Pandemic Reflections

I’m 20 years old. Mine is the age of friends, of university, of trying out odd jobs here and there, of moving out, of travelling, of going to parties, of trying to figure out what I want to do with my future, and also of ignoring my future, because I’m young and my time is now. These are the “best years of our lives”. And we’re spending them locked inside our houses, dependant from a curfew, with our beautiful faces hidden behind a mask, having to push back the instinct of hugging a friend we haven’t seen in a while.

It makes me want to scream until my lungs burn, to cry until my tears run out, and to curl up in the corner of a room, patiently waiting for a good reason to get back up. Sometimes I feel that, as time passes, the reasons to get back up are fewer and fewer. We still do it, though, every day.

It started with a quarantine, which quickly went from weeks to months. During that time, I remember many of us were “re-discovering” ourselves. By being forced to take a break from our daily lives, we gained more time, time that some of us took to care for ourselves. We nurtured our souls, which were compressed and battered by our busy days, weeks, months. This exercise was good, and at least for me, it was needed.

Then, in the blink of an eye, a year went by.

In this year, I did my best, like all of us. I tried cheering up the people around me, I tried encouraging them in their moments of darkness, I pushed forward. At a certain point, I remember accepting that large parts of my life were completely out of my control, and I adopted a “whatever will be, will be” approach. I could control other parts of my life, and that is what I decided to focus on, while passively accepting everything else. It was a good mindset, I found. A healthy one. It allowed me to live my days as serenely as possible, and ease my mind. I was the steady, safe ground for those around me, always ready to give a bit of my hope and calm to whomever needed it.

And now, I find myself wavering. I realize that whatever mindset you decide to adopt, the devastating results of a year like this will make themselves known, and I don’t think we realize just how much this situation has affected our mind and soul. No matter how strong we were, how optimistic we remained, we’re bound to feel the repercussions of these months, and when we do, we must remember that we did our best, and we shouldn’t convince ourselves otherwise. A bit of less positive, but oh so real, thoughts, before I move on to better things, hopefully.

At times, I feel like I’m floating aimlessly through the days, leaving nothing behind; as if I’m wandering on the seashore, and when I turn around my footsteps have disappeared, devoured by careless waves, and all proof of my existence there and then, gone. Most of the time I feel absent, my thoughts drifting elsewhere, my body staying behind, wishing it could drift along with my mind. I don’t dream of being anywhere in particular, I don’t want to drift off to a specific place. I constantly wish I were elsewhere, but this “elsewhere” doesn’t exist. Put simply, I find myself never being fully content anywhere, and living with a constant restlessness. At the same time, though, I feel too tired, too exhausted to fight for myself. I have accepted this state of dreariness and lethargy.

Some days, I feel like I’m losing myself, like I’m disappearing. I feel like the person I was a year ago is in me somewhere, but I don’t know where. Each of us has a spark, that burns bright and makes us who we are, from our dreams to our fears, to our hopes and ideas. It almost seems like my spark is gone, hiding somewhere, and I just don’t know where to look. I feel like in a year I haven’t changed, I haven’t grown, I haven’t evolved. Rather, the me I know so well, got trapped somewhere along the way, while the world kept spinning and life kept moving forward. It’s almost like I am hibernated; but I fear that the more I remain asleep, hidden, the harder it will be to get me back, to find myself again. Some days I even find myself wondering who I am now, where all that energy, love and strength, which I built and cared for within myself over the years, have gone.

In this moment, everything is so uncertain, present and future alike. Life usually is, almost by definition. But now, even more so. Almost nothing we experience every day is under our control. That scares me. Not because if I had control, I could fix everything. It scares me because, when we have control over something, and that something goes wrong, we know where to put the blame. We know what went wrong. We know how to do better next time. And now? We don’t know anything. I don’t know who to blame, I don’t know how to fix it. I can’t fix it.

But maybe that’s just it. We can’t fix it, and maybe this is just one of the first things in our lives that we won’t be able to control, put back together, or send away. And maybe, right now, amongst the confusion, anger and pain, we are learning how to live through something that is completely out of our grasp. Because that is what we are doing: living. Through all of this. Against all odds, and all the reasons to do otherwise, we wake up every morning and we get on with it. There’s a certain beauty to it, a grace. Even when we think we’ve lost all hope, we still keep going. We have an unimaginable force within us, fighting to live on, to survive, to push through, even if we don’t see it or we think it’s gone. It’s there, nudging us forward.

I want to believe that life after this will be marvellous. I want to believe we’ll come out stronger, gentler, kinder; that a stranger’s smile will make us happy; that we’ll close our eyes and appreciate the smell of that one flower that reminds us of our childhood; that the music we love will make our souls vibrate with life; that our walks in the sun will be longer; that our eyes will burn brighter with joy; that our hugs will be tighter and leave us gasping for air; that our late-night conversations will be deeper, longer, happier; and that when we think of our life, we find only hopefulness, curiosity, and love.

We are not alone. Remember. Even in our darkest moments, when we feel so isolated from the rest of the world, remember that someone we love may very well be in the next room, feeling just as alone and abandoned as us. Reach for them, don’t shut yourself out. Most importantly, let yourself be nurtured, loved and cared for. We all need to be supported, no matter how strong we are. I’ve tried, and will continue, to live my life according to these words: being strong does not mean never falling, never giving up, never wavering. Being strong means wavering, giving up, and falling, but always getting back up afterwards, and coming back to life, more powerful than ever.

We will get through this. We will go back to living. We will be back.

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