I looked out of my window last night – I say last night, it was 4.30 pm but it was already pitch black – and I thought about where I was around this time two years ago, just before COVID hit – yes, I still can’t believe we’ve had a year of it either.
I was travelling, you see, backpacking the world by myself. I had ended up in Vietnam for Christmas 2019, with a Dutch girl I had met and connected with three months previously in Thailand. She became – and still is – one of my closest friends. On Christmas Eve she was feeling homesick and I had guaranteed her a fun night, so we brought in the 25th partying at rooftop hotels in Hanoi, meeting a Vietnamese Santa Claus and participated in Vietnamese Christmas quizzes we didn’t understand.
We decided to spontaneously book a flight to Indonesia, and bring in the New Year in Bali – and three days later we were on a plane. Simple. On the 31st, surrounded by new friends we had made in a hostel, we danced along with the fireworks exploding over our heads, filling the sky with colours, hope and excitement for 2021. I spent January in Indonesia, writing my diary outside my beautiful £10/night room, always catching a sunset view over the pool before I had flown to Australia.
Now, 12 months later, spontaneity seems like a lifetime away. The naive excitement I had on that very night I left Indonesia, intending to start a new life in Australia seems laughable. After two months of living in Melbourne, I had decided to fly back to the UK in March to visit my family, then COVID hit and I was unable to return. With half my items on the other side of the world, months spent clueless as to what to do and living with a father who’s in the vulnerable category, I have spent the last few months trying to figure out the best way of dealing with this situation, calmly and rationally – which is not easy for someone with diagnosed mental health problems, I’m telling you.
But do you know what I’ve realised? That everything in 2020 has seemed and continues to seem like a paradox. There are always two sides to everything. Like how peaceful it is to lie on a sofa and do absolutely nothing. Maybe you’ll meditate, or you’ve got time to read that book you bought five months ago. The things you’ve always ‘wished you had time for’ you suddenly have time for – woohoo. But the flip side of that coin is, sometimes doing nothing feels like the heaviest thing in the world. Sometimes pure silence, and time to do everything you wanted is not the peaceful regime you thought it would be. It’s okay for a day or two and then it becomes EXHAUSTING – who knew? That’s not all, here are four paradoxes I’ve realised about 2020.
- I took well-known shops, cafes, and tourist hotspots for granted. In fact, there was nothing worse than getting stuck in rush hour in Oxford Circus, with its crowds of people crowding around shops selling overpriced clothing. But now we know loads of these shops are being closed down with jobs lost to match, everything feels a little strange. All those people who now haven’t got an income. The emptiness of high streets that were always buzzing with shoppers on a Saturday. That’s what we’re USED to. What will fill those spaces? Is online really the future now? Can we really not escape our screens?
2. Without reliance on materialism, we’ve been stripped to our very core. We can no longer put on a ‘clown’ face or hide behind our social lives, and relationships and friendships for everybody have been tested beyond belief as a result of this. I’ve learnt more about people through lockdown than I have all the time I’ve known them. People I thought would be in my life forever showed their truest selves in different lights whilst acquaintances I’ve barely known have held me up when I’ve been at my lowest.
3. I’ve lived my life differently to most. Caring for a disabled father and seeing illness from a young age imprinted into my mind that life is short and to live it to the full. Despite this, I have always thought I was invincible. It seems crazy to me that there has been and remains to be something more powerful than us, that has had the strength to cause death and economical destruction in its path. It is survival of the fittest – and only the lucky can survive either of those perils.
4. All perceived feelings of control fly out of the window and we have to surrender ourselves completely to let the universe decide what is to become of us. I’ve tried my hardest to control everything since I was young, but really I don’t think we’ve ever had control over anything in life and everything is simply an illusion to make us feel differently. We have time, and dates, and routine, but ultimately we don’t know what’s going to happen. Being out of control is scary, but perhaps we’ve never had it. Another reason to try and live life day by day.