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  • Max Weintraub

Karoshi in the Quarantined World

It seems like the world is burning. In my last blog post, I was hesitant to mention COVID-19, only mentioning Coronavirus by name once. This was mostly due to me hoping that this would all boil over pretty quickly and that any namedrops would age as poorly as some sort of joke about Swine Flu (which I actually caught all those years ago). As I'm sure you're aware, this is not the case. Most of the world is shut down, with people around the globe ordered to stay in place and practice social distancing. We're all trapped in place for an indeterminate amount of time, with estimates I've heard ranging pretty wildly. It's becoming more and more apparent that we're living through what could be a major historical event.

As a pretty young person, I can't say I'm too used to living through historical events, and I can't say that most people my age can say the same. The September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center happened when I was two years old. There have been plenty of historical events around the world since then, both major and minor, but few have really shaken America as I know it to a similar magnitude (although you could argue the 2016 election results come close). It's a strange feeling to be a decent chunk of your way through your life only to have the status-quo come screeching to a halt as you and hundreds of millions of others are left scratching your heads as to what can be done next.

Personally, I hope that this can lead to major reforms in our healthcare system, as well as in our economy as a whole. It feels like the majority of people are doomed to slip through the fingers of a society that cares only for their productivity, and nothing for their health. There's a (big) part of me that hopes that seeing businesses screeching to a halt around the world is enough to give our politicians (and voters) the push to prioritize public wellbeing over that of billionaires. I know this isn't really meant to be a political blog, but I do feel obligated to at least acknowledge what will be a major historical event.


So... this is somewhat of a non-sequitur, but have you heard of the term "karoshi"? It's a Japanese word that translates to something along the lines of "worked to death". It can refer to someone working so hard that they drop dead, or it can refer to someone being so overworked that the stress causes them to commit suicide. It's an awfully grim term that I first discovered from playing a silly puzzle game about a suicidal salaryman, which just so happened to take inspiration from the word. While a gross hyperbole of my current state, the connotation of a word like karoshi does resonate with me at a time like this.

While COVID-19 may have made it impossible for me to go outside and do anything as simple as to go hang out with my friends, one thing remains a constant: schoolwork. Clever readers will remember me mentioning that I fell into a depressive slump about a month ago and lost dozens of hours worth of work and productivity into the cold, uncaring void, all while time marched on. Well, you'll be glad to know that I'm still dealing with the aftershocks of that.

I still haven't been the most productive. I have been catching up on the work that I fell behind on, but it's been a painfully slow process. I don't know if being at school would be better for my productivity, but I can tell you that being home definitely isn't positive. Although I live on the second floor, I currently have the sleep schedule of someone who has never left the basement. I don't have a very comfortable work station, either. My desk lacks room, and the chair hurts my butt, so I do most of my work in bed. It's a terrible habit for maintaining my productivity, my posture, and my waistline which I struggle to break. Considering the fact that I will probably end up working on my upcoming internship from home, I find my habits deeply concerning.

At times, it can feel like I'm descending into a steady madness, as my Twitter posts are starting to reflect. That claim might be a bit dramatic, but then again, so am I. Even within my family's home, where I can sit and exist peacefully is pretty restricted, which seriously doesn't help things. mainly due to the cat that I'm so allergic to. I'm getting better at coexisting with her, but it'd be nice if I didn't have to worry about where I can or cannot safely sit without my face having a coup d'etat against the rest of me.


On the side of schoolwork, this week, as well as the past few weeks, have been difficult for me. There's a good bit of mental strain on me from being holed up doing little more than my work (not even mentioning the fact that I'm putting on weight from going nowhere). It's been a constant balance between balancing the workload I have for each of my classes and my sanity. Unfortunately, the circumstances that have led up to this point have been pretty out of my control. There's not really anything I can do about the main issue here, but there are plenty of steps I can take to try and improve my situation at home.

I've been reading a couple of articles about how to maintain a positive environment as effectively as possible, and there's plenty of points that come up several times. Repeat offenders include drawing clear boundaries between relaxing and work, setting up a dedicated workspace, getting dressed for work each day, and getting out of the house whenever possible to prevent oneself from going stir-crazy.

Right now is a time to prove to myself that I have the strength to stick to my own rules. My main priorities need to be self-care, school work, and getting ahead of the curve for whatever presents itself next. Most of my remaining schoolwork for the semester consists of relatively long term projects: my one weakness. Making a solid plan and sticking to it is NOT my strong suit, but it's something that I'll need in order to succeed. If I keep doing my homework in bed this isn't going to be sustainable.

Looking for a new chair,

Max Weintraub


#college #coronavirus #covid19 #existential #personal #quarantine

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