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Living in a bubble: Quarantine reflections

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

2020 brought along a pandemic and a goody-bag full of reflections.

The coronavirus pandemic, coined 'Covid-19' spread with just as much rage as the wildfires in Australia, which, in case you forgot, happened this year too. Within a matter of weeks, the whole world was imposing travel bans and lock-downs in an attempt to keep the spread at bay.

Quarantine gave rise to a bubble-centric life, complete with six feet distances and near-religious hand washing. But living in a bubble wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I spent the past four years prepping for and writing exams at school, and I was meant to spend this one at work. I had never really had the 'Big Break' I needed, since I started university immediately after graduation. It took a global pandemic for me to finally get my much-needed break.

My life came to a stand-still, much like everyone else's. The first day of quarantine saw me seated at the breakfast table, with every single member of my family present for the first time in a long while. Not long after, this became routine, and I grew closer to, and learnt more about the people I lived with. For instance, my younger brother makes great scrambled eggs (and no one knows who taught him how to).

Flabbergasting cooking-skills aside, the first (of many) reflections is that I had spent years chasing my dreams but along the way, I had overlooked the people who were always there by my side. They had become a part of the audience cheering from the sidelines, when they should have been standing with me at the finish line. Quarantine reminded me that family, above all else, would be by my side, even when the world came to a halt.

I am among the fortunate ones who could afford a few months off work but the importance of a stable-income hit me like a truck during the first month. Quarantine proved to be a reminder of my privilege. Here I was, binge-reading series after series in my cozy bed with an abundance of snacks while in the periphery of my city, there were people going to bed on empty stomachs.

I remember opening the door to an uncle who lived five houses down the lane. The man I remembered seeing on my way to work had a beer-gut and a clean-shaven face and the one who stood in front of me that afternoon was bearded and thinner than I remembered. He asked for my father and I called him in. That night, my parents spoke of how the system had failed daily labourers. But it wasn’t just the system at fault: we had failed them. Recognising my privilege was not easy. However, the more research I did, the more I realised that the effect this pandemic had was greatest on the people who relied on daily wages, and I had to learn to be grateful for what I had. Gratitude, I realised in the second month of living in my bubble, is the first step we can take to demolish the oppressive system we live in.

Despite the fact that I had finally gotten a break, I found myself constantly slacking off and turning in assignments a hair's breadth away from the deadlines. Having ample time on my hands didn’t settle well with me and I turned to social media for comfort. While it did prove to entertain me to a great extent, it left me feeling emptier. It felt like I was repeatedly pouring content into a broken pitcher, hoping it would fill itself. I have never considered myself a social being, but I was craving company that wasn’t my immediate family. I missed my friends but I couldn't bring myself to reach out to them. Loneliness seeped into my mind and weighed me down. Nothing seemed to be helping.

Nothing, that is, until my best friends set up a call in the dead of the night and I could feel air filling my lungs up again. All the tumblr posts about communication being key had been right all along. I felt myself get better the more I reached out to people. Fair warning: not everyone will be up for a conversation and radio silences will persist but as long as you know you tried, you are going to be just fine.

While miserably failing at rounds of Jenga and falling into thought-spirals about the virus, I realised that everyone I knew was going through the same things: the root of our problems was that instead of living in the moment, we were surviving. We had spent our lives moving from one impossible task to the next without appreciating what we were doing.

We are a generation of escapists, and hitting pause on our social obligations sounded borderline terrifying. I had been treating my work as a coping mechanism, hiding behind titles and the guise of accountability when in fact, I am the only one I will ever be accountable for. My happiness and my grief were linked to, and meant for no one but me. If I couldn’t make myself happy without constantly having to rely on the ‘high’ of accomplishing, happiness was never going to be mine.

My bubble of safety came with new-found will: to enjoy every moment that life has to offer, to feel what must be felt and to express what I had always wanted to express. As you read this, know that I am speaking my truth and so should you. Besides, if a virus invisible to the naked eye can shake the world so badly, imagine the momentum you could build, if only you let yourself.

Najaha Nauf

-Your friendly neighbourhood psych major with an inherent love for literature and the great unknown.

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