"Staying in the same place can make time feel endless"@nate_nessman

How would you survive in a zombie apocalypse? What would you bring to a desert island? How would you cope if you were stuck in a prison cell by yourself?

My childhood friends and I used to discuss hypotheticals like these. They were a great way to start an interesting conversation if no one had anything better to say, and we came up with a few answers.

In a zombie apocalypse, for example, B&Q is the place to be. There are lots of places to hide, and it’s full of potential weapons perfect for smashing undead brains. Not to mention, if you were bored and the zombies were somewhere else, you could brush up on your DIY skills, build a massive MDF fort, and have a bit of fun.

As for a desert island, that one’s obvious: you’d bring a boat. Whoever even considers staying on that island with just a book or their favourite CD is missing a trick. Long-term, the island is not where you want to be (for one thing, its economy is terrible – don’t even get me started on the job market) so the quicker you leave the better.

Now we get to the prison cell. This I imagined like a medieval dungeon, with damp, black walls and a tiny barred window at the top. In total isolation, how would you manage to keep yourself sane?

“I never thought I would actually find myself stuck, isolating, in what my mum calls a ‘comfy cell’”

I always thought that music would be a good solution; I’d sing every single song I knew, the happier the better. You’ve got to admit, a prison cell would have some pretty great acoustics, so you might as well make use of them! It would be nice to hear a voice, I thought, even if it were my own.

Reading and writing were also common suggestions. If you couldn’t physically get out of a situation, at least you could enjoy some escapism. Though stuck by yourself, your imagination would render your company endless; you could travel around the world, feel the sun on your face and hear leaves crunch underfoot. You could even write a novel yourself, and then once you got out, you could become the next J. K. Rowling (except without the transphobia).

Some of my friends suggested exercise or self-care: you could do yoga or fitness circuits, learn how to do cartwheels or the splits, use the bars from your cell window to do pull-ups, meditate, pray, or find spiritual enlightenment. Whether a monk or an athlete, you could use this alone time for your own benefit. You might leave your cell feeling full of newfound wisdom – either that, or you’d be really hench. Honestly, it’s not a bad shout.

I never thought I would actually find myself stuck, isolating, in what my mum calls a ‘comfy cell’. I share a set, so while our shared sitting room is glorious, my actual bedroom is like a cupboard. My living quarters currently consist of a bed that touches three out of four of my walls, a half-wardrobe that’s so little that I only use it for my underwear and pyjamas, and a small black window. I think it’s safe to say that I probably won’t be learning to cartwheel in here.

“the options for escapism here are amazing”

It is, however, much nicer than my imagined prison cell. I have blankets and pillows, and my walls are pleasantly devoid of slime. My roommate generously delivers three meals a day to my door; with her sitting on the far side of the living room, we can have a chat over dinner and cups of tea. I can talk to my friends and family with messages and video-calls. I’ve even been informed that there’s a care-package in the post for me: chocolates, facemasks, Twiglets, and a ‘new teddy friend’. I may be physically isolated, but I’m not alone.

Also, the options for escapism here are amazing: I have Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, and a plethora of social media at my fingertips! Not to mention, I have work to be getting on with, so I can read and read to my heart’s content, bopping along to Simon and Garfunkel, and get useful things done. My dissertation is really interesting, and my favourite book is sitting on a shelf in case I need some comfort-Austen.

Staying in the same place can make time feel endless, though. I think we often define our days by where we were and what we were doing, whereas I have no real option but to constantly sit on my bed. I’m warm, I’m comfortable, but I’m always doing the same thing. Time has no punctuation – unless I put it there.


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So, I make an effort to break up my day. I plan my work, to make sure that every day is different. I change position on my bed a lot, leaning against all three available walls and stretching out my legs to touch the fourth whenever I feel like it. At the end of each day, I write down what I did, thought, and dreamt.

I pay attention to the outside. I notice golden hour, when the court glows with warm sunlight, and when the sun sets. When it rains, I open the window, breathe in the fresh air, smell the wet grass, stick out my hand and feel the droplets. Being able to taste the freshness abates my corona paranoia, and more generally this provides a welcome break to sitting inside my box.

I still maintain that music, escapism, and self-care are great ways to deal with isolation, but I’m also finding that (distanced) human contact and a creative use of time transform days spent in a tiny little room. I’m optimistic about the next few days. I may be stuck in a cell of sorts, but at least it’s a comfy one.