the thought drops, and the meeting begins.
8:15 am: My brother calls me from Dublin and I prop my phone up so that we can chat while I eat breakfast. As much as I loathe being on my phone or laptop all day, I am grateful for the chance to connect with my family despite the distance-- until he makes a comment about my chewing… and the gratitude wears off.
8:30 am: Contrary to my freshman year experience, I find I get more done when I do work in the morning than if I do it at night… and so I make myself some tea and work on some assignments.
10:30 am: My French literature class begins and we discuss the poetry of Victor Hugo. I don’t usually care that much about poetry, but his work is particularly remarkable, and I can see that the whole class is listening judging from the angles of their head tilts and the lack of Instagram icons reflected in their glasses.
11:30 am: I have 30 minutes before my next class but I’m feeling really lethargic, so I decide to go walking. I’m in Philly, right near Penn’s campus, and so I take advantage of Locust Walk. I walk really fast, almost run, to make it seem like a normal experience on Locust and then tire out after 5 minutes… how did I did I used to do this?!
12:00 pm: We have a guest speaker in our Mural Arts class, and he gives us a virtual tour of the street that his murals are on. I close my eyes for a second and pretend that I am really there, traversing the street, when the teacher unmutes herself to politely enquire if I am awake. I make a mental note not to do that again.
12:50 pm: I dash into the kitchen to grab something to eat- trying to dodge my roommates who are doing the same thing. Food in hand, I return to my bedroom, switch Zoom back on, and proceed to indulge in my lunch whilst simultaneously trying to wrap my head around the method of construction my architecture instructor is explaining.
2:00 pm: I am technically still in “studio” but am stuck on a penalization and am waiting for my slot to speak with our instructor. An email pops up from one of my French tutees and I pass the time reviewing her essay. I’ve been tutoring for a year and a half now, and I really enjoy how flexible it is. I finish the suggestions and do some more sketch work on my design as I wait.
3:15 pm: It’s beautiful outside and I desperately need to get out of my apartment, again! I convince one of my roommates to join me and we venture off to the Indego Bike rack outside of the dental school. The Indego bikes have revolutionized the way I move around Philadelphia, and have brought me unbelievable amounts of joy. During normal times we would not be able to ride down Locust Walk during this hour, but these are not normal times, and so off we go ringing our bells obnoxiously all the way to Penn Park.
4:00 pm: A forgotten quiz deadline rudely interrupts my peaceful afternoon and I find myself back in front of my laptop with the crippling fear of limited time. I have never been a quick reader, but today I am particularly slow. Despite the fact that it is written in very clear English, I feel like I am translating from a foreign language. I consider crying and then realize there is no time for that.
4:30 pm: By some miracle, I finish the reading and the quiz, and can breathe! I decide I’ve earned a cup of tea and I settle down on the sofa and savor the rooibos taste for as long as I can. I am an avid tea drinker, and the teabags I brought from home in January are fast disappearing. Before the thought of a depleted supply can get to me, my roommates filter in one by one, and chaos ensues as stories of zoom encounters with competing awkwardness fly across the room.
4:59 pm: I realize that I'm the Zoom host for our Women's Water Polo Board meeting, which happens before our virtual practice every Tuesday, and I leap across the room to grab my laptop and charger, and start the meeting. We recently had a competition with the men’s team to see who could get the most pushups, sit ups, squats and miles run in one month… and so most of the meeting is spent basking in the glory of our victorious team, and planning our exceptionally boastful Instagram post!
5:28 pm: I have another meeting at 5:30 pm, so I frantically but subtly locate my iPad and the meeting link. Thank you to a combination of muting, volume control, subtle eye movement and device placement, I’m good to go! The second meeting is the launch event for the Penn Sustainability Challenge that my team and I are entering. It’s open to all undergraduate students, and invites participants to think innovatively about ways in which Penn can improve its overall sustainability. We’re thinking of doing something to do with furniture waste, but still have some more research to do before the declaration.
6:00 pm: The launch event is still not done, and the water polo team is beginning to filter onto the Zoom call for practice. Another combination of subtle maneuvering and placement of yoga mat in relation to the camera has rendered me prepared to work out whilst simultaneously listening to the Dean of Engineering teach me about reducing my carbon footprint. I’m not sure this would ever fly in real life, and so I snap a picture to remember it. One day I will be sprinting across campus to get somewhere in time, and I will think of this! I’m mid Russian-twist when he starts talking about innovation, and I laugh, if only he could see me right now.
6:25 pm: The launch is finally over, and I can now focus on the workout! We meet twice a week on Zoom with our former captain and current coach to do these abs, legs, or arms workouts. Occasionally we join the men’s team (the same team that lost to us in the fitness competition, just in case you were wondering), and we workout together with a trainer, on Zoom. Doing jump-squats on a tattered yoga mat in my bedroom is nothing like throwing a ball in the pool, but they told me the Schuylkill wasn’t an option and so it is what it is, you know.
6:57 pm: We finish practice early this evening, and so I use my three whole extra minutes to get some pasta on the boil before hopping in the shower.
8:00 pm: I close my laptop and breath… my whirlwind of commitments for tonight is for the most part done, and aside from some reading and a response, I don’t have too much to do.
10:05 pm: As I am submitting the reading response for my Fine Arts class, I hear commotion in the living room; our neighbor has come over, and one of my roommates has subjected him to a face mask. Like animals coming out of hibernation, each door opens and the living room is full again. It is refreshing to hear voices not distorted by technology.
10:44 pm: We embark on a night walk and return with some ice cream to celebrate. I’m not sure what we are celebrating, to be honest, but I’m a firm believer in little victories, and I decide today was full of them.
11:20 pm: The ice cream is finished, and one final cup of tea sits steeping. I turn off the lights, and retreat to my bedroom. This little space is my classroom, conference room, gym, studio, library, eating place, and sleeping place. I check my planner to see what I still have to do tonight, and after a few seconds of pondering, decide it’s not important and I can do it tomorrow.
Whether I will actually get around to doing it tomorrow is TBD.