“Just 10 more minutes…” becomes 30 minutes, one hour, two hours…by the time I wake up feeling completely guilty, it’s time to open the computer and get ready to spend the rest of the day looking at that screen containing various word documents, PDF files, and small squares of people. Working from home has its advantages, and my dog and I are extremely happy for the unexpected walks happening during the day. However, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by that unproductivity sensation, especially when you depend on being somewhere else (aka the lab) to finish your studies and complete your research. To make things worse, everything can become an excuse to leave the computer and “do something else”. With the justification of “networking”, that recently open tab can somehow access Twitter against your will, the cute dog nearby keeps “forcing” you to 30 minutes of cuddle and play time, and…oh no, now I’m hungry! Time to make lunch!

Besides the happiness of my dog, another thing that has been keeping me (somewhat) sane throughout the past couple of months is unofficially called “Virtual Buddy System”. This was something that my supervisor (Dr. Fran Kerton) suggested in the very beginning of our lock-down. Together with my wonderful friends Mikhailey Wheeler and Olivia Wyper, I spend my day in our virtual working/studying room. Webcam on, microphone muted (most of the time), and… Here we go! It might seem like something simple, but this is a great way to focus, engage, interact, and learn with your friends. Among the appearance of puppies and kittens, laughs, and the desire for various types of delicious food at 10am, we support and (try to) help each other, even if we have no idea what the other one is talking about. We go to seminars together, we complete tasks together, have breakfast/lunch/supper/snacks together… I feel extremely grateful for being there for them, and thankful for having their support as well.

Regarding support through these very difficult (and recurrent) times, my supervisor has also been organizing weekly “Coffee Chats” where we can join the other members of our group and talk about anything at all. It’s a great way to check in with the group and remind ourselves that we have better days ahead. Although the situation we are currently in can bring so much stress, anxiety, and fear, it’s important to keep in mind the “bigger picture”. During one of our coffee chats, Dr. Chris Kozak discussed “how we are not in the same boat” during this pandemic. The whole world is suffering from it, but due to the lack of access to basic health care and education (and many other things), some people find themselves drowning. Yes, we want things to go back to normal, but let’s focus on appreciating the small things, being kind, and helping each other in any way we can.