COVID 19 Lockdown:
When the first COVID 19 lockdown started, the WhatsApp group chat became a small community; a primary means of communicating with friends who were separated by mere kilometres but simultaneously worlds apart. What began as a platform to share survival stories has now taken an upsetting turn. Initially, we were swapping football quizzes, offering Netflix suggestions and trading stories of confinement with kids, wives and girlfriends; then, when more political matters arose, fractures became apparent.
I should have seen it coming. Of the ten lads in the group, almost all spend their weekends swallowing pint after pint with no end in sight. This has never been my scene. I’m an occasional drinker. What the Irish refer to as “a lightweight.” Nevertheless, like politics, this is not an insurmountable hurdle. But if I’m being honest, it always afforded me an unearned sense of superiority.
Most of the lads work with their hands. I, conversely, was in the midst of writing a collegiate thesis just as the COVID 19 lockdown came into our lives. This is not seen as real work, but rather something to be scoffed at; an avoidance of hard graft. (I’m sure this perspective is not unique to my circle of friends). This is a feeling which, to their credit, they do not mask or hide behind as they let rip their honest dismissal of my chosen profession through misspelled, grammar-free, haughty derision. There’s that unearned sense of superiority again.
I should have seen it coming. While they were watching Tiger King, I was reading Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Wallace, and Camus. While they were mourning the loss of football, I was studying Freud, Lacan, Sagan, and Watts. Did someone say “unearned sense of superiority”?
I began to participate less and less with the daily gossip and the endless notifications. Sure, I’ll watch the videos, but I no longer partake in the post-mortem analysis. But now, the chat feels like a breeding ground for toxicity. The Black Lives Matter movement pierced through the once thinly veiled ignorance to illuminate clear and obvious racism.
I am sad. I am sad that these people, who have been family to me since my brain began formulating memories, are showing the worst aspects of themselves. I am also sad that I did not rebut the toxic texts that caused the writing of this piece. I am sad that no one called out the glaringly obvious. I am sad. I miss my friends. I miss myself.
But I am also free. I am free of the mental restrictions I have always put on myself; that I, in some way, need the comfort of having this base which connects me to my past. As the second wave of COVID 19 lockdown looms ominously like a thunderstorm of potential depression and gym-free self-reflection, there is solace in knowing that freedom. This time will be different. This time will be better. My past is not who I am. My present is not who I shall be. I am free.