Thank you – Come again
More than three years have passed since Covid19 grounded an entire world and had us – in varied degree – confined to our homes and devoured by a new reality of online-meetings and take-out food. It changed the way we worked, it changed the way we ate, the way we moved, travelled, thought, and socialized. For some of us, this would be the first time since middle school we’d stay home on a Friday night – and it was just awful.
It was the predictability of it that really got to me, I think. The mundane routine of everyday life, just going through the motions. As a freelance writer based in the north of Sweden work life was already socially sparse. With restrictions the few physical interactions I had were now entirely replaced by Zoom-calls. But it is said that humankind’s most crucial quality for thriving – aside from opposable thumb’s – is its capacity to adapt. Adapt to climate, surroundings, social structures and the general ups and downs in life. And adapt I did.
Life during the pandemic was, fear of painful death by slow suffocation aside, pretty chill.
Like any sane person I quickly acquired a PlayStation 4 and a subscription to every commercial streaming-service known to man. My girlfriend moved in with me and – being prime specimens of humanity – we had soon evolved into one with the couch, crushing it at Fortnite Battle Royal. If chopping down nine-year-old Polish gamers in split-screen-mode was not enough we’d perfect the evening by cracking open a bottle of Nebbiolo, plowing through a season of Game of Thrones in one night and sleep until noon next day. It was as weird as it was wonderful. We weren’t missing anything – since nothing was going on.
This of course didn’t stop me from dreaming. While life was on pause, I’d fantasize on all the shows, events, and music festivals I’d go to as soon as restrictions were lifted. This would be a magical summer filled with spectacular road trips to scenic places where I’d make new friends make up for all these missed shared experiences. We’d hold spontaneous BBQs by the river, do big city-weekends and see every live act on the planet. Every night would be a gathering. But none of this would happen.
“Before you’ve experienced true isolation – and all options are removed from the equation –you really don’t know anything. You’d be surprised how quickly your mind will turn on you when there’s nothing around to distract you from hating yourself”, an old acquaintance tells me as we grab a beer at a local bar where I’ll sometimes host music quiz nights. It’s been years since we’ve talked and after going through the whole “So what’re you up to these days?” (Me: one kid, separated, work at an ad agency, DJing on the weekends.
Him: Second kid on the way, occupation very unclear but seems to be something not entirely legal), we get to the Covid-years, and I do the usual complaining: “It was tough. I was trying to start up a new business and then the virus hit. Being that isolated and financially vulnerable really got you thinking. It changes you; you know?”, I explained as I noticed a quirky smile on his face. “Yeah, I get it. I spent three months in jail with full restrictions a couple of years back,” he tells me and takes a long sip on the beer before he continues: “We’re talking zero interaction with other inmates, no contact with family, no phone, I couldn’t even read a newspaper or watch tv. 23 hours of lockdown every day, one hour outside in an enclosed cement box, food three times a day on a plastic tray in the cell. A lot of people just lose it, these real tough guys just turn into babies after a few weeks of that. You question every single decision that brought you to that point. So after that when the pandemic hit and I had my girlfriend, a big apartment, a home theatre, Netflix and take away-food available at any second – let’s just say it wasn’t all that bad”, he says, empties his beer and orders another.
“Yeah, I’d bet”. I nod and take a very long sip on the beer trying to think of something to say that would imply I know exactly what he’s talking about. “I’d bet”, I repeat and take another sip trying to convey a sense of understanding while fighting the urge of asking how he’s making money right now.
The thing is, life during the pandemic was – fear of painful death by slow suffocation aside – pretty chill. It gave me a chance to focus on my family, and closest friends. It sort of weeded out all these hundreds of superficial acquaintances that were, more than anything, stealing time and energy from engaging with the people that are most important. Covid19 ironically – although a deadly virus wreaking havoc and destroying lives – also seem to have been a cure for my lifelong F.O.M.O.
So, to everyone who got me through two weird years with most of my sanity intact and showed me what relationships really matters: Thank you, please stick around. To everyone else: Thank you, come again.