For the past 200 days, I’d like to think that I have managed myself well. I’ve been productive, holding up work, and being able to work on passion projects even when locked down at home. I spent most of my days alone, the humming of the fridge being my only companion as I slave the hours away. But yesterday, as October 1 crept up like an expected yet unwanted guest, I broke down.
I couldn’t make sense of what I felt. I woke up feeling debilitated, as if all of my motivations and hopes were thrown out the window. The apartment closed in; the air in the room tasted bitter and stale. I wanted to get out.
I have experienced (creative?) ruts before, but yesterday was paralyzing. I didn’t have the energy to bring myself out of bed, and all I could think about is how much I wanted to run away. I am a serial escapist, with vacations and travels sandwiched in between busy months of work, but ever since Coronavirus happened, there’s no place to escape anymore. I miss the outdoors, for sure, but the nostalgia and yearning were a little too strong yesterday. I suddenly find myself wanting to sink my toes in the hot sands of the beach, waiting for the water to reach and lick my feet. I want to see trees, sit under the sun, and let the heat toast each bare skin that it touches as I devour pages after pages of a good book. I wish to be with friends, laughing, eating, drinking, taking silly videos, and singing off-key to our favorite Karaoke songs. I miss being out of the four corners of my little unit, outside of our 4th-floor haven, away from my inconsiderate neighbor who likes to smoke cigarettes by the stairs.
Based on a study of Polar Expeditions, people who experience extreme changes and disruption in routines as they voyage in the Antarctic may respond in two ways:
(1) Pathogenesis, where they find the experience “disease inducing”. This means that it can cause physical pains, negative affect in moods, cognitive impairment, disturbed sleep, and other side effects.
(2) Salutogenesis, where they find benefits from the challenges that they faced. This means they feel a greater sense of achievement, togetherness, resilience, and an increased sense of humanity.
Somehow, these long stretches of quarantine feel like an expedition in the Arctic. Except it’s not as cool, there is no snow (and most of the time, the heat can be unbearable), there’s nothing to discover except which crevices the ants slip through, and we’re stuck at home with a bad internet connection. There’s nothing to discover except how far we could stretch our patience, what other hobbies can we explore, or how much we can tolerate the people we’re living at home.
Undeniably, this pandemic is pathogenic — it has brought about great pains, sufferings, and loss to many. It has displaced people and brought unprecedented changes (not exactly the good kind) to the way we live. But just like how life isn’t just black and white, I’d like to think that somehow, someday, we’d find some salutogenic effects that we didn’t expect. Maybe it could be a political awakening, or being more empathic especially those who are in the service industry, or could be as personal as being more intuned to your needs. I’m not saying that there’s always a silver lining out of these devastating turn of events (and I know that I’m very privileged to even type these out), but what I’m saying is that, perhaps, there’s still hope. Hope that some change would come. Hope that somehow, we can come out better than who we were 200 days ago.
I don’t think things would ever go back to normal. We are forever changed by this experience as a collective and the way we used to live would no longer be how it was. But maybe there’s hope, that perhaps when we can hug each other again and we can meet without the annoying face shields and face masks, we turn out to be a little kinder, a little stronger, and maybe even a little wiser.
When I went to bed last night, the pain is still there and the longing to go outside still lingers. But at the same time, I feel like I’ve found myself being more accepting of the fact that escaping is no longer an option. No matter how I drown myself with social media content, games, or even online shopping sprees, I’d still go back to where I originally was. We’re here in the now and the only way for us is to move, no matter how small that may look. As for me, that meant getting up, trying to write something, and doing my best to charge forward.
Continue to stay safe,