I was leaving for work one day and my mom realized that I had forgotten to wear my mask. Hastily, she said, “Where’s your mask? This is not 2019.” That struck the chord that resulted in this whole rambling. This is not 2019. And it will never be. Now it is 202(n). A new decade, and somehow us from 2019 and before could not imagine in our wildest dreams what life after we move forward from that phase of life would become like. Ahhh 2019! You sweet sweet year!
I remember being sad in 2019; complaining about how my life wasn’t moving forward and constantly worrying about my future. I spent the majority of that year planning to quit my job and moving on to bigger things. 2020 will be my year, I said to myself, along with everyone else. Well, it wasn’t anyone’s year, except for big billionaires but every year is their year so *eye roll*. When I look back at that time, I often think about how easy it was to hope and plan. How simple it was to complain endlessly. How we had no idea what life not moving forward actually meant. We’re often stuck in our everyday lives – in a job that’s not serving our purpose, in a relationship that’s so toxic but we can’t leave, in a place that doesn’t feel like home. But now we’re all stuck ! We’ve been stuck for almost two years. And everything we were complaining about seems less relevant than before. We now have new things to worry and complain about along with the old things.
We’re midway through 2021. Nepal is still struggling with COVID cases. The second lockdown has just been loosened. Vaccination drives are happening (quite haphazardly). Our future still looks questionable. And we all want to wake up one day to this pandemic just being a nightmare we don’t have to live through. Instead, it feels like a bullet ricocheting, that we’re trying our best to dodge but don’t know when it will hit us. But the reality is, even if we completely dodge this bullet, or recover from the wound, we won’t completely heal. This pandemic that has been with us for so long now that it will leave a scar. And so many things that became a part of us during this pandemic will never leave us.
The past two years, the world has been driven by fear. Everything that seemed normal became fearful and while we were alone, the ghosts of ‘what ifs’ haunted us. This fear led to countries being shut down, everything being put on hold and a new normal coming to life. No matter what stage of life we were in, we had to stop and go back inside. We were scared, unaware and confused. Some of us were connected to our loved ones via video calls while some of us got to spend time with them physically. From zoom parties to assigning everyone house duties, from sharing new recipes to sharing latest COVID updates through group chats, we tried to keep ourselves sane. We tried to help people by listening to them or donating money or volunteering. We tried to keep the communal feeling alive. We tried to give each other hope, and we tried to reignite the life in us through love. When the world was(is) driven by fear, the only thing that sustained us was opting for love. And that is something that will probably always stay with us – the fact that we all had a common enemy and we all lived through the same feeling of fear but we all were survived by love.
A while back, someone told me, “Noone can escape grief!”, which is not unknown but we don’t often think about it. I was transfixed, as it felt like the ultimate reality of life. Such a simple fact, but also a gut wrenching truth. We have all experienced grief numerous times in the past two years. Grief over what life used to be, or grief over someone we love. We have all felt loss(some more than the others), and it has felt like something absolutely unmendable. We have grieved over people we have known and loved. We have grieved over people we didn’t even know because social media has connected us so closely. We have cried over other people’s stories and hugged our loved ones a little tighter and more regularly because we didn’t want to waste time. This grief will stay with us. Even after things go back to whatever normal will mean next. It will always be a part of us. This pandemic will never end for the part of us that’s still grieving.
The time we stayed inside was not a part of our plan. We all tried to make the most of it though. We also struggled, got frustrated and lost. Instead of exploring the world, we got the time to explore ourselves. Instead of meeting new people, we got to meet versions of people who we’ve known for a while. Things changed. And then we thought it would go back to normal again, but things kept changing so much that somewhere we have forgotten what normal feels like. Getting your temperature checked before entering a store, wearing masks before leaving your home, rushing to wash your hands as soon as you come back home and regularly checking COVID numbers in the hopes that things get back to normal. But we will never go back to normal, will we? Even after the pandemic is long gone, the changes it brought and the abnormalcy we have become accustomed to will be the actual normal we will be able to obtain. And change will forever be constant. But the one thing that will never change whether or not we are infiltrated with a virus or not, us humans will always have something to worry about.
Today my mom and I were going to the vaccination centre. She was getting vaccinated. I gave her her two masks, a face shield and a bottle of sanitizer. “It will be crowded there. We have to be safe. It’s not 2019!”, I tell her, and we both exchange a knowing smile.