So, it finally arrived. The moment we’ve all been waiting for.
Pubs may open tomorrow in England, at 6am. Oh, joy.
Here in Scotland (or at least most places in Scotland), we can go further now. The 5 mile travel limit has been lifted. Holiday cottages are re-opening.
I live in quite a popular town for tourists, in one of Scotland’s two national parks. Our local community group is abuzz over road signs, littering and loitering, and the invasion of outsiders. We expect to see a surge of visitors, even though we’ve been seeing a surge in visitors over the past few weeks — regardless of the restrictions.
Anyway, the shops are opening. We can drive further. We can gather. Lockdown is lifting, and the idiots are coming out in droves.
I’m more anxious at that prospect than I was with the initial lockdown, isolation, quarantine, and sheltering in place orders.
Way back when, in what seems like a different life — I remember I was more than ready for lockdown. I realised I’d built my life to be ready for it.
We’d watched, Italy, Spain, Norway, and New Zealand all impose swift restrictions, locking in small communities, trying to limit the spread of Covid-19. I remember at the time thinking it would only be, could only be, optional here — somehow I didn’t think it would happen to us in the UK. Looking back, I guess I thought that we would have learned our lessons by looking at others trying to learn from their own mistakes, or at least from their own trajectories.
But, back then, as a couple, two individuals, we prepared for it anyway. In the early days of March, we stopped going to pubs and coffee shops. We were already highly experienced in the joys of working remotely, from home. I called friends and family, frantically urging them to do the same. I thought it would help. Flatten the curve, was the message.
As things gathered pace and the daily death tolls increased, we made arrangements to rent a house, and we moved into Our First Home in the UK in Years.
Covid-19 put an end to our travel lifestyle.
The day we moved in, we made a big trip to collect the last of our belongings. I had phoned our storage unit from the road because the 200 miles round trip would be wasted if we arrived and they were closed.
“Noo, noo. We’re still open,” they crowed in that cheerful but exasperated way that the Scots have. “The bosses will have us open forever. Ha-ha-ha.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe I was overreacting after all.
We drove down, cleared out our storage unit, locked up, and left.
That weekend, we spent days trying to unpack piles of boxes into our new home. It was freeing to be in our own space, but eerily quiet. Just us, our thoughts, and a few possessions to somehow spread out through a whole property.
We had done our best to minimalise our life before we left the UK in 2017, so when it came to unpacking, we had no luxuries — no TV, no wine glasses, no cake tins. We had a few basics — but no bedsheets. Beautiful antique candlesticks, yes, but no bog brush.
We tried to keep up with the news and keep up our hopes. And then on the Monday, it happened.
That seems like a lifetime ago now.
So many things have happened since — I started running, and I stopped running. I did yoga every day, and then not at all. I lost a couple of clients and gained five more. My business took off.
I survived the great flour shortage, and somehow came out the other side with a stockpile of 30 kgs and a trauma that might never heal. A trauma that will never allow me to drop below five kgs of flour ever again. God, maybe even 10 kgs, if I’m honest.
We furnished our little house as best we could. We made it homely, I baked. We called people on the phone — an activity that felt refreshingly old school.
All the years that we’d been on the road, that we hadn’t been grounded, that we’d been trying to get our businesses going, we didn’t really have the extra bandwidth to stay connected.
Suddenly we had space for it. We all had space for it. We all connected. We were all in this together.
This collective lockdown for national, nay, international survival.
And then our newsfeed changed. There was Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, George Floyd. These became household names for the most terrible reasons.
There was uproar. Black Lives Matter took centre stage. Amid lockdown, there was a movement.
There was an awakening to white privilege, triggering white fragility and white supremacy — we got everything from denial, anger, confusion, overwhelm, and silence. Riots, looting, and heated confrontations over statues. There were widespread and deeply visceral complaints about any request to wear a mask.
2020 has been a significant year in history already — this much we know.
It’s been challenging, and it has presented an incredible opportunity for change.
As an introvert and a freelancer, I’ve enjoyed the quiet time. I enjoyed lockdown. I actively seek and rely on the freedom and flexibility and the peace to work from home, to my own schedule. To not dance a dance that society needs us to dance.
And we all got a chance to stop dancing that dance.
Society broke — in front of our very eyes.
And I actually rejoiced. I felt relieved.
In the last 3 years, I travelled far and wide — physically, geographically, as well mentally, to escape from society. I thought my drive was toward freedom — that curating a nice little location independent lifestyle for myself — was the answer. To exist on the outside — a protest, a ‘fuck you’ to society.
But in 2020, I woke up to a reality that whatever I thought society had done to me was nothing — nothing — compared to what it was doing and has been doing for a very long time, at an institutional level.
We needed society to break.
We needed to see it. We needed it to break so that we can rebuild it — properly. Fairly. Equitably.
But I’m afraid we ran out of road, for this time at least.
For now, lockdown is easing. And the flags of our true colours are flying — flapping about in the wind.
It’s ugly. It’s moronic. It’s overwhelming. It’s filthy. It’s obscene. It’s selfish, and supremacist, and consumerist and deplorable.
It’s too much.
I was happier when being anti-social was legally enforceable.
I am not ready to go back to normal. I do not want to go back and participate in this system. I’m not done with my time out. I need more time. I have so much more to learn, more education to get to.
I want the solidarity I found on my sofa — on social media, connected by cause, and driven by a need for change.
I mourn the return to normal. It spells doom.
I fear it fragments and disperses the momentum we need for change, but I just pray that that isn’t so.