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May 1, 2020



Online classes, concerts and happy hours help fill the void during shelter at home.  

by Michelle Icard

Where have you been lately? It’s a strange question for a strange time. At the beginning of my quarantine, I traveled between my living room, kitchen, bedroom and patio like a cat pacing a cage. But as days turned into weeks, I relaxed into my circumstances, and then my world started to open up. 

I took my first SkillPop class. Like many businesses, SkillPop pivoted quickly to an online platform, opening their local classes up nationally. For two hours one day, I sat with my daughter in front of a laptop and we chatted with people from across the country as we learned to apply makeup like a pro.

Through Zoom, I spent a lovely evening with 13 members of my book club, discussing The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. We timed our selection to coincide with the book’s centennial anniversary and to celebrate Wharton as the first female recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. But the irony wasn’t lost on us that the title refers to a time prior to a global crisis: World War I in Wharton’s case, a pandemic in ours.

Once my appetite for online experiences was whet, I started hanging out pianoside in Ben Platt’s living room for regular concerts. I took an online art lesson. I “clinked” glasses at virtual cocktail parties with friends I met 30 years ago who live 10 hours away, friends who live down the street, and elderly friends who had isolated with conviction but craved connection. I hosted webinars for parents and kids to answer their burning questions about middle school. And I enrolled in Yale University’s most popular class, The Science of Well-Being, taking place in the professor’s living room in New Haven, Conn.  

Despite an underlying, albeit sturdy, fear of the COVID-19 virus and the toll it will take, I found myself becoming more and more fulfilled with having fewer choices. Research confirms that when faced with too many possibilities, our brains feel overworked and undersatisfied. Buying a pair of jeans? Well, first let’s narrow down if you want bootcut, flare, skinny, relaxed, loose, boyfriend, girlfriend, crop, slim, straight or cigarette. After that, we’ll move on to color wash, then brand, then denim blends, then … you might just give up.

When new restrictions took away the mundane tasks, the decision trees and the productivity pressure that ate up my days, I saw my limited options with greater appreciation. In fact, I noticed many nice things to do that I’d carelessly overlooked before.

When it’s safe to do so, I will be the first to throw off my sweats, slip into something a lot less comfortable, and run to see all of you at the restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and movie theaters. Until then, I’m hunkering down and discovering what exciting experiences my screen can open up for me. SP

Michelle Icard is an author in Charlotte. She runs local programming for middle schoolers and their parents, including leadership camps for girls and boys and conferences for girls and their moms. Learn more about her at MichelleintheMiddle.com.

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