“Just do things you find engaging. Don’t come down on yourself for enjoying something that is not at all productive. One day we’ll go back to normal, and that will be nice, but enjoy the opportunity you have to just be.” -
While we still find ourselves in mid-pandemic, people all over the world try to figure out their normal lifestyle while being indoors. Even though social distancing and isolation can cause numerous of side effects, we at LEWIS would like to underline the importance of staying at home. For our third part of the ‘Lockdown Diaries’ we got the opportunity to talk to Brooklyn based Model Ryan Winter, where he opens up about the passing of his grandfather due to the coronavirus and how to stay bright minded in these times.
Model Ryan Winters
Hi Ryan, thank you for taking time and sharing your story. To start with, how has the pandemic impacted your life since the outbreak of the virus?
Thanks for asking me to take part in this! The impacts have been pretty wild, but not all bad. Everyone I know is staying home. My agencies in New York and LA have both closed down for the time being. Most of the studios around the city are closed down. Everything in fashion is just on pause.
Luckily for me, the Corona virus relief package allows independent contractors to file for unemployment benefits, something I could not do before this. That is a huge financial burden lifted since I don’t have to worry too much about covering rent or food. I also happened to have moved right before the outbreak so my rent burden is about $400 less a month which is really nice and makes these lean times more manageable.
What do you do with your newfound free time?
I have been working out more or less daily. We’ve had a lot of rain in NYC lately and it is the only way to get some energy out and not feel so claustrophobic. I’ve messed around as a novice woodworker. A friend asked me to build a small bookcase/shelf for them. That was a fun little project. I’ve been reading, practicing the banjo, spending too much time on TikTok (as are we all!), and bugging my girlfriend and her roommates. My girlfriend also adopted a puppy at the beginning of quarantine and we have spent a lot of time training the pooch.
Have you always been interested in woodwork?
I think it is less that I am into woodworking, and more that I am into learning skills. I probably should not say this because it will upset my parents, but I think going to college is one of my biggest regrets in life. I actually wish I would have gone to trade school. Learning a craft, working with my hands, and having something physical to touch when I’m done brings me so much joy. The craft could be anything. It could be plumbing, coffee roasting, jewelry making, leatherwork, or, for the time being, woodworking. I just like learning something where there is tangible value when it's done.
I think a good counterpoint is the banjo. I have had it for over a year and my progress is so slow. It is fun and difficult and I love getting the hang of something new. However, when I learn a song, it is just a song. It is not something someone can hold or use or do anything with and the joy I get from it is not the same.
Do you think this time is going to be beneficial for our humanity?
I really hope so, but I am doubtful. So many of us have made work our identity. When technology allows leakiness between work and leisure, you never really get to be off the clock. You send emails while you’re watching tv at night. We are always trying to squeeze the last little bit of productivity out of ourselves. I have seen a lot of posts online about how it is okay to just be, encouraging people to disengage and shut off for a little bit. I think that is so good and so healthy. I just don't think that will continue past the quarantine. We will, eventually, get back to something resembling business as usual. People will be busy and hurried and we’ll forget the things we learned.
What do you miss the most since the lockdown started?
More than anything, I miss my parents. They’re my best friends. So many people in NYC have had the virus and testing is so poor. I can’t be sure I have not been exposed. I can’t be sure I’m not asymptomatic. Both of my parents are over 55. I want to go home so badly, but it would break my heart if I happened to get my parents sick.
Loneliness can be a side effect of social distancing. Did your mental health suffer since being in quarantine?
I have been quarantining with my girlfriend at her apartment. That has helped so much. Aside from occasional bouts of cabin fever, I have been okay. I’m so lucky to have a wonderful girlfriend. She has roommates who are also awesome. We all got on pretty well before lockdown, but have spent more time together than ever before. There have not been any huge blow ups, luckily. We do big family style dinners most nights. We have been playing a lot of games. They taught me how to play Monikers and Yahtzee, the card games Big Two and Bullshit, plus a Chinese game called Mahjong.
I was a lot more lonely before my girlfriend. I feel really lucky to have such a nice social safety net. More than anything, because I know how lucky I am in this weird and hard time, I try to go out of my way to reach out to friends who I know are on lockdown by themselves.
What do you do to stay bright minded around this time?
FaceTime your loved ones. Let people know you care about them. Write a letter (the Postal Service could use your help if you’re reading this in the US). I’m sure it sounds cliche because everyone and their mom says it, but exercise really does help so much. Endorphins are real.
Just do things you find engaging. Don’t come down on yourself for enjoying something that is not at all productive, whether that is playing video games or reading dumb stuff on the internet. One day we’ll go back to normal, and that will be nice, but enjoy the opportunity you have to just be.
What is your opinion on people who ignore social distancing and what would you like to say to them?
I think it is selfish. But I’m also sure that as someone who tunes into primarily liberal news sources, my interpretation of people clamoring to “open back up” is skewed. It feels like a lot of flag waving, Trump-loving, conspiracy minded people. That element is there, but is (hopefully) a vocal minority. Conversely, I’m sure those who want to open back up think that those who want to keep distancing enjoy being out of work, which is not the truth.
There is a decent argument to be made that this has been wildly expensive, and we have done a lot to flatten the curve. There are also many places in the country that have not been hit as hard as New York. However, most economists still think we should continue isolating. Some major conservative think tanks are advising continued quarantine. I just do not think it is worth it to open back up when no one except the president and his most vocal fans are pushing for a rapid reopening of the country.
Since the start of the pandemic the hashtag #Istayhomefor was making the rounds on social media. For whom are you staying home?
For everyone. That sounds lame. When this first started, I made fun of my friends who took this seriously. I am young and healthy. It was not until things started to really shut down and I educated myself on disease spread that I began to take Covid seriously.
Then my grandfather passed away after testing positive for Covid-19. Before he passed away, I was thinking about how I did not know anyone with Corona. I did not even know of anyone who knew anyone with Corona. Then my grandfather passed away and it felt so close to home and the irony of me, the one who made fun of his friends, losing his grandpa hit home. It stopped feeling like this thing you see in the news. I put something on social media because I was sure there were other people like me for whom this disease had a feeling of unreality. So many people reached out saying they had lost grandparents, or that their friends had contracted the virus. I realized how many people it was impacting, how little they were saying about it publicly, and how lucky I am that it has not yet made it into my social circles.
So yeah, stay home for everyone. You do not know who you might come into contact with that is going to visit an older relative, an immunocompromised friend, or someone who happens to react violently to the disease. It is not about you. It is about us.